How to use stories to improve your sustainability report
Every day, we wake up to heart-breaking environmental news: acidification of our plastic-riddled oceans, superstorms, fracking disasters, animal extinctions, devastating fires….Honestly, I can’t even eat an avocado anymore without experiencing deep, resonating guilt.
By all accounts it is evident that our planet is at a critical crossroads.
So why aren’t more people picking up the banner? If the reports are to be believed, then isn’t the future of our way of life at stake? Why aren’t more people and businesses actively engaged in solving the problems?
It’s simple. We simply don’t believe.
We don’t believe in the enormity and the urgency of the problem. We don’t believe politicians when they say they are fighting for our best interest. And we sure as heck don’t believe that our small efforts can make a difference. But I do believe we can change all that.
The answer starts with a story.
Don’t get me wrong….when it comes to building a sustainable future, the essential elements include materiality data, pioneering science, radical redesigns in our economic, manufacturing, and commerce systems, and a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour. But the starting point of all of that comes from an inherent change in mindset. And that starts with a story.
I’m willing to bet that right now you have a hard time remembering your partner’s mobile number on a daily basis. But if asked, I’m pretty sure you could tell me every crucial plot point of your favourite film, where you first saw it, and who you were with.
You’re not alone.
Storytelling is the oldest human art form, and there are numerous studies that show our species learns best through narrative language. If we can connect with and relate to a story arc, we have the best chance at remembering it and (perhaps most importantly) sharing that story with others.
We are at a tipping point, and companies that are taking leadership roles to educate and engage are seeing positive impact, both in customer/employee engagement as well as on their balance sheets (think Patagonia, Unilever, and Nike).
I believe that in order to empower and ignite the next wave of ecological and social game changers, we must begin by telling the right stories. I don’t know about you, but reading the accounts of death, destruction, and despair just make me want to crawl back under my duvet and pretend none of this is happening.
But then I look into the eyes of my nearly 2-year-old boy, eyes that are not yet clouded over in fear, distrust, and dissolution, and I know that I need to get up and do my part to help turn the tide. And so I get back to work…telling the stories of inspiration, possibility, and purpose that help people change their minds. Stories that (with some hope and perseverance) will help us save ourselves.