Working a little green into your branding may be quite beneficial for your business. No matter what the nature of your business, or the scope of your operations; whether you’re a larger enterprise with hundreds on your payroll and interests in countries across the globe or an SME run from your laptop on evenings and weekends… you’ve probably thought a lot about branding. And well you should!
Your branding is what will bring customers to you rather than your competitors, it’s what keeps them coming back to you again and again.
Your brand is about so much more than your logo or the catchy slogan that dances beneath it on your website banner. Your brand is a promise that you make to your customers.
Your brand tells seasoned customers and curious newcomers to your online presence everything they need to know about you. It tells them what your business stands for, it informs and is informed by your core beliefs. It demonstrates a personal drive and passion.
When your brand makes a promise, it’s imperative that your business operations, your choice of suppliers, your very workspace and your every transaction with customers contribute towards making that promise.
Of course, the nature of that promise is up to you. You might want to build your brand around being fast, streamlined and efficient. You may wish to build your branding around being high tech and future proof or you may instead hang your USP on being more personal, compassionate, understanding and approachable than your competitors.
Whatever promise your brand makes you need to follow through on it or risk toxifying your brand and your relationship with your customers. Whatever the nature of your branding it needs to be built on integrity and obsessive attention to detail.
You’ve likely thought a very great deal about your branding, but whatever the nature of your business and the theme of your brand there’s a good chance that it can stand to use a little green.
Environmental awareness is no longer a quirky novelty, it’s fast becoming a necessity and even setting aside the moral implications of doing the right thing by our planet, there are numerous benefits to your business to ensuring that your focus on environmental conscience is at the forefront of your branding…
Make No Mistake… People Care
You could be forgiven for doubting the effect that an environmental conscience can have on your brand. You may believe that environmental awareness is simply not a profound enough influence on purchasing behavior but recent figures don’t match that assessment.
While consumers are still (and will likely always be) influenced by the prestige power of certain brands or by the ability to save money, a recent study by food and cleaning products giant Unilever shows that a third of consumers favour brands that place sustainability at the forefront of their branding while this 2015 study shows that an impressive 81% of consumers have stated that they would make personal sacrifices to address social and environmental issues.
There has been a tremendous surge in the effect that environmental awareness has had on consumer choices since the turn of the millennium.
People are slowly becoming savvier to the impact that we as a species have on the planet around us and the extent to which this knowledge is influencing consumer behavior appears to be snowballing with more momentum with each passing year.
A combination of increased news coverage and the influence of documentary films like An Inconvenient Truth, Cowspiracy and What The Health has enabled consumers to make better-informed choices about their purchases that are cognizant of the environmental and sociological cost of their purchasing habits.
Just look at the record numbers of people who undertook Veganuary this year.
While time will tell just how many of this year’s 150,000 documented worldwide converts to veganism will maintain the lifestyle, it’s nonetheless compelling evidence that more people than ever are thinking about the ethics and environmental impact of their food choices.
Showing That You Care Humanizes Your Brand
Now that we’ve quantified the genuine and sustained interest in environmentally friendly business products and practices, let’s look at the positive outcomes for your brand should you choose to incorporate more environmentally friendly operations, products, raw materials or suppliers into your branding.
In the digital age, businesses are under more scrutiny than ever. Businesses are more accountable than ever before to their customers and if their brand does not match their environmental concerns, users can and will take them to task for it over social media.
On the other hand, taking a firm stance on the environmental cost of your operations will ingratiate your further to your customers existing customers as well as the legions of potential leads out there who may be hanging fire until your brand wears its environmental conscience on its sleeve.
As well as humanizing your brand it also demonstrates that you’re as devoted to the environment as the heavy hitters.
McDonald’s, for example, have put a sizable effort into showing their hand in terms of sustainability. Their delivery trucks openly advertise the fact that they are run on biodiesel made from old cooking oil. If all the big brands are doing it, it would be naive to expect your brand to get a free pass in the eyes of the consumer.
Managing Your Waste
Very often, it doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your business practices to be a little greener. It’s merely a matter of looking at your operations and ensuring that you’re making steps wherever possible to make things a little greener.
If you’re struggling for a place to start I’d suggest taking a closer look at your business waste. 76% of SMEs regard the environmentally responsible handling (and reduction) of business waste to be a core component of keeping their businesses ethical and sustainable.
Three out of four Australian businesses believe that recycling wherever they can and taking steps to reduce their waste improves the public perception of their company while four out of ten believe that being able to tell their customers that they recycle as much as possible helps them to both win and retain business.
Of course, as zero waste pioneers like Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers and Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home gain more mainstream exposure, consumers are becoming increasingly aware that recycling on its own isn’t enough.
They recognize that businesses need also to take active steps to reduce waste in the first place, especially e-waste.
E-waste from used technology only accounts for 2% of all landfill waste but the toxicity of its internal workings can be so damaging that it accounts for 70% of the world’s toxic waste.
Keeping Your Workspace Green
An environmentally friendly workspace can not only be a PR boon for a small business, but it can facilitate a collaborative team dynamic as the workforce pulls together to try and make the workplace a greener environment.
Enabling your employees to come up with ideas to make the working environment greener can be extremely empowering. Best of all, most environmental measures like installing solar panels or insulated panels installation can not only reduce your business’ energy usage (thereby reducing your carbon footprint) but can also save the business money.
This can give employees peace of mind knowing that their jobs are more secure because your business is consistently reducing its overheads while boosting its PR.
Be sure to document any renovations made to the workplace on your social media feed or your business’ blog to ensure that you’re seen to be proactive in your pursuit of a greener workplace.
However, you choose to make your workplace greener just keep the 5 Rs in mind;
Plastic Is Becoming Toxic
Plastic has always been toxic in its impact on the environment, but an association with plastic is becoming increasingly toxic for brands.
High profile documentaries like A Plastic Ocean have shown consumers the environmental damage of our over-reliance on plastics in unflinching graphic detail.
Consumers are more aware than ever of the environmental damage that plastics can do when they are consumed by the oceans from killing endangered marine life to endangering the health of the communities that are dependent on the fish living around landfill sites as their main source of protein.
If we don’t change our consumer habits, marine biologists predict that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
Thus, as ubiquitous as disposable plastics have become, it’s incumbent on SMEs like yours to find inventive ways of mitigating the use of plastics, especially single-use disposable plastics like carrier bags, plastic bottles, and plastic eating utensils.
Take a good long look at your packaging and your products and see if you can use biodegradable or recyclable alternatives. if you’re looking for inspiration, check out how these businesses are overcoming the plastic problem.
Getting A Green Edge Over Your Competitors
Hopefully, this post has convinced you that your business can benefit on numerous fronts by adopting more environmentally friendly practices but it’s also worth taking a look at your competitors and the steps they’re taking.
Every initiative they take to make their practices more ethical and sustainable gives them a meter of inside track over you in PR terms.
You can close that gap by being smarter and more inventive in your green solutions than them or you can use your environmental conscience to distance yourself from your competitors and outline why your business is the only choice for the ethically aware consumer.