It’s no secret that companies the world over are embracing environmentally conscious programs and policies as a means of marketing their firms and gaining strategic advantage over competitors who might be ignoring the green shift.
But it’s no longer adequate to simply claim your company is environmentally responsible. In their book Good To Green: Managing Business Risks and Opportunities in the Age of Environmental Awareness, management consultants John-David Phyper and Paul MacLean argue that as consumers become more informed, companies have to walk the walk before they can boast about their sustainability initiatives. They outline five strategies to ensure your green marketing strategy isn’t dismissed by cynical customers:
Align your product with company values: Years of greenwashing, false claims and opportunism at the boardroom level have brought corporate claims of environmental responsibility into question. To seize fully on green marketing opportunities, companies need to determine how their products contribute to global sustainability efforts and then how they can live and breathe that environmentally responsible ethic at all levels.
Actions speak louder than words
: Companies should communicate their values through significant action, they argue, rather than merely talking about them. Credible eco-labels, independent verification and changes in a firm’s supply chain to ensure the ethical sourcing of raw materials are all ways firms of all sizes can convince consumers that they’re just as concerned about the planet as they are about making money.
The wrong words can speak very loudly: Advertising good deeds or green products can inadvertently bring all of a firm’s products and policies under scrutiny. Making a green claim of limited scope (e.g., that one of your product lines is manufactured in an environmentally friendly way) raises the level of expectation for all aspects of the business. Phyper and MacLean argue that toning down your green claims may be the best strategy to avoid unintended scrutiny.
Sustainability does not equal sainthood: There’s no shame in claiming that your green initiatives are aimed at sustainability and profitability. In fact, claiming that your entire motivation for taking action is to achieve the former will likely raise the ire of skeptical consumers.
Focus on product, not green: Any good product should meet sustainability requirements, so yours should be marketed in a way that promotes performance benefits and cost efficiency, as well as its reduced environmental impact.