Scientific versus emotional debate

A lot of companies that are working on sustainability or have sustainable products and services have a problem with selling that product or service. A big part of the problem lies in what I addressed earlier as ‘Sustainability as an add-on’, but there’s also something else at play here.

Sustainability is a very emotionally stressed concept. And when dealing with emotional topics, the use of scientific data and evidence is not only useless, it’s harmful.

When talking about and working with values, purpose, feelings…, you have to enter a completely different type of communication and debate: the emotional debate. This is a topic the green movement is having major problems with. If people would listen to scientific arguments and act to them in a rational way, we would have reached a sustainable economy and society a long time ago. It’s not about telling people over and over why eating meat is environmentally unsustainable, it’s about connecting to the emotions connected with eating meat. It’s about, for example, offering a full alternative to sitting around a barbecue at a hot summer evening, complete with friends who don’t look strange at you because you’re eating tofu, being able to join a last minute barbecue for which you didn’t have anything prepared, ….

Stop telling people the world’s going down if we don’t change, they know that. Help them in finding the same or (even better) new, more thrilling reasons to do things. Don’t show people the downside of their current behaviour; show them the upside of changing.

And last but not least, show the upside by actually living the life you’re promoting. Go first.


About leyssensjan

Jan Leyssens is a designer and entrepreneur who strongly believes you can’t turn sustainability into a positive story if your main focus is on negative impact. When designing, he is always looking for the overlap between activism and entrepreneurship, technology and community. His main expertise lies in strategic business model development, Circular Economy, the makermovement, and social innovation. With a background in Industrial Design, Jan quickly shifted his focus towards business design and using the design process in strategic management. Jan is the father of two kids and founder & CEO of Regenerative Design, co-founder of Full Circle, ImpactBoost, and the Circular Design map, podcaster, storyteller, and changemaker.

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