Series 8, Episode 2 of the Future of Internal Communication Podcast
Illana Adamson is a leading sustainability consultant and educator, working with business and non-profits to introduce science-based sustainability initiatives, actions and behaviours into their organisations. She moves beyond the greenwashing to surface action that actually counts.
In this episode, Illana provides us with a progressive definition of what sustainability is and why it’s a business issue. She also shares why she believes the role of internal communication is integral to long-term organisational sustainability.
Tune in to hear from one of the UK’s leading voices in sustainability to learn about the opportunity for internal communication.
Cat Barnard (00:01.537)
Hello and welcome to a fresh episode of the Future of Internal Communication podcast. I'm Kat Barnard and I'm joined by only one of my co-hosts today, Dominic Walters. Jen is unfortunately off away doing very important person CEO things for the Institute. But today I wanted to extend a super warm welcome to our guest, Alana Adamson, who is a sustainability expert.
And just to position that under the umbrella of the Institute, those who are members of the Institute listening to the podcast today will know that the Institute has taken up the baton of sustainability very seriously. In I think May of this year, it launched its own sustainability pledge. It has resolved to make its events more sustainable.
And certainly everybody at IOIC HQ is resolved and impassioned to do whatever they can do to reduce carbon emissions emanating from IOIC activities. So Alana is a very relevant guest for us today. And I was trying before we went live to think about how long I've been in conversation with Alana. I know exactly who it was that introduced us.
It was actually a previous guest to this podcast, Damian Corbett. And Damian introduced us, it must have been a couple of years ago now, Ilana, I think, but just to give a brief background to what Ilana does. Um, she is a sustainable development thought leader, board advisor, keynote speaker and connector.
Understanding that reporting on sustainability is fast becoming the keystone to business success, she's committed to pushing the needle on credible sustainability at C-suite and beyond. I think we've talked about this several times, quite a long time ago now, 20 years ago, Alana recognised the lack of business leadership to embed sustainability. So ever since, she has been committed to acquiring a deep knowledge of the global issues and local nuances.
Cat Barnard (02:24.301)
of sustainability to help clients navigate the necessary paradigm shifts in knowledge and behaviour. So I think I'm hoping that this conversation is going to unveil to all our listeners just how much more there is to sustainability than simply carbon emission reporting. So welcome Alana, thank you for joining us.
Thank you so much, it's really lovely to be here and thanks for having me.
Cat Barnard (02:57.221)
You are most welcome. And I still feel very much a newbie every time I talk to you about sustainability. So I wondered if we could kick this conversation off by me asking you to share with the audience, tell us what sustainability is.
Yeah, so I think it's a very overused word and very misunderstood word, sustainability, in my context. Sustainability is sustainable development, which takes into account socioeconomic, environmental, future.
consumers on planet Earth and it looks at equity above all. So in 1987, I don't think this has changed. So in 1987, there was a report called the Bridland Commission and it defines sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Now that can sound quite clunky and a little bit confusing.
But the best way I would describe this, and this is in the Cambridge Institute Sustainable Leadership Literature as well, I'm an assessor on their course, and they class this as wellbeing for all, always. And I think that's a much easier way to look at it. It's what economies should be doing for us, what politics should be doing for us, that's how these things are set out. But we have been not accounting for the environmental
resources that enables our economy to function. And as a result of that, we've sort of been borrowing from Peter and borrowing from Paul in order to live the way that we do. And as a result of that, we are eating too much of the pie and leaving nothing for future generations is probably an easy way to think about it. So I don't know, it's probably worth doing the, I liken myself to the GP of sustainability. So it's probably worth doing the sort of frightening.
diagnosis around sustainability upfront so that we can move into the sort of action and the good bits of the diagnosis because there are lots. So what does sustainability mean? Well, as you quite rightly said, it's not just carbon. Carbon blindness is skewing the narrative around sustainability. So what we really want to look at is all of the
functions of an economy through the lens of sustainability. So that's socio-environmental economic. And really what we're saying there is we're eating too much of the pie. There are catastrophic tipping points if we keep doing that. So if we keep, for instance, Europe is using between two and three planets of resources every year in order to live the way we do. The US is at five planets, whereas developing countries is at 1.2 or something like that. So we're living
way beyond our means, if you like. And we're starting to see that in the fires, floods, increased pandemics, all of which we sort of have had this narrative, understandably so, because climate change is happening at a far faster rate than we initially envisaged. But there's this 2050 deadline that's been put in place around carbon reduction strategies that aligns with the Paris Climate Agreement. I think has...
