Eco-friendliness is one of the marketing bandwagons that businesses are hopping on in droves. When embraced sincerely, this is a great thing. When businesses can reduce their environmental impact and promote eco-friendly habits and products, everyone benefits. But many companies capitalize on the image of being eco-friendly without following through. Below are some ways to practice and promote eco-friendly business practices while remaining honest and sincere.
Marketing can be one of the biggest resource-users in a company. Marketing materials are often produced in bulk, resulting in waste of unused flyers and promotional products. Then there is the paper used for drafts of marketing ideas. Below are some ways you can reduce the environmental impact of your marketing efforts:
- Implement a “Necessary Printing Only” Policy. All rough drafts should be reviewed digitally and only final products should be printed.
- Instead of printing handouts for tradeshows, use a tablet or computer for people to sign up for your email list
- At tradeshows, be sure to use fabric banners and other reusable booth materials
- Use your marketing materials to promote your environmental efforts. For example, if you use soy-based inks for all your printing, put a little note explaining that on customer-facing items.
Product and Packaging Concerns
If you sell physical products, there are two main factors you can analyze for environmental friendliness: the products themselves and the packaging. Look at the full lifecycle of your products. What are the environmental impacts of production? Where will the product end up at the end of its lifespan? If you use wood, you can look into sustainably sourced products like those certified by the sustainable forest initiative. If you use paper, plastic, or cardboard, you can probably find ways to utilize recycled materials. There are lots of options out there; you just need to be intentional in finding them.
Once you’ve addressed the products themselves, ask the same questions for the packaging. Perhaps you can eliminate packaging altogether! Or, if you can’t, try to find biodegradable options. If that’s not feasible either, you can do what Argo Tea did. They not only use glass bottles, which are recyclable, but they also give people ideas for how to reuse the bottles. This is even better, since glass recycling is not accessible in all areas.
Whether your employees are on or offsite, they need to be the driving force for your environmental focus. After all, if your employees aren’t practicing eco-friendly habits, your company’s carbon footprint is going up. Consider an in-house certification for contracted agents to promote proper materials management, transportation, and other environmentally impactful practices.
One of the best ways for a business to manage its waste output is to educate employees on proper waste disposal. For “normal-use” items, set up a 3-bin system: Recycling, Compost, and Garbage. Make sure that your janitorial staff is fully briefed on proper disposal for each bin type. If it’s feasible, start a compost heap on site. This can even be an extra source of income if you create partnerships with farmers, gardeners, and other people looking for natural compost.
If you produce waste that needs proper disposal, like chemical byproducts, then look at the best industry standards in proper disposal. Research green certifications in your industry and follow the top restrictions for disposal. This will not only open up possibilities for certifications, but will allow you to own the priority your company has for the environment. Following the strictest standards also ensures your company keeps up-to-date with changing regulations and reduces the chance of having to change your overall processes in the future.
Once your products and marketing meet environmental-muster, you don’t have to worry about being accused of talking the talk without walking the walk. Now you can focus on promoting specific environmental initiatives and sponsoring events. Here are some ways you can build a brand culture focused on the environment:
- Host a tree-planting event for the community
- Sponsor a community garden. If your company has a cafeteria, incorporate the products into that. If not, look for community organizations you can donate food to,
- Host an annual “Green the Office” event where employees can take on projects to improve the company’s carbon footprint. Projects can include replacing light sources with energy-efficient bulbs or using natural light from windows.
Building an Audience
So far, we’ve discussed a lot of ways to improve your company’s impact on the environment. Now let’s talk about some different ways that you can build an audience with your environmental focus.
- Involve the Community- Ask employees, partners, customers, and neighbors how they would like your company to focus on the environment. Build volunteer task forces around each matter of focus. Update interested parties on improvement in their areas of interest.
- Utilize existing symbols and language. If your products are recyclable, use the “reduce, reuse, recycle” logo. If you have any green certifications, put those logos on your marketing materials. Provide information about your efforts on your website. The more people know about your efforts, the more likely they are to work with you.
- Use Humor. Remember the hotel that pitched their lack of customer service as “eco-friendliness”? It worked because it was a joke, and no one thought they were really trying to come off as “green.” Find ways to include humor in your marketing. This engages customers and leaves a positive brand image.
- Report Results and Invite Feedback. People who support causes like to see hard data. Pay attention to how many trees your company plants, how much less paper you use each year, and how much lower your energy bills are. Report these results in an annual environmental report. Send this to your subscribers and publish it on your website. Invite feedback and ideas for further improvement. This will encourage people to become emotionally involved, and show the sincerity and effectiveness of your company’s efforts.
These are just a few suggestions for building a truly environmentally-minded company and appeal to like-minded consumers. What are ways your company has reduced its environmental impact? Share in the comments!