“Greenwashing” – when companies claim they’re good environmental stewards when they’re really not so much – has become so rampant in recent years that consumers don’t know what or whom to believe. That makes it extra difficult for businesses that are truly taking meaningful steps to reduce their footprint to get their message across.
So, what can you do?
Businesses must now be more detailed and transparent about their environmental good deeds. But don’t let this deter you: All signs suggest that consumers are paying more attention to the environmental friendliness of the companies they buy from — they’re just in need of more convincing information.
Here, then, are four ways to more effectively market your greenness and stand out from the crowd.
- Quantify your progress. Putting a green leaf on your label is no longer enough to show people you care about the environment. If your goal is reducing paper waste, how many trees have you saved this year? What steps are you taking to accomplish this goal? What are your plans for the future? Fight skepticism with hard numbers. Set quantifiable goals, make clear plans for how to achieve them and then track your progress. Writing an annual sustainability plan and reporting on your progress can help flesh out the details.
- Get the word out. Consumers won’t know you’re taking ambitious steps unless you publicize them. Devote at least one page on your Web site to your environmental practices and lay out your progress and goals. One company known for its sustainability practices, New Belgium Brewing Co. , posts its sustainability mission and reports online, including a very detailed report on its carbon footprint. Weave your sustainability practices into product or service marketing where it makes sense, and try to tell stories that bring it to life for your customers. (But again, be detailed.)
- Let customers participate. Make customers part of the solution by telling them how supporting your business will further your sustainability endeavors. They will feel more inspired if they know they are contributing. Consider TerraCycle, a fast-growing company that sells products made from waste. Its Web site gives an ongoing tally of how much trash it’s diverted from landfills. It launched a program that lets consumers join “brigades” that collect various kinds of waste the company will recycle.
- Donate. Show that your environmental concern goes beyond the front door of your business. More companies now are giving a portion of profits to charitable organizations such as 1% for the Planet or the Nature Conservancy. Some businesses support eco-friendly causes that complement their business focus, which is even better. If donating money isn’t an option, donate time.