Take Your Company’s Green Initiatives, Make Them Work for You and Add Green to Your Bottom Line.
So, your company has a Green Initiative. Maybe you’ve started recycling paper and other products, utilizing biodegradable and renewable resources, choosing sustainable sources for the materials you consume, utilizing energy saving devices or solar powered energy or begun working to reduce your carbon footprint another way. Even if you’re only taking part in one of these initiatives today, it’s likely that your company has invested time, effort and funds into the program – which, by the way, is a lot of additional work you were not doing five years ago. Working to preserve the environment is a noble cause that many companies are making part of their business plan or social responsibility plan, but it also provides those companies a big opportunity to reach out to green consumers and promote their products and services.
Now that your company is putting forth all this extra effort, it’s time to examine your environmental practices and take the positive steps that can help you add profits to your bottom line. Kermit the frog said it best when he coined the saying “It ain’t easy being green”, but even Kermit knew that those who take on the challenge of preserving the environment through their business practices will have a new audience of Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability [LOHAS] consumers. LOHAS consumers value environmentally friendly companies and their products and services, and represent a new marketing avenue for your business. In short, yes, being “green” can certainly bring in more “Green.”
This new audience of LOHAS consumers along with your current audience of customers and prospects want to work with and buy from companies who have a strong background in environmental responsibility. Your new green initiatives are a great way to build a bridge with prospective and current customers, but they won’t know you’ve gone green unless you make it a point to let them know. Getting out your green message can be done through traditional marketing channels, but is much more effective if communicated through “green marketing.”
Green marketing is the practice of using eco-friendly materials to deliver your marketing message. It is based on the principle “actions speak louder than words,” because it helps you demonstrate your green commitment through the actual marketing vehicle instead of through your marketing message alone. Green marketing can involve all phases of your marketing and promotions, from your marketing materials and promotional products to your direct mailers and executive gifts. Every marketing initiative that your company undertakes, from a branding campaign to a new product or service launch, can be produced using eco-friendly materials to underscore your green message.
Green marketing is in and of itself a green initiative. Using recycled, organic and energy-saving print and products in your marketing campaigns will lessen your carbon footprint. Your audience will be able to recognize immediately that you are a company that is serious about protecting the environment, and if the piece you have sent is creative and useful enough, they may keep it even longer than a non-green marketing piece. With all of the great opportunities to brand your business as an environmentally responsible company and make your target audience aware of your green initiatives, green marketing should be a no-brainer. But is it? Many businesses find green marketing to be a daunting task. Where do they find the materials? How do they know what’s green and what isn’t? Are they green enough to say that they are green? Don’t get overwhelmed yet; green marketing is within your grasp!
Green Marketing Made Easy
So, what is your green ability? Can you market green? The answer is: yes. Green marketing has become very accessible over the past ten years. The materials are much easier to find and the marketing and promotional industry has developed standards and certifications to let you know which materials are authentic and how authentic they are. Today there are many resources for attractive promotional products and printed pieces that are healthy for the environment and your marketing campaign. From recycled leather lap-top bags and Forest Stewardship Council [FSC] certified paper brochures printed with vegetable inks to biodegradable tradeshow bags and bamboo polo shirts with performance fabrics, the options are endless. When you think of green, you might visualize a plain brown product, but many of these items are also extremely stylish and attractive – even more so than their “non-green” counterparts.
Start by creating a green marketing plan. Identify all of your annual marketing programs and opportunities and evaluate how they can become more “green.” If you usually give out a corporate gift during the holidays, look for one crafted of attractive recycled leather – or choose a solar-powered computer bag that can power their lap-top anywhere the sun is shining. If you always do a direct mail piece around a product launch, choose FSC certified materials for the packaging and print it with vegetable inks. If you are concerned with sourcing the products, contact your local promotional products professional and ask for their assistance in choosing the perfect green products. Once you have identified the annual projects for which you will use green marketing materials, consider the marketing message that you will include. Sometimes it is effective to call attention to the green materials and make your green business practices a focus where other times it makes more sense to allow the eco-friendly construction to speak for itself and use the marketing copy to promote your company, product or service. After your messages are crafted and polished, you are ready to begin marketing “green.”
One question that many businesses ask is “am I “green enough” to market green?” As long as your business has undertaken a green initiative that has a significant impact on your footprint, it is acceptable for you to let your audiences know that eco-friendly initiatives are important to you and that you are taking steps to become more environmentally friendly. Even if your initiative is small, it’s still OK to market using green materials and let your audience know that the environment is important to you. Where businesses get in trouble is when they make claims like “Our oil refinery is a green oil refinery” or “We have become an eco-friendly company.” If either of these companies is doing just one thing that harms the environment, they could lose their credibility with their customers and be perceived as engaging in “Greenwashing.” Greenwashing is the practice of telling the public that you are greener than you actually are.
In order to avoid Greenwashing, make your marketing message very specific. For instance, you might say “To show our concern for the environment, Bio-Tech has implemented our first ever paper recycling program,” or “Our company pledges to add one new eco-friendly business practice every quarter this year – why don’t you join our green revolution.” Also be careful that any products and services you are marketing as green have been verified by a reputable third party source. The moral of the story is that, yes, anyone who has implemented an eco-friendly business practice can use green marketing to grow their bottom line, but crafting the message honestly is the key.