For the first time, sustainability is no longer being championed by only the early adopters, but rather the majority. From well-established corporations to growing medium-sized enterprises, companies are formally establishing sustainability programs and climate strategies. Sustainability remains a hot topic and has benefits far beyond conserving our national environment. Creating sustainable business practices can increase your company’s efficiency, ensure its longevity, drive innovation, reduce costs and provides a unifying purpose for employees.
What is Sustainability for Companies?
Sustainability is a business approach to creating long-term value by taking into consideration how a given organization operates in the ecological, social and economic environment. Sustainability is built on the assumption that developing such strategies foster company longevity.
Marketing a Pro-Plastics Company – Where to Start
A successful marketing campaign starts internally. By engaging your employees in the new vision, there is time to get ideas and input from them, creating an initiative they can embrace. Without buy-in from your employees, there will not be a base to build on. To create acceptance from employees, companies have to make green thinking a part of their culture.
Start your campaign through these three actionable steps:
INFORM: From an employee’s perspective, sustainability initiatives are rarely tied to paychecks or profit margins, but rather are intended to combat societal challenges, such as going green. It’s important to provide proper sustainability training to create a feeling of individual responsibility for your employees. Effective internal communication should evaluate the company’s long-term purpose and align them with your employees’ own goals. Many sustainability initiatives require special knowledge and expertise, making it important to explain new changes and why they are happening. For smaller businesses without the budget for formal training, a simple email or quick update at a meeting will go a long way.
ENGAGE: After employees are educated, the next step is to create a sense of accountability for the new initiatives to be implemented. It’s easy to update your sustainability goals on your company website, but changes in the office can be difficult. Recognition and rewarding positive changes through small gifts such as a reusable water bottle, coffee cup or canvas bag can provide a helpful kick start.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE: When it comes to sustainability, the actions of leaders speak louder than words and play a vital role in reaffirming company values to employees. Be sure to have clearly defined goals for your campaign and celebrate internally when they are met.
Reshaping Perceptions of Plastics Companies
When marketing a pro-plastics company externally, there can be push back, as the media is full of negative imagery and stories about the plastics industry, the environment and a lack of natural resources, giving people the perception that anyone in the plastics industry is bad. The best way to combat this view is to find ways to communicate your sustainability policies with your prospects and customers to help them understand the way you do business and why that benefits them. Focus on telling positive stories that will influence prospects to buy your services because of the benefits they receive. Use stories in your advertising campaigns, blogs and social media to explain complex ideas and help followers understand how they can put your solution to work while supporting a company that is focused on sustainability.
Marketing Channels to Promote
To achieve a ROI from their sustainability program, companies need to market them and infuse it with the core elements of their branding. The sustainability program should be a profit-generating arm the marketing depart can use as a source for rich content for blog posts, white papers, social media outreach, videos and infographics. Companies that are leading with sustainability initiatives make it an emphasis on their website where they frequently share relevant data, reports, and links to relevant studies.
Research shows that consumers are looking to make a deeper connection with the brands they do business with. Publicizing the sustainability program through content marketing using various strategic social media platforms, enables a company to create an emotional attachment with customers that share similar values. Promoting your company’s green technology, social innovation, and environmental initiatives, can result in receiving free positive PR exposure from the media.
As companies continue to find more innovative ways to use technology to solve the world’s problems, we will begin to see more marketers leverage content marketing to tell the story of how their company is doing good and solving the problems that exist within society.
How to be Successful in Green Marketing
To address sustainability appropriately, companies need to bridge two critical gaps:
“The knowing-doing gap”: A study conducted by BCG/MIT finds that whereas 90% of executives find sustainability to be important, only 60% of companies incorporate sustainability in their strategy, and merely 25% have sustainability incorporated in their business model.
“The compliance – competitive advantage gap”: More companies are seeing sustainability as an area of competitive advantage, but it is still a minority – only 24%. However, all companies need to be compliant. Management should address these topics separately – not mesh them together.
Companies that stand out in the area of sustainability address both gaps, evolving from knowing to doing and from compliance to competitive advantage. They also understand the risk of getting this wrong. For instance, promising and not delivering, or addressing material issues without being firm on compliance; this could turn into a devastating marketing blunder.
Final Considerations in Marketing Sustainability
Marketing sustainable business practices can make your company more efficient and ensure its longevity; creating a bigger purpose for employees, reduced costs in your supply chain and drive innovation in your company.
After your initial sustainability transition, bigger goals can be set, like being Zero Waste Certified or becoming a B-corporation, which is for businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Your efforts will boost your competitive advantage. More importantly, for our future, as we learn more about businesses’ effects on the environment, it is clearer than ever that we must be proactive. Don’t let your company be the one that’s stuck in the past.