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Five things negotiators can do to help save the planet

With COP26 drawing to a close, FT columnist Simon Kuper has tweeted ‘How could rich countries cut working hours to save the planet? A ‘four-day week would be a good start’, the inference is that by working less – we’d consume less both by being less industrious and possibly by earning and spending less – being more sustainable as a result.

If we adopt this approach in what we do, it means that our actions need to count even more with less time available. From a negotiator’s perspective, how might this translate? Here’s five things we can keep in mind:

1. Face-to-face versus online?

From work conducted by David Mytton on video conferencing and emissions, it’s calculated that a weekly team meeting with six participants, watching in HD 1080p for one hour, releases 0.05kg of CO2. Over a year, this would add up to 2.68kg, equivalent to driving 9.36 miles?

So, whilst virtual is a better way to go for the environment, this still needs to be balanced against the richness that face to face offers - small talk inferences, the wealth of texture available in verbal and non-verbal communication and the cultural expectations of the parties involved. Choose wisely.

2. Who needs to be in the negotiation?

At Savage Macbeth we’ve identified over 20 different actions that could be applied when we negotiate. Think carefully about who you’re going to take, what they’ll do and how they’ll add value. We need enough people in our team to cover all the bases, but not so many that we trip each other up!

3. Remember the conflict is with the other side's negotiating position, not their personality

When things get tough and spiky, it’s easy to blame ‘them’ – try not to make it personal. Remember the other side has a job to do as well, try and keep the contentious stuff aimed at the issues not the people - it’s the people that have the flexibility. If you don’t, at best things take longer, at worst - no deal at all.

4. Negotiate a deal where the other party is comfortable

Whilst we all want the best deal possible, take the time to ensure there is enough in the deal for the other party to be ‘comfortable’ enough to see through their responsibilities and commitments. If it’s not the case, don’t be surprised by the shortcuts, dangerous alternatives or the get-out-of-jail cards people opportunistically raise. You’ll be renegotiating again before you know it - fishing rights, trade border checks and vaccine supply & production to name just a few examples where things just drag...

5. Invite a response

Asking for feedback on your pitch or proposal keeps the potential solutions at the forefront of the discussions and cuts down the amount of ‘waffle time’ and having to try and ‘guess’ the areas that might be acceptable to the other side.

Sam Macbeth, 10th November 2021

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