This is part 2 of our interview with Alan Hendry, Sustainability Director at Mott MacDonald
Osbert and Morag discuss what we heard to pull out important insights and offer 10 practical opportunities for action inspired by the interview – with a particular focus on collaboration.
Alan Hendry is Sustainability Director at Mott MacDonald
Mott MacDonald, traditionally known as an engineering consultancy, is now a global technical services firm with a significant emphasis on infrastructure, environmental issues, and social value.
Listen or read Osbert’s interview with Alan: Inspiring Collaboration for Sustainability (Pt 1)
Here are some of the issues and ideas that we thought were particularly interesting and relevant:
Integrating sustainability from the start
The importance of sustainability being integrated into every aspect of the infrastructure development process rather than being an afterthought.
In the podcast episode we discuss the challenges of delivering sustainability within tight budgets and deadlines, and how building sustainability into the project from the beginning can lead to better outcomes.
The importance of social aspects of design and delivery
Alan emphasises the significance of the social side of designing sustainable infrastructure, such as focusing on knowledge sharing, listening to people’s interests and needs, and involving clients in the sustainability conversation.
The importance of creating a sustainability culture within the organization, where everyone is on board and actively involved in sustainability efforts.
Collaboration is crucial to progress on sustainability
Effective collaboration is as a key factor in driving sustainability progress. Alan describes how strong project teams with diverse skill sets, including professionals from various organisations, promotes collaboration and trust.
We highlight the need to find key allies across the organisation, sector, or project, and the importance of creating space for open and rich conversations to leverage change effectively.
Building relationships and trust
Building relationships and trust among team members and stakeholders is essential to achieve successful and deep collaboration in sustainability initiatives. Spending time together in informal settings, like site visits, field trips and overnight stays, is a powerful way to develop mutual understanding and trust.
An hour with other sustainability directors and managers to explore the key issues and challenges that matter to you. To be notified of the next event…
Opportunities for sustainability leaders
Inspired by Alan’s experience, and our subsequent conversation, we identified ten opportunities for sustainability leaders to make more progress and have greater impact:
Are you struggling to engage colleagues with sustainability? There is a way to turn your colleagues’ disinterest or grudging acceptance into active collaboration and support for your organisation’s sustainability initiative.
We’ve distilled 20+ years experience into five key steps in our Get Buy-In to Sustainability Quick Start Guide:
Osbert Lancaster, director, Realise Earth
1. Learn more about people in your organisation
Take the time to understand your colleagues’ skills, knowledge, interests, and passions. Find ways to build a stronger sense of community and informal knowledge sharing within your organization.
2. Build time for banter into meetings
Incorporate informal interactions and small talk into meeting agendas to make them engaging and build relationships, whether in virtual or physical settings.
3. Disrupt normal patterns of behavior with food
Use food as a subtle disruption to break the mould and foster a more human connection. Bringing home-baked treats or making jokes about food can create a relaxed environment and encourage collaboration.
4. Get your clients talking about their sustainability ambitions to your people
Create opportunities for your clients to share their interests, ambitions, and sustainability goals with your team. Encourage knowledge sharing and conversations around what matters to them, bridging the gap between personal and professional concerns.
5. Ask people about their stories and the impact they’d like their work to have
Initiate conversations by asking individuals how they ended up in their current roles and what impact they hope to achieve. This opens up discussions about personal paths and broader goals, allowing for varying levels of emotional connection and engagement.
6. For effective collaborations, have a clear purpose and focus
Collaboration works best when there is a defined purpose or goal that individuals can collectively work towards. Whether it’s completing a specific task or addressing a broader area of concern, clarity of purpose enhances collaborative efforts.
7. Make invitations to join collaborations interesting and low pressure
Extend invitations to collaborate in a way that is appealing and non-intimidating. Create safe spaces where people can opt-in or opt-out without feeling pressured, allowing for positive responses and genuine interest in participating.
8. Improve collaboration by building on what works
Reflect on past successful collaborations and identify the factors that contributed to their effectiveness. Replicate those conditions, learn from previous experiences, and incorporate successful elements to foster better collaboration in the future.
9. See collaboration as action research
Approach collaboration as an ongoing inquiry and learning process. Continuously explore what works and what doesn’t, adapting and refining approaches based on insights gained along the way. Embrace experimentation and adopt new strategies when needed.
10. Different approaches work best in different cultures
Recognise that diverse organisational cultures may require different approaches to collaboration. Tailor your strategies to align with the specific context of your organisation, whether that involves research-driven methodologies or emphasising emotions and feelings.
Links and resources
The reports Alan mentioned:
- Accelerating the decarbonisation of Scottish infrastructure | Institution of Civil Engineers
- Scottish Emission Targets & Progress in reducing emissions in Scotland – 2022 Report to Parliament | UK Climate Change Committee
- Inquiry into the role of local government and its cross-sectoral partners in financing and delivering a net-zero Scotland | Scottish Parliament Website
- Net Zero: Local Authority Powers | Edinburgh Climate Change Institute