There’s a story about a corporation that abruptly became a sustainability leader. “The CEO visited the North Pole,” a friend explains. “His point of view changed, right then and there.”
When someone experiences an epiphany, it creates personal commitment that makes things happen and creates long-lasting behavior change. (Think St. Paul seeing a bright light on the road to Damascus. Or Jean Valjean being handed the silver candlesticks by the bishop in Les Miserables.)
An epiphany also creates a story that can persuade others. And it doesn’t have to be a CEO. In focus group after focus group, we’ve found that personal experiences are what most often trigger sustainable behaviors. A mother discovers that her child has food allergies; a man finds out that he has cancer; a family visits relatives in South America and sees the impact of clear-cutting. Nothing is more powerful than personal experience.
Listen for those personal sustainability moments. A good story or anecdote can convey more than a dozen PowerPoint slides.
It can appeal to emotions, and people tend to remember and re-tell those stories.