Go Green – Or Go Home

go green

Companies are slowly realising the importance of ‘going green’ – not just in terms of helping to save the planet, but for their own reputation and to secure futures in their market. You may have your ISO 14001, but if your consumers don’t know this, they’ll be less likely to stay with you.

Suddenly the state of the Arctic is something that could bring potential consumers towards you, or drive them away. Everything you do in the public light will come back and bite you in one way or another and while there’s such a growing demand for eco-friendly behaviour, it’s better to be on the side of the ice caps, than the oil barons.

Associations

Companies who make the mistake of picking the ‘wrong’ partner are being called up a lot quicker than in the past; displeased consumers need go no further than a quick Tweet, signing a petition, or commenting on the company’s social media page to start the ball rolling. One high-end supermarket backed out of a potential deal after receiving a petition with over 40,000 signatures.

Coca-cola, however, has done it right. They have teamed up with WWF in an attempt to help save the Arctic and have pledged to donate €3 million.

Associating your business with charities and causes – whether local or global – will help create an image that consumers will be proud to support; people want to know that their associations are positive ones too.

Marketing

PETA got hold of this first and their series of barely dressed celebrities standing up for animal rights are always a favourite on social media sites, and whizz around the internet. Similarly, Lush’s cosmetic testing on humans hit the headlines around the world. The more outrageous you go, the more likely you are to be noticed: and hopefully for the right reasons.

Greenpeace’s effort in the fight to save the Arctic has been a hit with everyone, even those who would usually turn a wary eye away from the environmental activists. Greenpeace took this battle to the marketing-grounds, and went full steam against Shell. A feature on the Shell website enabling people to make advertisements for the Arctic drilling left people around the world unsure of whether this was a marketing scheme gone horribly wrong, or an ingenious ploy devised by one of their many opponents. While it would’ve been a lot funnier had it been Shell’s, no doubt it would’ve been dismantled in seconds. Round Internet won by Greenpeace.

Everyone with a Twitter, Facebook or whatever else account has been making sure companies know how pleased (or not) they are. Businesses can’t hide behind customer care calls anymore and have to come face to face with their biggest critics, as well as their biggest fans.

Consumer Laziness

People are lazy. Most people cannot be bothered to go and run a marathon for their favourite cause, but they will swap to companies that can do it for them. So and so will give a percentage of my sale to this charity? Well that’s much better than so-and-so who doesn’t. Some businesses are cottoning on to this, albeit slowly. People will like you if you do nice things – people won’t like you if you do bad things. It should be so simple.

Advertise the fact you source from sustainable forests, that you pay fairly, and that you don’t use horse in your burgers. Consumers will appreciate it and will want to be on the side of the ‘good guys’. Though it’s debatable that you are actually brilliant through and through, at least on the surface you’re giving it a good go, and trying to make a difference.

Buzzwords

Everyone (in business) loves buzzwords. The more acronyms the better. The favourites at the moment are all along the lines of corporate social responsibility, sustainability, green, environment, eco-friendly, WE LOVE POLAR BEARS. Ok, not quite, but there is a growing trend in companies who are proud to be seen doing their bit for the environment. Car manufacturers are putting out electric cars at a speed of knots, clothing companies are melting recycled bottles into jeans (Levi’s, you outdo yourselves), and furniture stores are pledging to go 100% sustainable (Ikea, you Swedish geniuses you).

As usual, it’s all still scuppered by money. People are expected to spend slightly more if they’re going to be part of saving the planet, so companies who are still happy to mow down hectares of the Amazon on an hourly basis still rake in money, and aren’t under any pressure to slow down.

Ensure that your buzzwords are not just hot air: if you pledge something, take the time to show your customers that you’re seeing it through. As a small business, you have the advantage. You are not a faceless corporation, but more approachable and human. Play to this strength: sponsor a rescue shelter, show off about your new recycling and waste-water scheme. Actions speak far louder than words in this case.

As a small business owner, it’s more important than ever to show your green credentials from the start: while bigger corporations may find it too late to amend their social responsibility, you are in a position to be more attractive, because you care.

Looking good is now as vital as being good: people want to see what you’re doing to help the planet, it’s no longer enough just to hope that the paper-recycling you do is enough to win you public favour. Yes, it will be time consuming, yes it might incur more costs, but this is as much your planet as anyone else’s, and in a time of visible climate change, it’s more important than ever to have your environmental policies in place.

Paul Smith (2 Posts)

Paul Smith works for Ecocleen, an environmentally friendly cleaning company. Ecocleen only use eco-friendly products, and no chemicals.

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