skewed the level of responsibility that we need to step into now because it's not something we're going to overnight be able to achieve at 2050. So those milestones of adaption between now and 2050 are what's so important and it keeps being pushed, kicked down the line if you like. So we're starting to see it now, it's not happening somewhere else or to someone else, it's happening.
in the global north and the global south and it's happening in our generation and certainly in our children's generation.
Cat Barnard (07:06.313)
I think, thank you for explaining that. I think there's several points spring to mind there, but something that's been playing on my mind a lot recently is the fact that these policy decisions are made based on the multilateral agreements that are made in principle, such as the Paris Climate Accord, whatever gets.
agreed if anything indeed does get agreed at the COP summits and so on and so forth and I find myself continuously in this mix of conversing with people who believe that our politicians are going to sort this all out for us and I find myself saying nobody is coming to rescue us we have to do this for ourselves which kind of feeds into
the broader context of sustainability, I feel, because this piece around what the actions are that we need to take as the grownups, the adults in the room to ensure that there is enough for future generations to live and work sustainably. And one of the things that I feel I see
day in, day out, particularly when I look at things like next generation technologies, you know, the high drama about the commercial launch of ChatGPT this year and so on, you know, the commercial stage seems very much set in favor of the 1% who own the 99% of wealth on this planet. And...
I'm really glad that you raised in which case the point about, did you say equity or equality? I mean, to me, they're kind of interchangeable, but you might see that differently also.
Yeah I said equity and the reason I say the reason I say equity is it's the underpinning principle of the UN so it is to leave no one behind and so for me I think that's an important way to look at it and you're quite right to raise the point about the 1% and
What's largely been either ignored or sidelined or allowed delays to climate action or sustainability, sustainable development, is that largely when we look at those planets that we are requiring for our lives and our consumption, we can see clearly that the global north is consuming a lot more than the global south. But...
what's happened previously is the effects of climate change has been felt in the global South. And so the ones causing the problem are not feeling the problem. And there is a narrative, well, that's not happening now. So we now know that parts of Southern Europe, if we don't do anything, will be uninhabitable in our children's lifetime. So we very much cannot hide from the...
the evidence that is now there and there is no lobbying, there is no pretending it's happening in another time frame or you know 100 years down the line. But with that we can start to look at well those 1% and as you know a lot of the work I do is in trying to have conversations with wherever I think those levers for change will be and a big lever for change is with the wealth.
because if you are in that 1% you probably sit on an awful lot of boards or you have a big business interest and actually what we now understand with shifts towards a sustainable future and those demands are coming from various different stakeholder demands so it may be policy changes aligning with Paris climate agreement or it may be that floods are happening in certain areas and insurance are going to make you look at
those areas differently, or it may be that your future talent won't work with you if you haven't got a very credible sustainability policy upfront. It may be that your consumers won't purchase from you. So there's multiple forces to bring this conversation under the spotlight. But what we see there is that those...
Business as usual is the thing we're trying to shift away from. So if we use that well-being for all narrative, what we're trying to shift away from is that business as usual to well-being for all as a narrative for all businesses. And the more we, that's the paradigm that we're looking for. So we'll speak about the paradigm, I'm sure, later. But when we're looking at that, what we're really saying is...
How can we make this more equitable for everybody? Because the people suffering are the ones that have no voice really in this and they have no control over it. And the biggest lever for change, the biggest choke point had been this narrative that it would happen in the future. Now that businesses have started to take it seriously, so that frightening GP assessment that I gave at the front, that's very aware. And whichever lens you look at now through,
Those businesses are realising that sustainable development, sustainability, building in sustainability is building in resilience for their business. It's no longer just a kind of tree huggy nice thing to do. It's about building in resilience and an avoiding risk. And we can talk about that later, but very much sustainability is, has shifted over the last couple of years from a marketing thing to be done. Sort of an external comms.
part of the drive to very much fiduciary duty. So it's very much around the, to my mind, if the finance director is not on board with understanding sustainable development as a key KPI for the business, then there's a disconnect in the marketplace.
