By Kathryn Glushefski
It’s as predictable as the sun coming up in the morning. Each Earth Day, the media starts to buzz about sustainable initiatives, corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship. But, as smart marketers and PR professionals know, it’s a wise move for businesses of influence to adopt an integrated plan to reduce impacts and not just commemorate with one-off Earth Day initiatives.
It can appear to be a daunting conversion to an environmentally conscious business model, but don’t shy away. Financials and other reports show the benefits are substantial. Here are a few examples of the marketing opportunities that come with adopting sustainable business practices:
- Brand awareness and affinity: As consumers and stakeholders alike seek out evidence on business’ environmental and social endeavors, brands have the opportunity to generate more awareness and affinity for their sustainability and corporate responsibility efforts. Case in point: Whole Foods is a multi-billion dollar corporation that was founded upon socially-minded principles and is thriving in the marketplace with its focus on sustainable goods and practices, and its dexterity in communicating that to consumers.
- Sales: Often one of the first steps consumers take to try to reverse neglect of the environment and establish a somewhat green footprint is to observe and alter buying habits. If you’re a sustainable brand, this works to your benefit; if not, you’re missing a chance to get in good with the next generation of consumers. And by the way, I’m a prime example of this principle in action. When I purchase from restaurants like Chipotle, it’s not just to answer my craving for one of the infamous one-pound burritos; I admire and go out of my way to support its commitment to Food with Integrity.
- Reputation management: Unfortunately, many consumers have a poor outlook on Corporate America and low trust levels mean companies have to work that much harder to attain consumer confidence and social integrity. For some corporations, there’s also the need to overcome widely publicized issues surrounding employee-related and environmentally damaging practices, whether it be the production of its goods, use of particular materials or means of importing and exporting. In these scenarios, a company’s dedication to good stewardship of the environment has the potential to help transform preconceived notions and lower the potential for negative buzz. In my opinion, Nike has seemingly tried to do just this. In the past, I’ve known them as a corporation that uses less than humane practices to manufacture its products. Now, though I certainly still have concerns in mind, I may be more inclined to think of its increased efforts to limit its environmental impacts.
- Enhanced transparency and reporting: In order to attain allied support and buying loyalty from investors, executives, business partners and, now, customers, transparency and communications around new efforts and results are key. As an example, Johnson & Johnson utilizes the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) scorecard, which is the most widely used sustainable reporting system in the world, to generate reports that serve several proof points to its dedication. The corporation was recognized for its efforts in October 2011 was named one of the country’s and world’s greenest companies in Newsweek’s Green Rankings report.
Now more than ever, corporations are expected to display efforts toward limiting the damaging environmental impacts associated with the manufacturing and dispersal of goods and services. Popular culture and evolving beliefs have molded corporations’ newfound responsibilities so it’s no longer just a good idea for businesses to instill sustainable business practices, it’s become an expectation.
Have you let corporate responsibility take your business to new heights? If so, tell us how with a comment Facebook post, or tweet!
Photo courtesies: Chipotle, The Daily Beast