Sustainability can often feel like a buzzword that gets thrown around for marketing purposes, especially when it’s being connected to the environment. But sustainability is more than just a marketing technique; it’s something responsible businesses should look into not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s what consumers want.
Statistics on the environment can be overwhelming and even a bit grim. One trillion plastic bags end up in landfills each year. In 2018, 76 million tons of pollution were emitted into the air in the U.S. alone. More than 3 million children around the globe die each year because of environmental factors like polluted drinking water.
These numbers are staggering, but businesses around the world can make a difference, and it’s what consumers want to see. Even in 2011, 83% of consumers thought it was important for businesses to have some kind of environmental plan in place.
So, what can your business do to truly be sustainable, rather than use the “environmentally friendly” concept as a marketing ploy without following through?
Establishing a Sustainable Culture
Establishing a more sustainable business starts from the top. Business owners have the responsibility of establishing a company’s identity, building a company culture, and giving the business a personality. They’re also responsible for creating an environment that focuses on sustainability and reducing the overall carbon footprint of the business itself.
If you are a business owner, you don’t have to be a guru in environmental science to make a difference. Simply looking at the latest trends in sustainable business practices can help you to implement changes into your company culture.
Your biggest goal as you get started should be to get everyone on board. Every department should have policies relating to sustainability to truly make your green effort a team effort. Invite your team to be more eco-friendly by:
- Encouraging carpooling or biking to work
- Offering remote/work-from-home options
- Ban the use of plastic coffee cups, plastic silverware, and bags and invest in travel mugs and ceramics
- Turn off computers/monitors when they leave for the day
- Place recycling bins throughout your office
- Reduce the usage of single-use items
- Develop a policy to turn off lights and water in bathrooms after each use
By establishing actual environmental policies within your business, you can create an internal culture that will then spill over into your branding efforts.
Consumers are drawn to businesses that want to make a difference. A Nielsen report found that 49% of consumers globally are willing to spend more money on products that have high safety standards and high-quality standards — things that are typically associated with sustainable business models.
So once you’ve developed a sustainable office culture, what else can you do to show your consumers you’re an eco-friendly company? It can start with the building you’re in. Even if your business is growing, try to avoid new construction. It contributes to 40% of energy-related gasses, which can increase CO2 emissions.
To show your consumers your efforts mean something, why not implement your changes in ways people can actually see, such as using eco-friendly packaging on your products? When you tout that the materials you use are biodegradable or recyclable, consumers can feel good about getting your products and may be more likely to purchase from you again knowing in some small way, they are doing their part for the planet, too.
Making Sure Your Changes Have an Impact
Though your sustainability efforts shouldn’t be something you just talk about with no follow-through, if you truly are making changes, make sure your customers know what you’re doing.
Creating a positive customer experience is essential for the success of a business. In fact, customers who are pleased will give 2.6 times more money toward your company than those who don’t have a good experience.
So don’t be afraid to open a dialogue with your customers about your environmental efforts. Work publicly with nonprofit environmental or wildlife organizations, tell consumers what you’re doing in-house to reduce your carbon footprint, and ask them to join you on your endeavors to implement more sustainable practices. By establishing a culture of sustainability now, you can show yourself as a responsible, ethical, and personable business that consumers are more likely to respond to with positivity.