In this day and age, sustainability is essential to the success of any business or enterprise. Has it been on your mind? Well the time is ripe for pausing to reflect to find out if incorporating sustainability into your business model might drastically improve your success rate. Here are some questions to ask yourself and explore through analysis if the answer is, YES.
“Is it the right thing to do?”
“Is it the financially rewarding thing to do?”
“Will bad things happen if we don’t do it?”
The Ultimate 10 “Whys” of Sustainability
To best answer these 3 “Whys” regarding sustainability, the Ultimate 10 “Whys” identified by Bob Willard author, speaker, and founder of Sustainability Advantage, must be explored.
Purpose activation: Will our company purpose, mission, and values be achieved if we improve our sustainability performance?
Revenue growth: How much will our revenue grow if we improve our sustainability performance?
Expense savings: How much will our carbon, energy, materials, water, waste, and other expenses be reduced if we improve our sustainability performance?
Employee hiring and retention savings: How will employee hiring and retention expenses be reduced if we improve our sustainability performance?
Employee productivity and engagement: How will employee productivity and engagement be improved if we improve our sustainability performance?
Bottom-line profit improvement: How much will our profit improve if we improve our sustainability performance?
ROI strength: Will the ROI meet our normal hurdle rate and payback period norms and by compelling enough to choose the sustainability initiatives ahead of other projects?
Balance sheet strength: Will the company balance sheet be improved if we improve our sustainability performance?
Stock market performance: Will company market valuation be improved if we improve our sustainability performance?
Risk avoidance: What will the financial risks will we incur if we don’t improve our sustainability performance?
On the journey towards sustainability, these questions are a resource to guide you towards building a more sustainable business venture. They will assist in the monetized assessment of all potential tangible and intangible benefit areas for each sustainability initiative and clarify how to best take the first step. Business entrepreneurs face so many unknowns in this world, from changes in staffing, fluctuations in the economy to social and political upheaval in parts of the world. Sustainability can be the framework to build and grow a business that is adaptable and resilient as well as one that not only generates profit but benefits people and the planet.
So what are you waiting for? Take advantage of this resource and go forth with making change for the “good of business.”
Want to keep your customers happy? Want to keep them coming back? Infuse some soul into your brand. Toms Shoes knows how to do it. So does Southwest airlines. They have taken the top-down branding model and turn it sideways. So instead of being in a hierarchical relationship like manufacturer/buyer or airline/customer, they have created a reciprocal relationship with their customers, or as I like to call them, their “tribe”. This brand mind-shift can happen when you infuse some soul into your brand.
What do I mean by soul? Seeing your customers as partners instead of someone to sell to. Becoming “one force with a common goal”. This mind-shift opens a whole new world for brands. This, in turn, helps you become meaningfully different in the marketplace. But remember, this is not a brand strategy or tactic, it’s a paradigm shift.
Here are 5 ways to begin.
1. Serve don’t sell
When I started my career on Madison Avenue, I worked for one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. I was a young copywriter in the creative department working on brands like Brim Coffee, Vicks vitamins, Zest, Ivory Shampoo, Tropicana and the list goes on. The agency’s motto: It isn’t creative unless it sells. Every commercial had to have 8-9 “copy points” crammed into a 30-second spot in order to sell, sell, sell the brand. The result: A culture that’s sick of getting sold to.
Smart marketers today know how much that can be a turn off to their customers. So instead of the sales pitch, they find ways to serve them instead. How can I really help you? What can I serve up to make your life easier or solve a problem? What can we do together? When a brand reframes their relationship as service, instead of selling, soul happens.
2. Give to give – not to get
This is a hard one for marketers. We were trained from the beginning that “if we give you this, we want that in return”. But just like in a relationship with someone you love, if there are strings attached, they know it. Now I am not saying that you give it all away all the time. What I am saying is when you give, let it be just that. Giving. That creates soul. And that’s a customer turn on.
The beverage company, Naked Juice, created a campaign asking their tribe to take a photo of themselves with their favorite fruit or vegetable and post it on social media. In turn, they would donate 10% of produce to charity. No strings attached. This campaign was wildly successful and engaged over 56K fans. Soul is good.
3. Engage, engage, engage
Social media has changed the game. Brands that stand on their ivory tower and drip out corporate messages in a silo, will be obsolete. Customers want to engage with brands. And the brands that create a community-like space to encourage that, get big benefits.