Elana, can I ask a question as a lay person really around these areas? You talk about this measurement of a planet. I think I can guess what it is, but could you just tell us what exactly that refers to? Is it resources available in one planet or over a period of time?
Yes, sorry, it absolutely does. And so what we're saying is...
the amount of resources necessary for us to live the lifestyles we've come accustomed to since the 1970s. So let's be completely clear that this isn't looking for us to go back as a lot of the lobbyist narrative is. It's not saying that we need to go back to live in caves in order for it to be sustainable. It's saying the way we consume is too much. Now, of course, fossil fuels is at the heart of that conversation at the moment because we know that we need to.
reduce the emissions into the atmosphere in order that we can stay within the Paris climate agreements because we know that pushes the temperature up and with that temperature going up we know that mammalian life becomes vulnerable as does all life. However, we also and you're going to see this becoming much more the conversation around sustainability in the coming years. Water.
pollution in terms of plastic pollution, microplastics and the impact that that's having on well-being for all, access to water, fertilizers and the impact that has on soils. You can look at urbanisation, you can look at flooding risks that comes with putting mass population in smaller areas and then not allowing space for trees for instance to create cooling in those areas. So it's a
Climate change is not just about rising of temperature, climate change is about the extreme weather conditions that we will find. So what we'll have is at the moment we're saying, OK, there's a flood in this area and there's a fire there. What we now know is actually these extreme weather conditions will be happening more frequently. So the recovery period is not available. So we've always had floods, but we may have them once every sort of.
decade or 15, 20 years or 50 years, what we'll now start to see is every year or every two years and so the recovery period, we now have heard that Greece is going to take five years to recover minimum. We now can see that actually we'll probably have a flood on a fire on a flood on a fire and there's no recovery period and that's where the economic crunch starts to come.
Let me build on that a bit because I think at the moment we're speaking in August 23 and there's almost people are starting to refer to the press and maybe they do that for their own agenda that there's a slight pushback against what used to be the sort of consensus around sustainability.
on a micro level, people pushing against ULEZ or whatever it might be, or a more macro level organisation starting to reconsider their commitment to equity and so on, or at least debating it. So it would be interesting to get, because that seems incredible in light of the evidence that you've given, but I'm sure it's happening with an organisation, so it would be very interesting to hear what if any resistance or pushback you get, because you do a lot of work with leaders when you're influencing them, and to go just to rehearse the arguments if you like
why organisations should be caring about sustainable development.
Yeah, absolutely. And we did, I moved into this space 20 years ago and over and a big part of that, as Kat said at the beginning, was I recognise that there was a lack of leadership for sustainable development. When I looked at that problem, I could see that it was going to be huge in comparison to what we had just had, which was a millennium bug sort of focus at the time. And I still think there's a lack of leadership, if I'm honest, but
are we getting as much pushback? No. The conversation has dramatically changed since lockdown largely, not just because we were at home, we had time to reflect and we could see the important role that nature plays for us, but also we saw the impact of reducing our negative impact on the planet. We saw wildlife coming back, we saw
how much happier we were. We could join those dots in wellness for all and slowing down a little bit. So I think we've come out of COVID blazing hot and wanted to go on holidays and all of those sorts of things. But I'm a firm believer that as the dust settles on that, we will probably start to take it a little bit more serious. In terms of leaders.
most leaders, regardless of the political suasion, because there is a lot of politicisation, particularly of ESG at the moment. But it's almost irrelevant because in order for you to be a responsible business leader, particularly if it's a public limited company or a public company where you have shareholders that you need to be responsible for ensuring a long-term return on their investment.
this is just business, you need to look at the risks in a business. It's like saying that your business is in a floodplain and you're just going to ignore that because you think it's tree huggy and woke. It's not, it's a very real risk and climate change poses very real physical geographical risks that need to be accounted for. So as much as it's politicised, this issue is getting a lot of traction because it's a very big risk and we're going to see a lot more of that.
