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< Prev   CONTENTS   Next > Additional Persuasive Arguments

Clark (1984) provided a set of persuasive message strategies for public speakers to use when seeking to move people toward action. They include arguments that there is a problem growing in magnitude, the time to act is limited, and failure to act now harms the people and things we love. All of these arguments and more apply to the current situation facing humanity. As I sat in the auditorium at the Walmart home office in Bentonville, AR, listening to speakers at the 2013 Sustainability Summit, I heard Leslie Dach, Walmart's Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Government Relations, utilize many of Clark's persuasive strategies as he discussed Walmart's aspirational goal to utilize 100 % renewable energy. He said renewable energy's “time is now,” “we refuse to wait,” “we can utilize our size and scale,” “future generations depend on us,” “we are doing what is right,” “using cutting edge technology, we can drive down costs,” “we have the opportunity and the responsibility,” and “every kilowatt we don't have to use we don't have to pay for.” Dach, who oversaw the company's sustainability efforts between 2006 and 2013, identified three reasons why Walmart should move toward the renewable energy aspirational goal: (1) renewable energy and energy efficiency increases productivity, decreases costs, and is a way the company can control rising energy costs;

(2) renewable energy and energy efficiency addresses climate change (80 % of Walmart's operational greenhouse gases come from its stores); and (3) renewable energy and energy efficiency is good for communities reducing air and water pollution and allows community members to feel better, influences the health of future children, and helps people feel better about Walmart. Dach's arguments support the business case for sustainability. Blackburn (2007) provides support for seven business case arguments involving increased reputation and brand strength; more competitive, effective, and desirable products and services; access to new markets; increased employee productivity; lessened operational burden and interference; lower supply chain costs; lower cost of capital; and less legal liability.

Over the years I have developed a list of arguments my students might consider

using when they seek to persuade others to be pro-environmental. You might find them helpful as well:

• Argue preservation is important.

• Argue that our international or business competitors or neighbors or most people or cool people are doing it.

• Argue for the sublime (feelings of awe and exultation some people experience when in God-created nature).

• Argue that it is the right thing to do.

• Use visual rhetoric picking a good condensation symbol or drop a mind bomb (i.e., simple images that change how viewers see a situation).

• Argue that it is in the public health interest; use risk-based messages.

• Argue the proposed action is just common sense or that it just makes good business sense.

• Argue that the problem is large, the situation is deteriorating rapidly, actions are doable (and easy or fun), and the actions will make a difference.

• Utilize messages which induce shock, shame, or guilt.

• Argue the target action makes life more beautiful and abundant.

• Argue that the proposed action is the result of collaborative action.

• Indicate the action is based on community advisory committee decisions.

• Share a story promoting altruistic tendencies or showing how a solution was effective.

• Become a voice for vulnerable populations being effected by environmental challenges (e.g., drought, limited water, polluted community).

• Argue the action is consistent with their own values.

• Appeal to the irreparable (i.e., we must act now or this will be forever lost).

• Use terms including fair balance, wise, and effective action.

• Focus on how the action will have multiple benefits far into the future.

• Talk about the real-world day-to-day effects of either the problem or the solution.

• Assure your audience of your shared values and good intentions.

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