Why your commitment to sustainability is not enough to make your sustainability-focused SME thrive

The moment you registered your company with Companies House.

The moment you got that first client who was willing to pay you to carry out an environmental assessment.

The moment you hired your first employee to help you with the mounting workload.

The moment you felt that paying for that environmental society membership would add to your credibility.

The world was your oyster. You felt this was going to make a real difference to the planet and to your life.

And yet… the ice caps are still melting. Much of the environmental claims big firms make are greenwashing. And looking closer to you, your clients just do not follow your advice. In fact, they say they haven’t got the budget for it.

You look across the fence and see that the bigger clients with larger pockets work with much larger firms than yours, those that can churn report after report, and carbon calculations at full steam, like a well-oiled machine.

So, all you have left to do is struggle to tick one box here and one box there and send an invoice. Tomorrow, much of the same.

Is this making you happy? Is this in line with your values? Are you making an impact as much as you thought you would when you graduated?

My guess is probably no to all of the above.

My guess is, in fact, that you are wondering whether you’d better off quit and get a "normal" job. At least that way you’d get to work on more interesting projects and feel like you are actually making a difference.

Let me break it to you. It’s not your clients’ fault if they don’t buy into your solutions. The fact that they aren’t interested in sustainability is, partly, your fault for not being able to “sell” sustainability to them.

But I’m here to tell you that things can be different.

That if you are the managing director of an SME focused on sustainability, you can make a huge difference to the planet, to your life, and to the life of your employees.

Let’s start with the fact that your commitment to sustainability will not be enough anymore. Your technical knowledge and the technical knowledge of your employees are only the starting point, the backbone of what you need to win at this game.

Why? Because when was the last time you were convinced to adopt any kind of solution or buy a product purely based on its technical features? When was the last time someone bought a Tesla because it had a powerful engine, four wheels, and four doors? When you adopt a new solution, you buy into a story.

Moreover, you identify at some emotional level with the meaning of that brand, object, or service.

And as a sustainability business owner, it’s your job not only to provide a technical service to your clients but to articulate your story, what you stand for, and start building that emotional connection with them. It’s what author Simon Sinek calls starting with your “why”.

This is the first step to create a meaningful, unique, and lasting relationship with your ideal clients.

Which will automatically translate into a better, more personal service but, most importantly, in increased trust.

Trust is key to be able to sell to your clients the best possible sustainability solutions to their business issues. If they don’t trust you, they won’t buy into your ideas. Because they are not experts, they will need to blindly – in most cases – trust your advice.

Your objective, beyond pushing your and your team’s technical abilities, is, therefore, to create that personal relationship and, by using a coaching approach (through which you ask as many open questions as possible) and tactical empathy, understand what your client exactly needs and find the unique sustainability solution that fits them like a glove.

Your team will have to step up and learn how to do the same to become your brand’s most powerful advocates.

The results for your clients will show the same differences between buying a suit from Tesco and hiring Valentino to tailor your suit while you sip a cocktail by the pool.

The outcome? Happier clients, higher value contracts, fewer sleepless nights, happier employees, and – not to be underestimated – a healthier planet.

Want to talk about how to implement a plan like this? Start here.

We are happy to deliver free lunch and learn sessions to your company to start you on this exciting journey.

Tags: lunch & learn, sustainability, small business

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