as what we call mandatory reporting. So publicly listed companies now have to include a narrative around how they will align with the Paris Climate Agreement. So that up until a couple of years ago, that narrative was, do you have a goal for decarbonising? And so everybody could have a purpose of decarbonising. That didn't mean that they had a plan to get there. And what we're now saying is it's not good enough to
just wish that into reality. We need you to show us how you're going to get there. What are your milestones? How are you going to do that? And so, yeah, business needs to think about it from multiple levels, but not least for future talent. We are now starting to see this great walkout that we've seen in tech in particular. And a lot of that you will find happening more and more. There has been a stepping down of drive...
particularly with upcoming generations, but a step away from wanting to work for firms just because of the money they can earn and a real demand that those firms offer a way for those individuals to be more active in being part of the solution for climate issues and equity issues.
And so I guess in terms of framing a discussion, framing the argument, the debate about this, we need not just be talking about it's the right thing to do, it's way past that now, it's about saying if we don't do it, it's going to affect our market, the people we can employ, who's consuming, what they can consume, when they can consume it. So real direct business issues and how it's going to affect the business.
Yeah, and really critically within that, you know, and I'll go back to say that it is resilience building and it is risk mitigation, rather than a nice thing to do, as you quite rightly point out. And one of those big risks that will be coming up in the short term, if you're in if you're a supplier or in an ecosystem with one of the big firms that has already just let's just talk about carbon for now. But if you're one of the if you're in a supply chain to a big firm that has made a commitment to carbon neutrality.
or net zero, then what will quickly happen is you will not be allowed to bid for those contracts if you don't have a carbon reduction strategy in place yourself. So even if you're not a publicly listed company, in order to be in that ecosystem with that, let's call it the supply chain, although it will be up and downstream, firms will increasingly want to create
a collaborative approach to the problem because we're not silent. We need to stop thinking of organisations as being an island and start seeing ourselves as being part of an ecosystem or a chain. And so just very simply, we're all someone's scope three carbon. So when we look at carbon, there's three scopes. There's the two that are within an organisation's control, if you like.
And then the third one is what happens, and normally that's sort of 70 to 90% of their carbon is the stuff that they can't really control. That will be what the consumers do with the product. That will be, you know, all of those sorts of things. And so the only way organisations can get to their net zero goals is by including that whole ecosystem. So the fastest way for them to do that will be to push it down the line, to say,
we can't work with you if you don't have the same principles that we have for this purpose. And also we'll see an awful lot of education of stakeholders in order that I was on a panel with Electrolux recently and they're doing an awful lot of repair work and education work. So we'll see business models really changing in order that they can meet these demands.
Cat Barnard (23:07.137)
There's so much in what you have just outlined there. And as you were talking, I was thinking about this wellbeing for all narrative as part of the broader church of sustainability. And I was thinking about the fact that in tandem with a rising...
Cat Barnard (23:33.049)
necessity of sustainability to appear front and centre of strategic agendas is the other reality that we are certainly in the UK across much of the western developed world also facing into a slowly declining population which means that we have a shrinking labour market, a decreasing number
And just before we came on air, somebody I'm connected to in the US had sent me a news briefing about a very large online retailer, one of the largest online retailers, who's issued an everyone back to the office narrative, including, so for everybody, including those people that were hired as remote workers during the pandemic. And it just strikes me that
you know, there's so many layers and complexities to this whole sustainability agenda, not least. So another thing that I was thinking about when you were talking about floodplains, Alana, I was thinking, you know, you can't, as an employer, take a flippant view of floodplains or fire risk. Because if any of your workers are...
impacted by flooding or fire in their homes. That is enough of an issue for the individuals concerned, but everybody becomes impacted by it because the witnessing of it is so horrifying. I'm also thinking about this whole...
productivity narrative, which I know Dominic and I've been talking about. We presented a session about it this summer's IOIC festival and this productivity narrative that is so pervasive alongside a parallel narrative around quiet quitting. And I don't know whether you've heard the most, the recent one about lazy girl jobs. Like why should, why should anybody deliver?
