S2E23 - Virginia Cinquemani, Founder and Director of The Green Gorilla

Virginia Cinquemani is the Founder and Director at The Green Gorilla, where they empower sustainability professionals to make an impact through coaching and training.

Virginia, a qualified architect, project manager and BREEAM AP, has worked for over ten years in sustainability, and she is co-author of many BREEAM schemes and of the best-selling reference publication “Integrating BREEAM throughout the design process”


  • The service that Green Gorilla provides for their clients
  • Why sustainability professionals need communication skills
  • How to sell sustainability
  • Why empowering people with communication skills helps their professional as well as personal life
  • Making sustainability accessible by empowering people with the soft skills

Useful links:

Green Gorilla

Green Gorilla Conversations Podcast


Intro: (00:08)

Welcome back to the green element podcast where we feature business leaders and innovators transforming their operations to be more environmentally and socially sustainable. I’m your host will Richardson and I can’t wait to meet our guest today and help you on your journey of sustainability.

Will: (00:27)

Hi, Virginia Cinquemani from Green Gorilla. Thank you so much for joining us today on the green element podcast. I’m really looking forward to finding out what green gorilla does and how you help organizations become more environmental. What a great name. I mean I’ll ask you about your name at some point as well because it’s.

Virginia: (00:50)

Well, are you talking about the company name or my own name?

Will: (00:55)

The company name? I’m now thinking I should be asking about your own name.

Virginia: (01:00)

Oh, well first of all, thank you so much for having me on the show. That’s amazing. And yeah, well, green gorilla, maybe we can start from that. So Green Gorilla was created last year as a way of helping sustainability professionals to find their voice. And the reason why that happened was because I worked in the build environment industry for a long time and my clients at that point, and when I used to work at the building research establishment where sustainability professionals, so very clever, smart people with a strong technical background, but they often struggle to speak to clients and to, so to find that voice literally and to sell their services effectively. So that’s how the idea came about. And the reason why I called the green gorilla is because the gorilla is usually, you know, a symbol of strength and assertiveness. And so that’s how I see my clients becoming. So Green Gorillas.

Will: (02:04)

If you could give me an example of what you’ve done for a client. So I’ve got more of a better idea in my head about how it all fits together.

Virginia: (02:12)

Yeah, absolutely. So the main services we offer Green Gorilla, our training courses and coaching, one-to-one coaching to support this inability professionals to learn skills like communication and assertiveness and finding confidence and overcome difficult conversations and conflicts. And one does use very popular how to sell sustainability. Because often, as I said before, people with technical skills might be very, very well prepared, you know, with their arguments, but they don’t know how to actually negotiate with a client. And you know, at the moment we’re living in a world that is made of sorts of splitting two people that really believe that we need to do something about climate action and everything. And other people that don’t. And unfortunately up until this point and from personal experience, lots of clients are being quite detached from it all. And the usual argument is we haven’t got enough money or we haven’t got enough resources.

Virginia: (03:14)

And it’s all about the bottom line. So what we teach clients, our own clients of Green Gorilla is to find the right arguments to win the clients over. And so if the client wants to speak marketing, speak marketing, if they want to talk about bottle line, absolutely sustainability can help you with that. So it’s really demystifying the whole selling, negotiating is not a dirty activity. It’s actually something that is vital and is providing a service to your clients, is really helping them find a solution and it’s a win win for us. Sustainability professionals is further sustainability in the world and for our clients is obtaining whatever goal they want to obtain. 


So what sort of clients have you had in the past from other industries? 


So I come from the built environment industry. Originally I was an architect. I say it was because having designed for a long time now, but have been a sustainability consultant and the sustainability professional for a long time now and nearly 15 years. So naturally lots of people that we speak to and we work with come from the built environment industry, especially BREEAM, which my uh, BREEAM consultants, so our creative professionals and also because this construction industry is probably the one that is most advanced in terms of sustainability in the UK at place. So we got quite a lot of clients coming from that area. But then you get people in finance, you know, sustainable finance got people from the services industry. But yeah, generally mostly from the built environment.

