It is that time of year again–no not for April showers and May flowers, but for Earth Day. As April 22 approaches, every small business will be trying to find ways to ride the green wave of increased environmental awareness.
Positioning your store, product or service as green makes perfect sense no matter what your industry. Countless studies show more consumers prefer to patronize sustainable companies. In fact, according to market research firm Mintel, almost 68 percent of consumers can be classified as “light greens” or those whom show some preference toward environmental, ethical products and services. A 2012 Cohn & Wolfe study shows 1 in 5 consumers are even willing to spend a 10 percent premium on a green product.
The reasons to increase your brand’s eco-cred are obvious. It is the right thing to do, will attract new consumers, increase brand loyalty with existing customers and even attract better employees (according to a MonsterTRAK study, 92 percent of young professionals are more inclined to work for an environmentally friendly company.)
But if your products or services are not environmentally responsible by nature, how can you increase your brand’s sustainability messaging without falling into the green-washing trap?
Here are a few easy, affordable ideas on how to make your brand greener.
Partnering with charities
There are opportunities to partner with nonprofits that create environmental good, whether your business is local, regional or national. For the small cost of direct donations, product donations or profit sharing you can increase your environmental responsibility while also creating marketing value.
For regional or national brands, look to work with a group like 1% percent for the planet, which accepts small donations from the sale of products. In return, you can conduct marketing efforts around the relationship by featuring the group's logo on your website, on your social networks or even directly on your products. Another option is to find eco-charities that will enable you to create shared value. Many groups are willing to help market your goods or services through their newsletters, events or online properties in return for donations and other support.
If you company is local, don't worry. The same opportunities exist. Find local charities that you can help support. In return, look for ways to use the relationship to create shared value.
Run environmentally responsible employee programs
Providing more recycling options, going on eco-themed retreats, purchasing renewable energy and using sustainable items around the office are all easy ways to make your office more green. (Check out more ideas on going green in the office here.)
These ideas become a fantastic driving force for your green marketing as well. Ask employees to blog about the experience for corporate or personal blogs or to post about it on their social networks. Invite customers or clients to your offices or store to see the improvement you’ve made. All of these tactics can help create a green brand for any company.
Consider green packaging or products
If you are a product manufacturer or retailer, make sure your packaging or displays tell a greener story. Consumers often make their buying decisions based on packaging and POP advertising.
If you are a service provider, look to use environmentally responsible products. Organic fertilizers, nontoxic cleaners or energy-efficient appliances are all ways to reduce the environmental impact of your service. But don’t stop there. Let all your clients–existing or potential–know you are making the switch with their best interest in mind. After all, who doesn’t want a service provider that uses responsible, safe, efficient products?
Promote your efforts to current clients by providing information or even showing them the new items and why the switch is important. Use these changes to attract new clients by including information in your advertising, online marketing or sales decks.
No matter what your brand stands for, it stands to benefit from increasing your environmental messaging. Just make sure you are genuine in your actions. Consumers are quick to blacklist a company for making false or even overblown claims about their environmental efforts. Today’s consumer is more educated about sustainability than ever before and “green-washer” is a tough label to wash away.
Learn more in OPEN Forum's Going Green 2012 series.
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