Cat Barnard (25:54.241)
the extra mile when the only person that's benefiting or the only parties that are benefiting from that extra mile are the shareholders and the company owners. And so there's so much caught up in this, but in parallel, so much opportunity were organisations to engage in company-wide conversation that
doesn't need in the first instance necessarily to be educative. I don't even think we need to ask our chief executives to be the informers. I think it would be a massive step forward if we were brave enough to step into a town hall and ask our internal stakeholders what sustainability means to them because we have no idea until we inquire.
how educated people are on this topic. And I suspect in the age of rising employee activism, people are much more educated than we might previously have believed. And so this plays into, I think, the opportunity and the agenda for internal communicators. And I know we've talked about it offline in our one-to-ones.
Why do you feel Alana that sustainability is such an opportunity for internal communicators?
Yeah, I mean, just pulling a couple of the threads that you've put there. That comment around why should we be working generally to feed the 1%? That's really changing. An organization is only as strong as the talent and talent care about far more than just income now. They, this is a real, um, gap in some.
business leaders minds because they're still working to old strategies and it's shifted and this landscape is moving very, very fast. And you have pressure coming from the bottom up from educated consumers or workforce, and you have pressure coming from the top down, which is, you know, how do we leave the planet in a decent shape for our children and for future workforce.
when we look at that problem, when we talk about wellbeing for all, what we need to really consider in that process, and this is the dot joining that I do so much in the work that I do, that I don't think happens enough because our media is not talking about this enough. We need advocates. You said politicians earlier, they are absolutely sidestepping this issue largely. And that's because there's this sweet spot for politicians that most...
people in the street are not knowledgeable enough to join these dots. But the dots we need to join on that is when we talk about eating more of the pie, that's not that traditional, where there's always a hierarchy to wealth. What we're talking about is the organisations that are looking to us or our children as consumers in their future to make them successful, they are asset stripping those stakeholders. So they are taking away the assets necessary for life from those stakeholders.
So whatever positionality organisations had before, stakeholders are starting to understand this, future consumers, future talent, future people that will bank with them, all of, they're starting to understand, if you don't do anything, you are reducing my ability to live on this planet. My choice is whether I have children or not because it becomes so frightening. And so we see that as asset stripping.
And we need to be really clear about that. You, at that borrowing from Peter to play Paul, that's how our economic systems have been structured previously and how organisations have been able to thrive. But moving to your point of how internal communications can be at the forefront of this or embrace this or what role do they have, for me, sustainability is absolutely an inside job first, 100% an inside job first.
We need organisations to move from the talking about sustainability, which has been the external communications, to the walking sustainability. And the only way that happens is if you embed sustainability as a thread that moves through the whole organisation. And that, to me, very much is the role of internal communications. You need the rigour of knowledge so that you don't risk the exposure that external communications...
affords if it's not based in deep knowledge and this is we've seen this with greenwashing for instance where firms have been so excited and unwittingly a lot of the time tiptoeing into greenwashing or you know because they didn't realize that what they were saying was wrong but that's not an excuse it is the firm's responsibility to ensure that the people that are crafting the messages understand the implications of the words that they're saying and so that to me
starts with internal communications. So just a little story from me on this journey. When I moved over I could see my journey into sustainability coincided with my daughter being born. So of course there's nothing quite like having a child for you to have the light shone on the lifestyle that you're leading and what planet you're leaving for your child. But I went back and did a BSc, Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development.
so that was like 17 years ago. And I come from a background of marketing, so it's luxury niche below the line marketing as it was sort of referred to then. And I'm sitting in these lectures in the earth sciences department, not understanding an awful lot of what they're talking about if I'm completely honest, and that's not just the first few months, that was the first year, really not understanding what is an ecosystem, what does ecology mean, like literally very, very steep learning curve for me. And...
