Don’t sell the saddle, sell the experience of horseback riding

horseback riding

You are probably wondering, what selling saddles and the experience of horseback riding has to do with sustainable development. In this blog I will reflect on my own journey in the context of sustainability and reflect on our participation on the Liveable future conference of our Industry partner Strata Community Association. Reflecting on the many conversations I’ve had over the past few years about sustainable development it struck me that I had to stop to sell the sustainable development as a product. That’s not what it is about. It is not about the goals itself. It is about the outcomes they achieve. The outcome of a liveable future. 

Don’t sell sustainable development like a saddle

It is not always easy to start a conversation about Sustainable development, let alone get people into action. Because I’m passionate about the topic I can get a little carried away at times. I start to display all my knowledge about the topic itself and forget that it is not about the theory.  I’m learning not to lecture, not to tell people I talk to what to do.  I have to tell myself to listen and align with what people know about a certain topic first. What does sustainability mean to them?  Align with the mindset and attitudes towards the topic and try to level the experience. In other words focus on the horseback riding, not the saddle. It is a far more better story to tell.  

Global awareness


Talking about storytelling at a global level. How cool was it to see Buckingham Palace wrapped in a jungle. To hear Prince William’s speech of hope with an urgent call to action to save the planet at the Platinum jubilee concert on Saturday June 2nd 2022.  This is the kind of global awareness campaign needed to start a conversation about a sustainable future.  

A liveable future

The Strata Community Association’s (SCA) conference in Melbourne (May 30th – June 1st 2022) was all about a ‘liveable future‘. I had the honour of presenting at the conference and somehow that felt like completing a journey that started two years ago as SCA was one of our foundation customers.

In 2020, together with a group of SCA stakeholders we went on a three-month Strategy Design journey to unpack what Sustainable Development meant for Strata managers. Strata managers are involved in coordinating the affairs of (apartment) lot owners including conducting meetings, collecting and banking levies, arranging property maintenance (in the common areas and services such as parking garages, elevators and staircases), advising on asset management, placing insurance and keeping financial accounts.

Shifting the conversation

It was an interesting journey that started with a list of top ten complaints about noisy neighbours, broken staircase lights, lack of Electric Vehicle parking spots and badly ventilated appartments. Not to mention the fact that Strata manager get bullied, a lot!, causing high staff turnover in the sector. So other than the context of to extreme weather conditions and solar panels, sustainability was just not on their business horizon. The complex framework of sustainable development was out of scope. I didn’t expect that at that time.

From a tenants and home owners perspective booming real estate prices in Europe and Australia have redefined the home ownership dream. More and more people choose apartment living to be near work, friends and amenities. Strata managers are uniquely positioned at the heart of growing urbanisation (50% of global population is living in cities).

Bridging the KAP-Gap 

Strata industry can play an increasingly powerful and influential role in ensuring the built environment of the future is home to healthy, inclusive, sustainable and prosperous communities.  But what does this have to do with selling saddles?

Knowledge – Attitudes – Practices (KAP) – gap

During our three month journey we learned that there was a KAP-gap:

  • Sustainable development means different things to different people;
  • Unpacking what people Know about a certain topic and what their Attitude is towards the topic defines how they change their behaviour;
  • If knowledge and attitude are not aligned, there will be no Practice (or action).

Liveable future manifest

We developed an industry narrative. A manifest for a “liveable future” that “sold” the experience of living in liveable, green, smart and efficient Strata appartments (the experience of horseback riding) instead of the specification of the building itself (the saddle) that has to be managed. We visualised it in a simple infographic and a long read on the website of the association.

Green, smart, efficient and liveable Strata community

We slowly started the shift from managing a building towards managing the community that lives there. At the conference it was so cool to see Strata managers getting into action towards a sustainable future!

I wonder are you selling saddles or the experience and lifestyle of horseback riding?

Tips for further reading:

How to make an impact on every stage of the sustainability journey.  If you wonder how to have impact at every stage of the sustainability journey I really liked this research article recommended to me this week by Sukhbir Sandhu, Associate Professor in Sustainability and Ethics at University of South Australia.

This blog is an edited version from my weekly newsletter on LinkedIn


More Posts

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion  is a central pillar of the Social and Economic contribution to Sustainable Development. It is also one of the most challenging areas for small business to measure and take meaningful action.

Send Us A Message