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SEVEN PRACTICES OF SUSTAINABILITY CHAMPIONS

Willard presents seven practices of leadership that are most relevant to sustainability champions when carrying out the seven step process.

1. Get Credible, Stay Credible. Sustainability champions must earn the right to lead the sustainability transformation in their organizations. Establishing personal credibility early on is critical. According to Willard, trustworthiness is the foundation of credible leadership, and it is based on both an individual’s character and competence. An effective sustainability leader should have a solid reputation of being honest, incorruptible, ethical, and caring. Additionally, they must display competence as a champion of sustainability in their day-to-day life, a leader of change, and a business leader.

2. Dialogue. Sustainability leaders must also be able to use dialogue to advocate for breakthrough sustainability goals. Dialogue requires leaders to inquire, listen, respectfully advocate a point of view, and propose solutions. By mastering the art of dialogue, champions of sustainability will help senior advisers to see that a sustainable approach is not at odds with corporate purposes and objectives.

3. Collaborate, Educate, Network. People who share a compelling vision of their company as a sustainable enterprise should work together, share resources, reallocate budgets, and contribute expertise to make their shared vision a reality. They should utilize each others’ resources and connections to put strategies into motion, educate their employees and external stakeholders about the benefits of sustainability and how it can benefit everyone in their company, and empower everyone involved to unleash their ideas.

4. Meet Them Where They Are. According to Willard, sustainability champions will inevitably face opposition. The key to overcoming opposition is to engage in dialogue which is rooted in the jargon of the skeptic and shows how sustainability strategies are relevant to their priorities. Willard suggests for sustainability champions to put themselves in the opposers’ mindset. Assume they are good, smart people who feel compelled to play by capitalism’s current rules and then present sustainability as a set of enabling strategies that will help them meet their existing goals, not create more trouble.

5. Piggyback Existing Initiatives. Attaching sustainability initiatives to already existing, high profile initiatives will help sustainability champions achieve their goals faster. Willard suggests using existing processes whenever possible. This allows easy access to company resources and helps create support by getting more of the mainstream company involved. Additionally, aligning with revered priorities will reinforce the idea that sustainability aligns with company values and business practices.

6. Influence the Influencers. Sustainability champions must search within their network to utilize the influencers of executives. These people must have the ability to obtain senior support for the sustainability transformation and serve as advocates for sustainability initiatives. Willard urges sustainability champions to avoid hurling pleas at senior executives who do not know them and are too busy to bother understanding what they want. They should instead find the influencers of executives and inspire them to serve as advocates for sustainability.

7. Practice “Planful Opportunism.” Willard advises sustainability leaders to be prepared and practice good timing in order to capitalize on opportunities when triggers of interest arise.

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