Eco-friendly and ethical consumption is not a passing fad. Consumers have woken up to the fact that climate change is going to drastically affect the way we work, live, eat, and breathe. Every aspect of our lives will be touched by the warming of the planet, from the way we grow food to our mental health.
We have already grappled with the mental health crisis that exploded at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. Experts predict that as the effects of climate change accelerate in intensity, the rate of mental health crises will increase.
Obviously this is disturbing on an existential level, but what does this have to do with business?
How Your Business Can Profit
Of course, everyone wants to be on the right side of history. Frankly, your company won’t benefit from holding on to outdated processes and environmentally unfriendly systems or resource gathering methods. It has a lot to lose by retaining those things, however.
While it’s okay to maintain the status quo now, soon outdated productions and manufacturing methods will become toxic baggage. By the time the tides have completely shifted against wasteful business practices, you want to have an established reputation consumers can turn to—you DON’T want to be the guy that made the switch to eco-friendly practices when it became popular.
But here’s the question on everyone’s mind: does it pay off? Not just with consumer trust in the long run, but is there a fiscal benefit to eco-conscious branding in the short term? After all, a lot of businesses can’t afford to wait for history to reflect positively on them to turn a profit.
Sustainability as a Selling Point: Does it Work?
If you are wondering whether sustainable brand messaging actually converts into cold hard cash, the answer is an emphatic YES!
“Green” businesses are in demand, and this has resulted in an economy which rewards ethically minded businesses that take the preservation of the environment seriously.
However, consumers aren’t stupid. They can smell a scam from a mile away. When you are making the choice to integrate green messaging into your branding strategy, you need to mean the commitments to sustainability that you make.
The reason eco-friendly businesses can reap the rewards that come from associating their brand closely with sustainability is because they back up their words with action. Consumers react very strongly to subterfuge when it comes to performative environmentalism by companies in the marketplace.
When you closely attach your brand message to an ethically charged movement such as environmentalism, you invite commentary by consumers who feel very strongly about this issue. To them, it’s not just another day at the office.
So you need to take your commitment to sustainability seriously, or don’t bother trying to leverage it with consumers in the first place.
- Eco-Friendliness as Part of a Larger Strategy
Brands that focus too heavily on one ethical cause actually shoot themselves in the foot by doing so. As tempting as it may be to saddle your entire image on something with sentiments as strong as environmentalism.
However, at the end of the day, consumers still want a product that meets their needs at an efficient price point, first and foremost.
If you center your brand messaging around environmentalism, rather than the solution to problem your product or service provides, you are actually diluting your brand’s messaging rather than helping it.
A great example of a company which has managed to seamlessly integrate eco-conscious brand messaging within their existing brand without losing branding efficacy is H&M, a clothing retailer.
H&M has made their eco-friendly initiatives a focal point of their marketing campaigns for years now, but they have not subsumed their entire brand image into the eco-friendly marketing they employ. As a result, H&M has aligned themselves with environmentalism without sacrificing the rest of their brand image to service it.
- Overarching Ethical Branding
A great way to make the most of eco-friendly marketing is to emphasize that it is part of a larger push on the part of your company to do business ethically.
For instance, if you need union shirts for your staff, you want to find shirts that are both made with environmentally friendly materials and with ethical labor practices. Of course, you should only be advertising these facts if they are true of your products or services!
This impresses upon the consumer that you are committed to these causes not just for the free advertising and brand loyalty it inspires, but because you actually believe in it. After all, most of these issues—especially environmentalism and fair labor practices—are closely woven together.
They’re complex problems with hard solutions, but showing the consumer that you care about both enough to do something about them instantly creates authority and trust in your audience’s mind.
- Measurable Commitments
Instead of making sweeping, generalized goals that you could never dream to accomplish, make small incremental changes that are measurable.
It is important that you can actually measure the results of any “green” initiative your company undertakes. Measurables are excellent fodder for marketing materials as well as fending any future accusations about missed goals or deadlines that may arise amongst disgruntled consumers or your competition.