Over the past several years, many brands have jumped on the proverbial eco-friendly bandwagon. Powerful journalism has brought new awareness to issues facing the environment and how those issues, in turn, affect human health. But what does it take for a brand to actually be eco-friendly?
Consumers are more informed than ever. Social media platforms coupled with watchdog groups have empowered the public in a way that was unimaginable just a few short years ago. Socially conscious consumers are especially selective when it comes to their spending power. As a result, consumer demand is directly shaping the social impact of business. It’s critical that mission-driven brands are authentic in how they portray the environmental impact they have on communities.
Aside from having a real-world impact, eco-friendly business practices are the most promising way to propel a brand forward. According to GlobalWebIndex, A whopping 61% of consumers say they’re likely to switch to a brand that is more environmentally friendly than their current brand. An equally impressive 2 in 3 consumers think brands that make a public promise to be sustainable are more trustworthy. In today’s marketplace, trustworthiness is a key factor for long-term growth.
The process of “going green” can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are practical strategies to help you reach your eco-friendly business goals.
What’s in a Name? Unpacking Green Business Terms
Making the switch to becoming an environmentally responsible brand is about more than incorporating trendy language, it’s about long-term, sustained action. But it’s important to understand what these green terms really mean so that brands can position themselves authentically. As Marcus Fairs writes in Dezeen, “The growing misuse of language is unhelpful to members of the public who want to make informed purchasing choices.” So here are a few valuable terms to know:
Environmentally Sustainable - When a product or service can be maintained without depleting natural resources. According to ANA, there are four pillars of sustainability: product development, supply chain management, waste reduction, and charitable partnerships. A brand needs to incorporate ethical practices in each of these areas to truly be sustainable.
Eco-Friendly or Earth-Friendly - Products and services that are not harmful to the environment. This is a broad definition, but it’s possible to define a brand’s eco-friendly initiatives with official certifications, like the ones found here.
Cradle to Cradle - This term applies to products that are sustainable through each stage of the life cycle: design, sourcing, manufacturing, consumer usage, and post-consumer usage. An example of this would be circular fashion or clothing that is designed for long-term use and can be disposed of safely.
For more information, find a full glossary of green business terms here.
What is Greenwashing and Why Does it Matter?
Greenwashing occurs when a brand makes a promise to uphold environmental standards in a way that is unfounded, misleading, or inflated. It can pertain to marketing, products, or entire businesses.
Consumers often rely on advertising and marketing to inform their choices, so it’s important that consumers feel confident in environmentally-friendly claims.
Brands can avoid greenwashing by:
Sharing real facts and data with consumers
Understanding green terminology and using language carefully
Ensuring they are environmentally friendly at each step of a product’s lifecycle
Only marketing products as green when they have been designed with the environment in mind
5 Practical Ways to Be Eco-Friendly
Although it’s important to be as environmentally conscious as possible, not all changes have to happen at once. Here are a few ways that your brand can start implementing environmentally-friendly changes.
Green Procurement - Source goods and services that are produced and supplied in a sustainable fashion. For example, start by sourcing from suppliers that are local.
Reduce Energy Consumption - Can your team work from home? Is your office located near public transport? There are many ways for a business to reduce its amount of energy waste. Try conducting an energy audit.
Sustainable Packaging - Switching to green packaging is better for the environment because it's made from recycled waste material and requires fewer resources to produce.
Consumer Incentives - How can your brand incentivize consumers to support green practices? An example might be discounting their coffee order when they bring their own thermos, providing reusable bags, or a discount for recycling.
Build Sustainable Relationships - Partner with like-minded businesses that are committed to environmental responsibility.
Examples of Impactful Green Marketing Campaigns
By committing to environmentally-friendly business practices, brands can create powerful and authentic messages. Here are a few examples:
General Mills #BringBackTheBees - General Mills has invested more than $4 million to save the bees. Their most recent campaign included changing their packaging to “disappear” their famous mascot, BuzzBee. The promotion provided wildflower seed packets to consumers to restore bee habitats.
IKEA Bring Your Own Bag - In an effort to reduce the 100 billion bags thrown away in the U.S. each year, IKEA is charging customers for plastic bags ad donating the money to charity.
Patagonia 1% for the Planet - Patagonia is a leader in green branding. Their 1% for the Planet campaign has donated over $89 million to grassroots environmental groups.