Stories and social media posts about climate change are hard to ignore these days. Study after study shows that consumers have noticed and want to buy from brands that have made sustainability a core value. When companies make the shift to sustainable practices, there’s also strong evidence these changes are creating value.
But for some, being a sustainable company can seem like a high bar to clear. With every initiative put in action, there’s still more the company could be doing. Adding new programs and products come with a cost–the time to research and onboard the program and the potential added cost of using sustainable materials and products.
Becoming a more sustainable brand does not happen overnight. By focusing on small steps, building on the initiatives you’re now doing, and using sustainable marketing tactics to spread the word are a great way to get started.
Develop Your Goals
As your journey towards sustainability is forming, consider where you’d like your company to go. Even if you don’t have it all figured out yet, creating goals can build momentum.
“It’s simply impossible to do all the things,” said Carie Mayo, Founder and Creative Director of MAYO Designs. “Instead of a patchwork of initiatives, start with setting a single goal that’s ambitious but attainable.”
Maybe it’s creating an office that sends zero waste to a landfill, using 50% less energy by 2025, or applying for a third-party certification. Whatever the goal, leadership has a great opportunity to develop a culture of engagement by getting employees actively involved in the process. About two-thirds of companies that see a greater value from sustainability initiatives have made it a part of their culture, according to a study by McKinsey. If you’re going to meet your goal, it’s important employees understand how sustainability efforts align with the company’s strategy and mission, and get training on how to integrate sustainability practices, the study noted.
Sustainable Marketing Tip: Once you set your goal, share it with the world. Write a blog post or op-ed about how you plan to meet it and why your company is making the change. Use the post to start a conversation on LinkedIn and encourage employees to share it. If you’ve made them part of the goal setting process, it will be more heart-felt and authentic when they share the news with others.
Document Current Efforts
As you determine the right goal for your organization, conduct a sustainability audit that takes inventory of all initiatives you have in place. Do you have a water bottle filling station or smart lighting? Does your company buy compostable cutlery for the breakroom or use green web hosting? Do you recycle? Do you buy 100% recycled paper? Don’t be quick to dismiss small efforts. They could become part of larger initiatives down the road.
Also, examine how well your current sustainability initiatives work and if it’s easy for employees to participate. If the team hasn’t widely adopted the initiative, ask what’s holding them back and how you can make adopting the initiative easier.
The focus of the sustainability audit is to document what you are doing, how well those initiatives are working, and why.
Sustainable Marketing Tip: Leverage the audit process and findings in an email campaign. Tell your leads why you’re taking inventory, what you discovered, and how it’s inspired change in the way you do business and what you offer.
“We know consumers are drawn to brands that promote their values and have a sense of purpose,” said Mayo. “Showing you can take a hard look at your practices and improve on them is a powerful story to tell.”
Build Upon Successes
You’ve set a goal, taken stock of your sustainability initiatives, and now it’s time to build upon your successes. You’ve made the office more energy efficient, but could you do more to get to zero emissions? What are the KPIs you need to hold your company accountable?
“Here is where leadership and employee buy-in are especially important,” said Mayo. “People want their job to have meaning and to be a part of something bigger, so why not challenge them to take action?”
Sustainable Marketing Tip: Building upon successes is a great opportunity for marketing. If your goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions, challenge your employees to ride, walk or car pool to work. Create a social media campaign that features people at the company taking action, varying posed and candid shots with some selfies.