There’s no denying that becoming a sustainable business is more than just an ethical imperative. Alongside your responsibility to minimize your company’s negative influence on the world, it can also be a route into engaging with more consumers. Sustainable practices are increasingly influencing customers’ purchasing decisions, particularly among Millennial and Generation Z demographics. There are also several green tax incentives.
While it may be tempting to capitalize on sustainability to draw in a more environmentally conscious population, there are certainly right and wrong ways to go about this. Unless you genuinely approach your campaigns, there is the potential to create damage and disruption to your business. No perceived advantage from sustainability is worth faking your way there.
Let’s examine how you can genuinely lean into sustainability in your marketing, alongside a few pitfalls you should avoid.
When it comes to marketing, authenticity is an increasingly important quality. At a time when customers are frequently losing faith in brands, you need to be able to show you can be trusted. This is especially vital when it comes to leaning into your sustainability efforts.
There has been a destructive trend of businesses adopting greenwashing tactics in their marketing campaigns. On the face of it, this practice is rooted in making green claims that are not true. However, there can also be more subtle actions. Avoiding greenwashing behavior can come down to elements like making sure you have evidence to prove any sustainability claims and that your branding doesn’t suggest your processes are cleaner than they are. Clarity is also a key to being authentic in your marketing, as greenwashing involves making purposefully vague statements to lead consumers to draw incorrect conclusions.
However, authenticity is not just about avoiding unethical behavior. It’s also about using your marketing to acknowledge sustainability is still a work in progress. Consumers don’t expect you to be perfect, indeed this can serve to make your business more relatable. After all, they’re still working on their own sustainability, too. Use your marketing to also talk about your plans to make improvements and explore areas you still need to work on.
Demonstrate Your Efforts
One of the reasons businesses either inadvertently greenwash or fail to gain public trust on the back of their marketing is due to lack of details. It is not enough to simply announce your brand is committed to greener processes or to adopt a more environmentally-focused image. These are often quite flimsy, and consumers have been burned too many times by these tactics by disingenuous businesses. You can be more impactful by using your marketing tools to actually show customers what you’re doing.
This can be a delicate process. After all, many business leaders are not sustainability experts and are, therefore, also not savvy about the best aspects to present to their consumers clearly. Working with an expert in corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be a helpful tool here as their professional focus encompasses not just policy-making but also communications. They can help you by utilizing their deep knowledge of what methods of sustainable behavior genuinely make a difference in your field and collaborate with your marketing team to accurately represent your eco-friendliness. Indeed, you can talk about collaborating with your CSR expert in your blog posts and social media to demonstrate your commitment to making meaningful change.
As an extension to this, behind-the-scenes glimpses into your sustainable practices can also be powerful. Videos are among the most popular media for online marketing content, therefore posting short interviews with staff from all levels of your company demonstrating how sustainable features in their daily roles can be effective. In fact, inviting user-generated content from your consumers to provide their impressions of sustainability from their interactions with your business can open you up to wider audiences. It also sends trust signals due to the independent nature of the content.
Part of being marketing genuine sustainable efforts is making certain your marketing itself isn’t overlooked. You can talk about your authenticity and show your behind-the-scenes actions all you like, but if this isn’t done sustainably, it’s kind of pointless. Not to mention that consumers are likely to be quick to point out the hypocrisy of boasting of your green practices through a method that is anything but.
This can start with leaning into digital methods, rather than print elements. Avoid printing fliers, coupons, and billboard posters. Even if these are produced using recycled and recyclable materials, there are still resources used in their creation and potential emissions released. This should extend to your branding and packaging. While it can be tempting to produce physical expressions of your company’s identity, this is an unnecessary use of materials.
Lean into online activities like social media posts and website content. One of the key mistakes marketers can make is failing to invest in technology and this is an important focus. Wherever possible, utilize marketing teams that are based remotely, rather than expending energy and resources traveling to and operating from an office every day of the week. Remember that digital marketing and remote operations also utilize resources. So, look into whether you can work with green energy providers and server farms to minimize any potential negative impact here.
Aligning your Supply Chain
While you set shop online, your supply chain must be bought up to date with your goals for your online business. It is of extreme importance that restaurants manage the supply chain network to keep a tab on food, beverages, and other supplies to ensure efficient operations. Changes must be done in real-time to respond to customer demands in a systematic and timely manner. In addition, restaurants and supply chain networks need to be in alignment on the delivery of products to the Kitchen and customers.
Using sustainability as part of your marketing efforts can help you to engage with your demographic and even gain resources. However, if you fail to approach this in a genuine way you could do your business and the environment more harm than good. Demonstrating authenticity from the outset and featuring your efforts throughout your campaign are useful ways to build trust. Remember, alongside your other efforts, making certain your marketing itself is sustainable too is a good way of showing your consumers you have a holistic commitment to protecting the planet.
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