Virginia: (05:02)

What would you say your business superpower was? My business superpower? I think the key, and the thing I really like about Green Gorilla is the fact that once you teach people how to be assertive, how to find their feet and become more charismatic, that affects not only their professional lives but also their personal lives. So I’ve seen clients who were quite shy or work, they came through the program and at the end they started organizing get togethers and you know their husbands birthdays and stuff that you’d never have done before. So really it trickles from becoming a stronger professional into becoming a stronger person. So I think that’s quite a cool superpower is really affecting lives. That actually, you with what it is that you’re doing because you focus in on sustainability and your basically sustainability coach is on you.

Will: (06:06)

Brilliant. And so how do you engage with people about what it is that you do?

Virginia: (06:11)

First of all, I need to clarify that I am the director of the company, but I have a number of associates that come from the leadership and management industry and from business psychology background and voice coaches or the help of Green Gorilla do what we do, what he does, because my personal background is also technical. So I have learned these things by being a business development manager in my previous job but also having done some technical stuff, but I work with a lot of very qualified people to do, they send, the way we do it, the way we engage with clients is mainly by a social networks and especially LinkedIn, which seems to be quite a very, very rich platform where debate stays on a very decent and professional level. And I like you for that reason. So the way we do it is mainly by providing content.

Virginia: (07:04)

We try and provide as much free and useful content as we can via articles and downloads. And I’ve done my own version of a podcast called the Green Gorilla Conversations where I interviewed a number of people from the industry that made it, let’s say, so the masters, the sustainability, the manage to become stronger in their profession. And you know, now they’re heading teams and big teams as well. So their main thing is really trying to engage people on social media, getting the debate going about soft skills of our sustainability, about really the core mission of brand [inaudible] is to advance the sustainability, to make it accessible. That’s why we’re concentrating on coaching people and training people because we want sustainability to become a complete no brainer. So that’s the key message and the key mission I would like to be known for.

Will: (07:57)

Hmm. What have you seen over the last 15 years with what is the OSA and if you’ve seen an uptake in this

Virginia: (08:05)

15 years I’ve been in the industry, our sustainability Green Gorilla was only launched last year. But this comes with experience of having worked with a lot of sustainability professionals. You know, quite the, as long as, and I’ve seen a lot of resistance in people in really overcoming the barriers between being a technical person and being a person full stop, you know, having professional relationships that make sense. And I’ve seen colleagues going into meetings in Breem meetings and just opening the manual, which if you haven’t seen it is like 400 page monster and start reading from it. It’s like terrible, terrible, no skills honestly. And you could see the blank faces on clients and you would think, how do you think that these people will buy, you know, your solution. Did they, and I use the term by double lose, why? It’s actually really convinced them and really try and make them understand the value of what we’re doing. And if you come purely from a technical point of view, you haven’t got a hope in health, it’s really hard to say. You need to really start establishing rapport with people first, listen to them, very important second, and then understand what they want and will actually mail it will be need so that you can offer your solution while people usually go the other way around. Let’s start with the solution and then the try and you know, adaptive basically to whatever situation have,

Will: (09:36)

you’re quite funny to be at a meeting last year that possibly wouldn’t. I’m just picturing it. That’s all. So going back to the coaching and helping people, what’s the one piece of advice that you could give to our listeners about and about what to do?

Virginia: (09:53)

So if you want to really find your purpose, let’s say as a sustainability person festival, I think you need to check whether you have any limiting beliefs about yourself, what we call in the course, the rule book. So each one of us have a rule book and in the rule book you put all the stuff that you believe about yourself and then not the real stuff. But for example, I am a technical person. I can sell or I’m only one person. I can make an impact. All of these are very limiting beliefs about who you are and what you can achieve. And we all have it, you know? And often they come up in difficult situations or what we perceive a difficult situation. For example, networking for some is very difficult. Presenting for some is very difficult. Or finding themselves in our first play and meeting is difficult. And what are the limiting beliefs and why can’t you really fulfill your purpose at that point? Or why can you convince people of your fantastic solutions? You know, sustainability makes perfect sense. It’s common sense. How come it’s not every business is doing it. So the key is really from people that know that stuff. Try and understand what is limiting you, what you’d say in a by yourself. It doesn’t help you progressing that objective and then you go from them.

Will: (11:16)

Interesting. That’s really nice. So I’m brilliant talking to you about this.

