Making sustainability part of your marketing requires a clear vision of your purpose and the “why” behind what you do. When sustainability goals are aligned with your company’s mission, employees will better understand what you do, and customers will see the cost-benefit of working with you over the competition.
Making this shift starts at the top. Companies need leadership that will steer the culture and approach to serving customers, while also being strategic about the long-term costs and benefits of each decision.
For MAYO Founder and Creative Director Carrie Mayo, this type of leadership started with her own journey. Her goal is to live and conduct business with purpose and in a way that builds stronger and more sustainable communities. After over two years of full-time van life, traveling the country while working and raising a family, she’s in the process of building an off-the-grid home in York, Maine. In this interview, she shares her experiences and how companies can develop branding rooted in sustainability.
While building your house, what were some things you’ve learned about the construction of a home? What surprised you?
As a first time home builder building off the grid with an environmentally friendly approach, I received first hand knowledge of how balancing cost, supply availability, and alternative products all have to be weighed to achieve the best outcome given my individual goals and needs. There were times that my passion was met by reality, and I had to make tough decisions. For example, I couldn’t rely 100% on solar and would have to supplement with propane for cooking. I was also navigating the code requirements of our town and had to make purchasing decisions based on what code would allow.
How did you decide on a builder/contractor? How hard was that process? Did you research materials yourself or has the builder helped with that?
One thing that was super important to me was to work with local businesses when we could. Fortunately, I found a local builder that was also committed to building net-zero and sustainable homes and the decision was easy. I relied on my builder to make product recommendations but at times I would ask him to consider something that I had researched, usually appliances and fixtures.
The most exciting part of this entire process was looking into the product options. It was so important to seek out material and buy from companies that focused on the sustainable aspects both of how the products were made as well as how cost efficient they would be in the long run, even if the cost seemed more expensive up front. I knew based off the conversations I was having with my builder that these decisions would also reduce the maintenance needs in the future.
In addition, I liked working in collaboration with the electrician and plumber so that they could understand what the end goal was and be sure to design things in a way that would minimize the electricity draw. My builder also recommended products along the way that would assist in the living style I have grown accustomed to.
What are some setbacks or pain points you’ve experienced while building this home?
Although there were no huge setbacks “per say” outside of the supply issues, the pain point I felt was how much waste that this industry creates is sad. I typically see large dumpsters on job sites and watch them fill up and haul away many loads. It was vitally important for me to not have a dumpster on location so we could see first hand what waste was generated and then sort through it to properly dispose of it. I think product manufacturers could really learn from this and reevaluate how products are shipped.
Shifting to how you incorporate sustainability into your business, MAYO uses the tagline, “Business as a force for good.” This seems like a business approach that’s very personal to you. Can you talk about how this became part of MAYO?
It feels like it naturally evolved. I had built the business doing what I really enjoy doing and reached a point where it seemed like there was more beyond just delivering services. As I began to hire staff, there was a sense of responsibility for ensuring their work-life balance was in check. On the work side, I wanted to understand what we were delivering, and the why, and our sense of purpose.
What kind of role can business play or maybe, what kind of role should business play in the sustainability movement?
Not every business has the desire to make an impact; they may be starting out and just want to be businesses. But when a business reaches a point of success, however that’s defined for them, they may have to reassess what success really is. They might ask, what’s the impact we’re going to have? What legacy is this organization going to have? That’s where they can begin to look for the ways they can be a force for good. You can broaden your brand’s story in an authentic way with that engagement with the community.
When you talk about business as a force for good, it’s not just the environment we’re talking about right? What are some other ways you’ve seen businesses highlight good works?
I really love the business that’s taking an existing service and rethinking how to deliver that service in a sustainable way. But it’s also about giving back. When the generosity of a company is woven into the brand story, it’s really amazing. It’s easy for a consumer to see what their core values are and that they’re aligned with the core values of the company.
People have a ton of different options. What’s the differentiator that’s going to win? It’s when they feel a connection to the brand, when they feel a connection to your core values. Giving back beyond the core profit model is really a strong brand story.
How do you see that force for good playing out long term?
I want my businesses to feel like marketing is doing good, not just selling more stuff. We’re not selling something for the sake of selling it, we’re going to help you understand your choices and fit the business to the consumer. I want people to leave the experience of MAYO and think, wow that was a breath of fresh air.