Being a Sustainability Manager is more than just a job, it’s a lifestyle and a mentality.
Sometimes it doesn't even feel like work because you are so absorbed in this mission.
Those who are most successful in this position are the people who understand that delivering sustainability is a part of their character and not just a means of getting paid.
The most successful also understand they cannot do it alone, that sustainability is achieved via collaboration. Which subsequently means collaborative skills are top of the list.
In the past being successful has also been about the long game and waiting for the planets to align...but this has to change.
Great Sustainability Managers want to deliver change, innovation, and progress, they want to multiply the positivity benefits of new technology and ideas across large organisations and large amounts of people.
So, what is it about these people that makes them so good at delivering sustainability initiatives such as Warp It?
Here are the 10 skills that every sustainability manager needs...
To deliver any project, a would-be Sustainability Manager needs to be effective at planning, organising, and implementing. To do those things, you require a solid strategy. Whether it’s creating the strategy yourself, in a team, or working to a strategy that you’ve been given, Sustainability Managers must be able to see the scope of the entire project from start to finish and understand their role and impact within that.
Read more: Making a plan
Conduit and letting go.
The effective Sustainability Manager should be looking to act as a conduit for new processes in an organisation. They should not own any projects. They should seek to inspire others to take on projects to help them improve their processes.
We have too much to do and not much time to do it. We need to be able to identify projects and get others to deliver them and offer support where needed.
This is the behaviour of an effective Sustainability Manager.
In the digital age, we have become so used to reading stories that we don’t often realise that we are reading stories. Every advert from a brand is a story, every piece of commentary on the sports we watch is a story, and every new product that a company launches is a story too.
If you’re going to be a great Sustainability Manager, you’ve got to be fluent in the narrative of the project or organisation that you’re working in, you’ve got to be able to take the facts and figures and data and transform it into something relatable to different audiences. Being able to tell the story will get you buy-in, and it will help those people who read or hear your words to understand that you are an influential character in that story.
As part of our newsletter last year we wrote top tips and tool to tell your story. You will find that os use for sure.
Example: Daniel’s Story
Bonus Tip: How to tell the story of your department.
Persistence- don't give up
Making change is not always easy or smooth, and along that bumpy road to progress, you’re possibly going to face objectors, doubters, and a lack of support. Falling at the first hurdle or being disheartened early on are not good signs for Sustainability Managers. You can’t take no for an answer at the first try - maybe at the tenth try you should get the hint - but you must persist early on.
If your efforts are not working, rethink them, come up with a different approach, find new value drivers, and go again. Some senior management types will see persistence as a good thing, and if they repeatedly face the same problem they are more likely to change their mind and help tackle it.
Resource: The ULTIMATE guide to being persistent!
Inspiration: Read this story about an ultra runner and his advice for being persistent.
Being persuasive is not as hard as people may think, it requires just a few basic elements that we are taught in our younger years. You need to be genuine, you need to be able to hold the attention of others, you need to explain the positives and be honest about the negatives, you must be clear, concise, and logical, as opposed to emotional and fragmented. More than anything in the art of persuasion, you need to understand the needs of your audience so that you can frame your argument in a way that gains their support.
Resource: How to persuade your boss to buy in
How to: Turn a no into a yes!
Innovation- ideas change the world
The skill of innovation is simply being open-minded to new ideas. In the modern world, this is largely the realm of technology, in which innovations regularly shape the way that we live. In sustainability terms, this could be new technology, it could be new improvements to existing technology, it could be new techniques, it could be new specialist contractors or a number of other ways of being innovative. Being open-minded is one thing, but a great Sustainability Manager will actively seek innovation, often by looking for other innovators and sharing ideas together.
How to: We wrote this guide on how to come up with innovative ideas.
How to: We wrote this guide on how to validate innovative ideas.
Sociability- people buy from those they like and trust
When a Sustainability Manager looks to make a change in an organisation, they must gain the support of either the decision-makers or enough of their colleagues, in order to make it happen.
Without being a sociable character, this is going to be quite hard to do, as you will have to do a lot of phone calls, meetings, and personal visits in order to build rapport with your audience or convince enough decision-makers.
If your project or change is successful and gets the green light, you’re then likely going to be ‘the face of [your project]’ and that will require other social skills, such as having people come up to you that you don’t know, and having to get involved in PR activities.
Resource: Why being the face of X is worthwhile
Warp It: Face of Reuse Feature
Listening skills- You have 2 ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio.
Being a good listener means being absolutely present in the moment and paying full attention to your audience. It means putting yourself in their position and being able to understand something from multiple perspectives. It means being able to select the most important points and develop them. If you can do these things well, people will see you as a good listener.
Self awareness and flexible communications
You have to overlap your objectives with the objectives of others to get things done. You can't be banging on about the polar bears. You can't project guilt. You cannot get into people's faces!
While sociability, listening, persuasion, and storytelling all fall under the umbrella of communication skills, there are other abilities in this category that are important to mention:
- Body language
- Presentation skills
Entrepreneurial Spirit- you are selling new processes to your colleagues
The entrepreneurial spirit isn’t something that you can be taught, it’s something that you have within yourself and you have to develop and nurture over time. Some of the dominating characteristics of an entrepreneurial person are that they:
- Believe anything is possible with a good idea and strategy
- Know that they have to be the change they want to see in the world
- Don’t have a job, they have a mission to accomplish
- Don’t wait for things to happen, they make them happen
- Know that if they devote themselves wholeheartedly to their purpose, the universe will conspire to help them
Self-motivation skills- you need the tools to lift yourself
Being self-motivated is something that is a challenge for some people, but is a natural way of life for others, such as Sustainability Managers. There are some tricks that self-motivated people subconsciously do to keep themselves focused and pragmatic, such as:
- Setting ambitious but realistic goals and milestones
- Taking calculated risks
- Looking for feedback from peers and influencers on how to improve
- Seeing life as a continual opportunity to learn and develop
- Spending time around other enthusiastic people
- Knowing their strengths and weaknesses
- Being aware that procrastination is unhelpful
- Never be afraid to ask for help (example)
Productive- you have 8 hours in one day to get stuff done
You should only be working 8 hours a day. You should be getting everything you need to get done in that time. To maximise each hour you need to be strategic.
We have created a whole section of our blog on this issue.
Self-care- you have to look after yourself to be effective
The best Sustainability Managers look after themselves, mind body and spirit.
The good news is that for the most part, the skills above are things that can be learned and developed over time. The other good news is that if you’re a Sustainability Manager already, you have most of these skills, and more, even if you weren’t aware of it!
So, if you’ve got some of these impressive skills and you’re a Sustainability Manager already, we have just one question for you.
How much do you reuse? (Check out how we are helping organisations just like your maximise reuse)
Your skills are vital
As are the skills of the other people in your organisation
Work together and see what happens