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Getting to Yes: The Challenge of Internal Engagement on Renewable Energy

Originally posted on Smart Energy Decisions

See if this sounds familiar: your company has set a goal on renewable energy or decarbonization, yet determining how to get there — and even more importantly, getting all your internal stakeholders to sign off on the solutions — is presenting a significant hurdle.

At the Smart Energy Decisions Innovations Summit held earlier this month, our team heard this common refrain. Today’s energy or sustainability champion faces the challenges of developing a renewable energy roadmap, executing on that roadmap, and educating and engaging a cross-organizational section of internal decision-makers along the way. How do you do it?

From our work with thousands of companies on renewable energy strategy and procurement, we’ve developed five key inflection points that facilitate greater likelihood of “getting to yes.”

1. Identify key stakeholders — and have them at the table — from the beginning.

Nothing can derail a renewable energy strategy faster than a key decision maker putting on the brakes late in the process. The best means to avoid this derailment is to ensure that you identify—and engage—the most important stakeholders early and often. For most companies, this means socializing the concept of a strategy to reach your goal with a diverse set of stakeholders, including accounting, treasury, legal, real estate, procurement, communications, sustainability and the C-suite.

2. Develop a shared understanding of the goal.

A mutual agreement of what you are working to accomplish and why it is relevant to your success serves as your organization’s “North Star” while you address the opportunities and challenges presented by a renewable energy strategy. Get an in-depth understanding of what your organization’s long-term energy goals are — whether it’s carbon neutrality or a diversified renewable energy portfolio — and map out the plan to take you there. When the going gets tough (and at some point, it inevitably will), the shared vision for what you are striving towards provides a common ground for all stakeholders to come back to.

3. Step into your stakeholders’ shoes.

Education for your stakeholders is essential, both early in the process and on an ongoing basis. A valuable means to craft your message is to consider each stakeholder’s perspective and domain of expertise. Educating your treasury department? Make sure you’re speaking the language of finance. Getting your comms team up to speed? Your company’s reputation and brand should be top of mind. Identify the keywords that each of your stakeholders will recognize, along with shared language that you need all decision makers to embrace. Although it can be time-consuming to adapt your education to each stakeholder group, going slow in this case will allow you to go faster when it counts.

4. Facilitate frequent, but discrete, communication.

While developing and executing on a renewable energy strategy, we recommend communication touch-points as frequently as once a week. It’s important to exercise judgment in how and who to communicate to. Particularly when executing on a large-scale procurement project like a power purchase agreement, energy and sustainability champions may exercise considerable organizational goodwill. Making sure the right stakeholders are in the room at the right time is critical, as is educating and engaging decision-makers throughout the process. Allowing each department to vet their questions early and often is key to a successful PPA execution.

5. Highlight milestones and celebrate wins.

A renewable energy strategy isn’t developed or accomplished overnight. For most large companies, it can take years to fully execute. To maintain momentum across the organization, it’s important to highlight when significant milestones are reached and to celebrate wins as they are achieved. Recognizing incremental successes keeps stakeholders engaged while simultaneously reminding them of the broader goal. It’s also a way for the energy or sustainability champion to visibly demonstrate progress to those stakeholders that may not be involved at every stage of the process.

The successful achievement of a renewable energy or decarbonization goal can secure positive press and help mitigate a variety of risks. The education and engagement of your stakeholders is a vital step in the process.