Virginia: (11:21)

I could talk about it for the whole day. Well, you know,

Will: (11:24)

I guess it’s opened up my eyes because I didn’t know that. It’s not that I didn’t know you exist. I didn’t know your world existed because why? Just didn’t know. You can’t know everything on you. And so it’s just, it’s just interesting to learn about it. So if I was a business and coming into you, would it, do you find that the actual businesses are trying to help these people or is it people on a more of a personal journey?

Virginia: (11:51)

Well, unfortunately until this, I’ve only seen either individuals realizing, for example, that they can progress in their career because they found themselves powerless in a meeting room for example, or small companies wanted to compete with the biggie, the bigger ones. And so it’s really more at the individual level and when you start realizing actually every time you come into a meeting it’s frustrating because you can’t get your ideas across properly or you’ve been overlooked all the time and you can’t get promoted. So these are mainly my clients, people that actually realize in themselves. So there is something that it doesn’t quite make them happy really. And you know, sustainability professionals are a kind of vocational, a professional, I would say. So people that have deep ingrained values. So it’s very frustrating for them to go into a meeting and come out with, Oh, sorry, can’t do it. Wrangled money because money is the last of our priorities as sustainability people. Um, you know, we, we live by higher values so these people really realize that something must change in order for them to get somewhere. Big companies haven’t seen them actually approaching us. Um, I’ve seen small companies, uh, the really see that firsthand and, and individuals it for that reason.

Will: (13:17)

Okay. And can you tell us a bit about how you approach your own environmental management and carbon footprint and saying from a professional point of view,

Virginia: (13:26)

because I am a sustainability professional myself and again, as I said, these are values that I live by. I try it and leave my value in my life as well as in my business as much as I can. And at the moment, this is a small business. So in a way it’s easy to control. You know, what everyone is doing and you know, we don’t fly. For example, we haven’t fun so far because the majority of the training is done online except it reduced the footprint. And also because that way you can reach more people of course. And it is more flexible. So I use the same platform that you use to do your podcast. So that helps a lot. Reducing footprint and carbon footprint. And then we are preparing like a formal environmental management system for the company. But generally speaking is really just starting from the common sense things from yeah, try and reduce your traveling pattern. Why having to go to the other side of the country to have a meeting where you can actually have a perfectly fine face to face video conference. You know all the paper that we use, try not to print or when you print use FC or recycled, you know, the very basic things or sometimes make the biggest difference. And so that’s the way we are doing it for the moment.

Will: (14:40)

And what’s the best way that we can learn about you and what you’re doing and yeah, where can we learn more about you?

Virginia: (14:46)

So Green Gorilla has a lovely website too that you can visit, which is https://www.thegreengorilla.co.uk/ UK and we are very present on LinkedIn publishing. As I said, a lot of content all the time. Try and be, you know, us as engaging as we can. But also we are on Twitter for example. But mainly I think the website, LinkedIn or the, you know, the two places. And so yeah, I would love to have your listener to come in and say hello maybe on LinkedIn and you can find the, sorry, Green Gorilla consultants LTD or my own name that junior [inaudible] money.

Will: (15:20)

Brilliant. Thank you very much. Thank you very much for today. It’s been really, really cool. I’m talking to you and finding out more about what it is that you’re up to and what is you’re doing.

Virginia: (15:28)

Fantastic. Thank you very much. We’ll, Oh, just a little mention before we close, I am about to publish a book or that encloses all the theory around green, green law and you know the key skills that a sustainability professional should have in order to be successful in this very rapidly changing world. And that hopefully will be within the next three months. So maybe you know, people want to know more. They can get in touch.

Will: (15:53)

That’s great. We will put a link to, it’s on the show notes. Thank you so much. That’s brilliant. Thank you for having me.

Outro: (16:03)

Thank you so much for listening to the end of this episode of the Green Element Podcast. Do take a moment and share this with your friends and colleagues, rate and review the podcast, whatever you get your podcasts. I’d love to know what has been your biggest takeaway from this conversation. What are you going to do differently? Please share your thoughts across social media and tag us so we can see them too at GE underscore podcast, the links and show notes for this episode. Visit our website GreenElement dot co.uk for slash podcast. Thank you again. I hope you’ll join me on the next episode and together we can help create a better world.


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