We heard an awful lot about technology that was going to fix these problems, and it would be from farming to biofuel. And I kept sitting there thinking, I know that this is where I want to work, but what's my role in this? I didn't see myself as an engineer or environmental management expert. So and then they spoke about the paradigm shift and they and the light bulb was that moment was a light bulb moment for me because that's behaviour change. In order for us to get to.
paradigm shift we have behaviour change and the moment for me was, ah well that's what I do, that's communications, that's education around a message, this is where I can really add value to this narrative. It's not just engineering, it's not just technology, we need people to be on board with this change and without that we're always going to have a choke point and so I think for me that's where internal communications...
the light bulb moments need to come from internal communications and those light bulb moments are really about creating a culture that allows everyone to find their agency to influence change so that they can be part of the solution rather than just feeling like they're stuck within a space where they're part of the problem. And so for me, I spoke earlier about that thread that runs through in order for us to have a sustainable...
organisation, the thread that runs through an organisation needs to be sustainability. Internal comms is that thread. So for me that's the role that internal communications play, it's that thread of embedding sustainability.
Alana, that sounds fantastic. I mean, can I just?
look at it a bit more detail because we have big debates about what the role of internal communication is and it's an ever-changing analysis but I think at the moment we're saying look it's about enhancing performance, maximizing performance of organizations, that's a very broad interpretation of performance by establishing clarity, making connections so people can see what their role is and how they can fit in with policy but also promoting and fostering conversation.
apply all of those to the areas you've been talking about. But it would be fantastic if you can just give us some specific examples of where you've seen internal communicators doing things that have helped their organizations become more sustainable more quickly.
Absolutely. First of all, I'm going to quote back to you your future of work report of 2022 that says that internal communication will need to stay in abreast of the multiple drivers disrupting workplace is now an imperative for internal communication professionals. And 100% I think that is the role of the internal communication professionals. But if we
piece that together with, for instance, the World Economic Forum will periodically produce a listing of the 10 risks over the coming years. So for the next two years, its cost of living is number one. And over the next 10 years, all nine are sustainability focused. And then there's one outlier, which is cyber security. So if...
The role of internal communication professionals is to look at the drivers that disrupt the workplace. Sustainable development is nine of them in the coming 10 years that we need to be looking at. So just to caveat that, and in terms of what people are doing in order to bring about that change, I mean, there's lots that's happening. I think the most important thing to say is if...
I guess the lens of greenwashing is the best way to look at this because we now know that there is guidance around greenwashing and I think greenwashing as a phrase has been not valued enough but for me that's the lens through which you can understand how an organization can get it right for sustainability and when
the lens of sustainability is put into the external communications or the drive to be sustainable is put into the external communication bucket first and foremost. It should always be spoken about, absolutely. But if we don't get our house in order internally, we will always run into greenwashing or competence washing is a very, very big thing, which is where
organisations have put in this rush to prove that they were taking sustainability seriously, they would have a chief sustainability officer for instance. And not all cases, but in a lot of cases, those roles are being quietly stepped down. And the reason for that is because organisations are realising that those individuals don't have the deep knowledge of sustainability, of sustainable development necessary to drive the change within an organisation. So...
Where that leads us and why internal communications is so important is it leads us to a place where we now start to understand that sustainability isn't a chief sustainability officer role and it's not a sustainability team. Every department, in every industry, in every region needs to be educated around sustainability and that for me is a huge undertaking but
you find that people are very open to that. I just ran a workshop for senior management, a board level for the NHS and they had that light bulb moment really quickly. Within two hours, it was six months research, but within two hours of holding that meeting, we were able to take a 60% no, it's not on my job description, to a 60% yes, this is the lens through which we need to make all of our decisions going forward and they have. So...
once the facts are presented, I think people get behind the message because people want to be part of the solution. I think a big part of the problem is people at large don't know how to be part of that solution. So for me, the internal comms question is...
we need to get the purpose right and to understand the sort of governance structure that keeps us in place in order to achieve sustainability. So that inward looking must come first. We must ask ourselves who are we? What are our values? What is our purpose if it's not just profit? Where do we stand on x subject and y subject? And you know, where are our weak points? Where are our strengths? How do we plan to fix it? How do we communicate that where we're failing at the moment and where we plan to?
to fix those problems and how we're going to navigate that space, how we're going to take those stakeholders on that journey with us. I think there isn't another department that can do that, that can lead from top and bottom, that can communicate through all of the organisations. And I think it's when I worked in communications more, sort of 20 years ago, that...
That role came first and foremost to prevent sort of crisis management and I think, you know, greenwashing on its own, you can have a fine of up to 10% of global turnover for greenwashing now because it's so important in its disruption of the marketplace and the way we prevent that from happening is making sure everyone's on the same page.
