09/05/2013 01:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

sustainABILITY simplicated (sAs) Step 6: Tell It Like It Is

Sustainability represents a multi-billion dollar revenue opportunity, along with a healthier and happier existence for us all. sAs offers Seven Simple Steps to Sustainable Business Growth. Stay tuned here for playful, practical and profitable advice every week.Find "sAs Step Five: Gather a Good Gang" here.

sAs Step Six: Tell It Like It Is

Sometimes the shocking way to solve a forbidding problem is to simply tell the truth. -- George Lois

When Interface put up solar panels 13 years ago, it was news. Not anymore. This kind of investment now fits under the no-brainer moves we expect businesses to make.

It's not that we don't want to hear about those nice, shiny panels. We do. Only, please don't stop there.

With distrust of corporations at an all-time high, we suggest you (drumroll, please): tell it like it is.

No one has this sustainability stuff dialed.

And folks don't expect you to have it all figured out, either. They just want to know you're working on it. They also want to know that everything is knowable, that you don't have any skeletons hiding out in the ol' sourcing closet.

Secrecy is out. Transparency is in.

Transparency has two sides -- what's going well and what's not. So good communication requires open celebration of victories and courageous admission of failures.


A great example of this is the Failure Report from Engineers Without Borders.  

Admitting failure brings others closer to you; it makes people instantly drop their guard. When you're off course, admit it quickly and emphatically. Then sit back and witness the disarming and unifying power of this behavior.

We'd like to see more organizations release failure reports. In fact, maybe we haven't succeeded yet simply because we haven't failed enough.

Action: Share your news.

We suggest you start on the inside.

Call your budding Good Gang together for some brainstorming about:

a. What to celebrate: By now you should have a focused vision for your sustainable future from Step Three and acted on that MAP you made in Step Four. So, pat yourself on the back and let some people know about this vision and your action toward it.

b. What to admit: What are you struggling with or maybe even desperately failing at? Need some help? No one can help you if you don't tell them like it is and perhaps even ask (gasp!) for help.

If your organization has a newsletter, submit your vision and action steps and your current failures for the next publication. If there is no newsletter, start one focused on sustainability. It doesn't have to be fancy, a simple word document will do.

Please comment below when you've shared your news. What tips do you have? How did it go? What response did you receive?

Cortney McDermott and Suzanne Pinckney are the co-founders and owners of sustainABILITY simplicated (sAs).