It’s great to be a green business. But even better is being a green business with customers who are highly passionate about your sustainability initiatives.
Many of today’s popular “green” brands – think Seventh Generation or Whole Foods – have found ways to get their customers involved with their environmental good work, whether it’s offering free parking spots to hybrid drivers or giving tips on how to be eco-friendlier at home. This is certainly not a quick process, but rather an evolution that involves thoughtful and ongoing communications.
Here are four strategies for engaging customers in your green initiatives:
1. Use social media to talk about green. Social media can be a great tool for communicating your sustainability goals and achievements and making your customers aware of them. Use your blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts to let your customers know what you’re doing to reduce your environmental footprint. Of course, avoid “greenwashing” – or suggesting your company is green without demonstrating results. Whether it’s recycling, energy efficiency or locally sourcing products, provide specifics. Social media can also help spur your customers into greener behaviors. For example, you might offer a discount if they swing by your store on a bike or by foot. These types of challenges are also a great way to see how much reach and impact your social media really has.
2. Donate a portion of profits to charity. Let customers feel extra good about their purchases by donating a portion of your profits to an environmental cause aligned with your sustainability goals. This is also a good way to generate awareness about the environmental issue you’re trying to solve. Make sure it’s a reputable organization. Guidestar.org and CharityNavigator.org are great websites for researching a nonprofit’s financials and making sure most of the donations actually go toward the cause, not the charity’s employees.
3. Give customers an easy way to help. Find ways to let your customers play at least a small role in your sustainability mission. A recent study by the National Restaurant Association found that 85 percent of Americans adults sort their trash at quick-service restaurants when recycling receptacles are available. The takeaway: Customers are eager to help you meet your goals and become more sustainable — so let them help.
4. Inspire them to go beyond. Green communications has become more than just communicating your own sustainability progress. It’s about empowering your customers to take it a step further. You might suggest ways for them to be more eco-friendly at home or enlist them to help with a cause. One company that makes footwear out of recycled yoga mats, for instance, encourages its customers to support Surfers for Cetaceans, a nonprofit that promotes marine life conservation.
How you engage customers will ultimately affect how connected your customers feel to your sustainability mission. And that’s an important part of making it successful.