And just to, sorry Kat, I'll pass over now, but also what my light bubble moment, if you like, from what you just said there is, and you made it absolutely clear, is we have a role as internal communicators to help people understand what they can do to bring the policy of an organization to life. And I think that's something really important, have those local conversations, help people think about what can I do to help this. I think that will make it really come to life for people, amongst all the other things you said, but that was one thing that really just hit me in what you've
absolutely a big part of the role of sustainability if it's not the technical element of it. A big part of the role of sustainability is finding ways for every individual to feel an agency over change, to feel well this is what my values are, this is how this resonates with me, it's not a box-ticking exercise, this is a very personal approach from me and how do I want to approach that and
the resilient organisations will find ways for those commonalities to be understood and become a part of the culture of the organisation because people want to do this. Organisations not affording this conversation and action are really missing a loyalty trick.
Cat Barnard (41:25.169)
I appreciate we probably need to start wrapping up now, but I'm really drawn to the metaphor that you used of the thread. It's reminded me early on in the early days of the podcast, we had a wonderful practitioner called Colin Archer who came and chatted with us. And I remember distinctly him talking about how...
internal communication had a very distinct and privileged position within an organisation because it was one of the only functions that had open licence to go into any corner of the business and kickstart a conversation. It just wasn't constrained by the silos. And there's something in there for me. I love the metaphor of the thread.
that you used and perhaps would extend on that and say, well, if the thread is the conversation that flows betwixt and between, that's pretty amazing opportunity for internal comms. So I guess, again, you know, to conclude, what one thing would you say an internal communicator, Alana, should take away from today's conversation?
Yeah, I would say the overarching message is that sustainability is an internal job first. The role of internal comms is the thread of sustainability that runs through an organisation. With that you're looking specifically to help every person find a light bulb moment where they can use their agency to be part of the solution.
And to do that, you need to drive knowledge to elevate every person's understanding of the problem so that they are not ignorantly walking into a situation that they can't get out of. And I would say normalizing, really normalizing when we've reached the end of our knowledge. And I think this is a big problem in sustainability, and I should have probably spoken about it more before. But really understanding.
I don't need to know all of this. This is when I lean on an expert in the same way as we would do in academia or science, we say, okay, that's, that's the end of my knowledge. And now I need to hand on to somebody else. And I think a lot of the mistakes come when the pressure is put on individuals within an organisation to assume an understanding of a very, very complex multidisciplinary subject. So help find the light bulb moments and be that thread that runs through the organisation.
Cat Barnard (44:15.86)
Cat Barnard (44:21.713)
And what a powerful way to wrap up this conversation because if we can place ourselves in the position where it's perfectly okay to say, I don't know the answer to that question, it's now time to, as you say, pass over to somebody who will hopefully know more than I do. You know, that's, none of us exist in isolation and nor should we be trying to solve these very complex.
and ever-changing issues in isolation. So I guess my misty-eyed synopsis would be that conversation around the complex topic of sustainability is absolutely the key to cracking it or at least to moving forward towards a place where
organizations can become more sustainable. I'm not sure whether I'm, I'm not sure where, I think we're so far away from an end point of having correct sustainability, but the one thing that I do know is that inclusive engaged conversations internally are infinitely more powerful than one person in a broom cupboard doing a carbon emission report or, you know,
an external comms marketing veneered agenda to infer that an organisation is sustainable. So for me it seems absolutely crystal clear that there's a huge opportunity here for internal communication to step up and facilitate and enable.
Cat Barnard (46:13.461)
So thank you ever so much for coming to chat with us. I feel as if I want to extend an invitation to you to come back again at some point in the next year because gosh, nine months from now, I'm sure it's still going to be as important an issue, but the landscape will have changed. So I think the more that we focus on these conversations and...
Cat Barnard (46:42.957)
keep them front of mind, then we all progress together, don't we? So honestly, thank you for coming on today, Alana, and I look forward to more conversations with you in the very near future.
Thank you so much for having me, it's been really, really enjoyable.
Cat Barnard (47:02.961)
And to our listeners, we will look forward to tuning in again for the next episode. So thanks for joining us today.