One of the biggest trends in 21st century business is a pivot towards green business practices, from sustainable production and ethical sourcing to offsetting carbon production. While there’s argument as to whether going green will rectify the damage done to the environment since the Industrial Revolution, people are realizing that something has to change on every level, from personal consumption to businesses and governments.
In addition to helping keep humanity alive, shifting to sustainable business practices can also lead to significant marketing wins. But it’s not as easy as slapping a recycling logo on a trash can. Customers expect companies to materially commit to improving the environment, and will deeply scrutinize your efforts. A 2019 study by Hotwire found that 47% of respondents had cut ties with a brand after it violated one of their personal values, and on the list of those values protecting the environment came in #1.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you bring your company into the new green age. Taken from personal experiences and case studies of dozens of firms that successfully implemented environmentally responsible policies, these simple guidelines can form the base of your transition plan.
DO make sustainability a key tenet of your corporate identity. At every point on your supply and production chain, ensure that ethical sourcing, responsible waste management and respectful use of natural resources are key drivers of decisions. Integrating these practices closely into your normal business flow will help them feel natural.
DO task a “green team” with learning about and communicating these measures both inside and outside the company. Raising awareness of how your organization is embracing going green will not only deliver good PR but also keep your efforts honest. A dedicated group of staff to manage these communications will keep messaging clear and cohesive.
DO keep your audience informed on your company’s push towards sustainable business practices. Instead of generic platitudes, use this as an opportunity to tell your personal story, being transparent about environmental impacts and how you work to reduce them. Making them feel like part of the effort will give them a feeling of connectedness and ownership.
DO opt for green marketing using digital methods. One of the ways nearly every company can reduce their environmental footprint is eschewing the use of physical media for marketing. Instead of brochures, stickers, flyers and signs, communicate through email marketing, social media and other paper and plastic-free paths.
DO seek certification from a reputable green business authority to demonstrate your commitment to sustainability. Multiple groups offer third-party recognition of companies looking to adhere to strict environmental standards. One of note is the Green Business Bureau. This globally recognized self-certification program works across multiple levels to recognize improvements and build a pathway to environmental citizenship and stewardship.
DON’T “greenwash.” Customers can easily see through PR initiatives that use environmental responsibility as a cover story. Every action that your company takes as part of its green initiative should have a documented benefit to the environment, not just be used for making you look good.
DON’T make false claims. Launching an environmental initiative will put your company under scrutiny, and it only takes one enterprising reporter to find out that your much-lauded pivot to sustainability is just a greenwash. Carefully document and be ready to back up every step you take.
DON’T use your green business practices as a way to denigrate your competition or other companies. Healing the environment is a collaborative mission that will take the united effort of the entire planet to accomplish. Tearing down the other guys doesn’t help you project that message and could alienate customers.
DON’T try to transform your company overnight. Real change requires careful planning and evaluation. Bringing your organization in line with environmentally sound practices should be done in stages, so you can evaluate the internal response, bring stragglers on board and adapt your process for the next round.
Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun along the way!