From the get-go Growstone, a growing medium made out of recycled glass, did that. They engaged with their tribe by asking them for help with naming products. Or giving away free t-shirts and encouraging growers to take a photo of themselves wearing it in cool places around the world. In under 3 years, their Facebook tribe went from 0-40K passionate fans. Why? Every communication we created was about eliciting a conversation, an idea, feedback, or a better way to do something. Our customers became brand advocates on their own. What could be better than that?
4. Commit to a cause or purpose
A Global Research Study called Brand Sustainable Futures polled over 30K people and revealed that 80% of consumers expect companies to play a significant part in resolving societal problems, from jobs to donations to minimizing pollution. Yes, people want brands to contribute to a meaningful purpose.
Now drive that home by taking this to a whole new level and become a purpose-driven brand. That means purpose, the “Bigger Why” you exist in the first place, is built right into your company’s culture. There are 7 essential questions to ask yourself to get to your Bigger Why. Stay tuned for that in right here in this column.
5. Let love lead the way
Now this may sound like the most unbranding thing to say, but it’s not. If you want to create committed, passionate, happy customers, love them up.
When I started my online community called Women Of Green, the Marketing Director of a green guide that showcased over 5,000 green brands asked me how I grew my tribe so fast. I immediately said to him, “Because I love them and they know it.” When your voice and heart are true, people know it. And that goes double for your clients or customers. They are human beings and can feel the difference between being talked at or talked with. Infuse your communications with a “feeling” of belonging, and you will infuse your brand with soul.
Carolyn Parrs is the CEO and Founder of Mind Over Markets, a strategic marketing communications and design company that builds brands and a better world. For over a decade, she has helped emerging and established green, sustainable, healthy, wellness and purpose-driven businesses and organizations excel in messaging, brand presence, social media, marketing communications and more.
She is also a certified Marketing, Business and Life Coach working one-on-one and in groups with entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and small and large companies to make profound change in their worlds.
Carolyn is the founder of Women Of Green, an robust online community and multi-media blog dedicated to “Turning Up the Volume” of the feminine voice in green.
She is the mother of two and lives with her daughter and pups, Heart and Soul. Carolyn loves to play hooky in the winter months to snow ski in the magical mountains of Santa Fe.
Hotels across the globe are increasingly encouraging guests to embrace green practices. Yet while guests think they are supporting the environment by shutting off lights and reusing towels, they may in fact be victims of “greenwashing,” a corporation’s deceitful practice of promoting environmentally friendly programs while hiding ulterior motives.
Greenwashing practices, such as a sign that reads “save the planet: re-use towels,” coupled with claims of corporate social responsibility, have soiled the trust of American consumers who are increasingly recognizing hotels’ green claims may be self-serving. This could cause hotels to lose valuable repeat customers.
Writing in the Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Washington State University hospitality researchers Imran Rahman, Jeongdoo Park and Christina Geng-qing Chi investigate the consequences of greenwashing in the lodging industry and suggest ways hotels can establish credibility in consumers’ minds.
Their paper, “Consequences of ‘Greenwashing:’ Consumers’ Reactions to Hotels’ Green Initiatives,” comes at a time when as many as 79 percent of travelers worldwide agree that implementing eco-friendly practices is important to their choice of lodging. Research shows a majority are willing to boycott a company if misled.
Causes of consumer skepticism
The researchers surveyed over 3,000 consumers to see whether recognizing a hotel’s hidden motive of profit caused them to be skeptical about the hotel’s environmental claims and if it influenced their intention to engage in a linen reuse program or to revisit the hotel.
Since environmentally conscious guests are often willing to pay higher premiums for green hotels, the researchers also examined whether their sense of moral obligation would override skepticism and willingness to participate in a linen reuse program or revisit the hotel.
Results indicated that recognition of a self-serving motive indeed made consumers skeptical and unlikely to participate in the green practice or revisit the hotel in the future.
However, researchers found that consumers with high levels of environmental concern still felt morally obligated to participate in the hotel’s green initiative, despite realizing its greenwashing tendencies.
“We were surprised to discover consumers with high environmental concern don’t have an ‘all or nothing’ attitude,” said Chi. “Our results showed when ecologically conscious consumers know a hotel is not truly green, they will still use the linen reuse program but they will not revisit the hotel.”
In addition to recognizing self-serving motives, the researchers suggest several reasons why consumers may balk at believing hotels’ green claims. Chi said hotels that fail to integrate green practices throughout their establishment – for example, advertising a linen reuse program but not having recycling bins available – might easily make consumers skeptical, especially if the consumer’s comfort is sacrificed in some way.
Consumer skepticism also may build when hotels engage in simple practices, such as discarding disposable toiletry containers, changing the bedding and towels less often or asserting they are green by simply hanging a sign that says they are green. Additionally, if consumers realize hotels have joined commercial green marketing and central reservation associations that don’t inspect the credentials of the applicants, they may view this action as unethical, deceptive or even corporate hypocrisy, said the researchers.
The researchers suggest several steps hoteliers can take to develop a positive image of their hotel and reduce consumer skepticism. They said the single most important thing is to become certified by independent and credible agencies such as Green Seal and Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), the two major certification programs in the lodging industry.
“Having a comprehensive green program, certifications by independent and widely accepted green agencies and communicating the message to customers are key strategies hotels can use to appear more credible in the eyes of consumers,” said Chi.
Additionally, the researchers suggest hotels use positive word of mouth to attract customers by posting favorable reviews on websites and social media channels and by training staff to follow the establishment’s green practices and be able to inform guests about them.
“Today’s consumers are not always buying the green claims made by hotels,” said Chi. “It is imperative that hotels go the extra mile in integrating environmentally friendly practices to develop credibility in consumers’ minds.”
Oh Bright Green Marketer, what’s your take on this?
If you go to the website of fast food restaurant, Chiptole, you’ll see chop, chop, chopping of freshly-picked veggies readying themselves for inclusion on a luscious Chiptole burrito with messaging that goes like this:
WHOLE OR NOTHING. REAL INGREDIENTS JUST TASTE BETTER.
We’re all about simple, fresh food without artificial flavors or fillers. Just genuine raw ingredients and their individual, delectable flavors. We source from farms rather than factories, and spend a lot more on our ingredients than many other restaurants. We wouldn’t have it any other way….
But a group called Chubby Chipotle was mad as hell, couldn’t take it anymore, and ran this “Chipotle Healthy” ad claiming that their messaging is “deceptive”. They attacked them on their use of language around GMOs, meats that contain no antibiotics and the high calories meals they serve up as “sustainable” and “healthy.” Not true, they say.
In response to this ad, one marketing writer said, “Does Chubby Chipotle really think that many people see Chipotle as a ‘healthy’ alternative? Sure, McDonald’s it ain’t, but ‘sustainability’ aside anyone who thinks that a burrito the size of a premature infant is ‘healthy’ by any stretch needs their head examined.”
To add spice to the spew, it was revealed that that The Chubby Chipotle campaign is funded by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group in Washington that lobbies on behalf of the restaurant business. Hmmm…not good.
To me, this is what gives green marketing a bad wrap…er…rap. According to Ad Age, 22% of Americans don’t believe green or sustainability claims anyway. And apparently that number is increasing.
So here is my question to business owners and execs in the sutainability space: If you had a heart problem, would you see an orthodontist? Munch on that…and call MOM if you need some help.
Earth Day 2015 was officially April 22nd. Did you get your green on? Well, it’s not too late. I’ve seen in recent years Earth Day transform into Earth Week with green activities and events spread out over many days. Now if we can only get that kind of effort happening the remainder 51 weeks of the year, that would be progress!
That being said, Earth Week was especially fun for me this year. As you may know, I was invited to be the business voice of “green” and the environment on PBS. It was a thrill to be part of a passionate panel discussing topics from water to coal to fracking to the future. We could have kept on talking for hours but host, Gene Grant was super skillful at keeping us reigned in. Not a small feat…
One of my favorite segments of the show was revealing how a Roswell, New Mexico company is “piping out the poop” from seven dairies and processing it into a biogas that will be used for fueling city buses. Isn’t that phenomenal? From manure to mass transit. In green marketing, that’s what we call “waste to product”. Taking something that would normally be discarded, trashed or buried somewhere, and turning it into a useful product. That, to me, is the future of business. Oh what fun it is to work with companies and products like that. And I do! Like Growstone, a New Mexico-grown company that takes discarded glass out of piled-up landfills and transforms it into a high-performance growing medium. Yes, recycled glass can grow your plants. What’s not to love?