Are you among the growing number of manufacturing firms who view environmental sustainability as a key business driver?
Implementing sustainable products and practices into your business model is more than just an eco-friendly decision; there is plenty of evidence to show that doing so can significantly cut costs, improve processes, boost productivity and optimize your operations. That may explain why, in a recent study conducted by the United National Global Compact, 93 percent of the international CEOs who responded said they believe that sustainability is essential to their business strategy.
Apart from your reasons behind pursuing sustainable manufacturing practices, however, is another question: are you effectively marketing your sustainability initiatives? Promoting your efforts can be a great way to strengthen your brand reputation and give you a distinct advantage over your competitors who fail to do so.
Of course, that’s not to say you should simply dive right in with a sustainability marketing campaign. The manufacturing marketplace is rife with misguided green marketing approaches, many of which may be doing more harm than good. Here are the 5 important considerations to help get your sustainability marketing efforts on the right track.
1. Don’t Peddle Sustainability Like a Used Car
The first rule of thumb is this: stop proclaiming and start educating. There’s a fine line between a compelling, brand-strengthening message and shameless self-promotion. When it comes to communicating your sustainable manufacturing efforts, make your message less about “what we do” and more about the societal impact of what you’re doing.
There’s no single best method for doing this, but many marketers are finding “sustainability storytelling” to be a powerful way to educate. It’s also best to communicate your sustainability initiatives in a measurable and meaningful way that demonstrate your greater purpose.
UK bottled water company Belu has done an admirable job on both fronts. By partnering with the non-profit WaterAid in a campaign aimed at ending water poverty in third-world countries, Belu makes measureable claims about the money they’ve raised and the number of people impacted. Their communications also weave in personal narratives about specific villagers they’ve helped. Watch this inspiring video that focuses on the transformative impact of this company’s initiatives.
2. Avoid Greenwashing (Your Customers Will See Right Through It)
The term “greenwashing” refers to making misleading sustainability claims, a practice so rampant in recent years that it has prompted the need for increased regulatory action. Greenwashing typically involves exploiting marketing messages by using “green” statements that are vague, irrelevant, void of proof, or outright false. This not only exposes your company to potential civil legal action, but leads to mistrust and confusion among both prospective and existing customers. Be sure you adhere to marketing guidelines and government regulations on sustainability claims before jumping on the green bandwagon.
3. Link Sustainability to Your Organizational Identity
It’s not enough to talk the talk. A manufacturing organization with a commitment to environmental sustainability should align its brand ethos with a purpose-driven mission. This obviously entails more than adding something to your mission statement, or putting a blurb on your About Us page; rather, a sustainability marketing strategy starts with defining a clear purpose. You can start by thinking about sustainability in terms of a “reversed” equation: how can you be a mission with a company – not a company with a mission?
Food retailer Tesco is a great example of a purpose-driven brand. For years, they have made clear their commitment to sustainability by tackling food waste; a worthy purpose that has been well-received by the public, lauded by the press (on a global scale), and able to break through to customers in an otherwise crowded social media space. Here is just one example of a social post that supports their purpose:
4. Establish Enviro-Responsibility Throughout Your Supply Chain
In the digital age of accountability and environmental whistle-blowing, responsible sourcing is a hot-button issue. That means, for manufacturing companies, there’s more and more pressure to establish supply chain partners who implement sustainable practices. (For more on how to incorporate this idea into your business model, here are 6 steps to help you get started.)
In addition to the more holistic benefits of this decision, offering transparency into your company’s supply chain sustainability serves up a powerful marketing message. Here again, social media provides a strong marketing channel to create transparency about your partnerships, and open up some dialog between you and your prospects.
Prefer to make your position known without talking about yourself? Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are great channels to commend your influencers on sustainable practices. This show of support for supply chain partners can earn your brand serious social credibility. Conversely, lack of dialog and transparency can backfire on your brand, as it did with Apple a few years ago.
5. Modesty Won’t Do You Any Favors
In the same way you should avoid greenwashing, also be aware of the problem at the opposite end of the spectrum: greenblushing. This term refers to companies who communicate too little about their environmentally sustainable practices. According to a Sustainability Positioning Report issued by UL1, symptoms of greenblushing include:
- Neglecting to communicate sustainability accomplishments with employees
- Assuming your audience doesn’t care or share the same values about sustainability efforts
- Believing that a corporate statement about sustainability is sufficient
- Being fearful of potential negative consequences of active communications
For manufacturers who are engaged in environmentally sustainable practices, failing to promote your efforts may signal to customers that you are disengaged and non-committal. This not only undermines your initiatives, but means you are missing out on a key marketing opportunity, especially when you’re being compared to your competitors who are active communnicators.
Summing It Up
There are many different forms of environmental sustainability, and many ways in which your company can implement sustainable practices. In doing so, it’s time to acknowledge sustainability in your marketing efforts as well. Keep in mind, Precision Marketing Group has a proven track record for helping manufacturers craft an inbound strategy designed to pull in more prospects, convert more leads – and help your business make the most out of your sustainability marketing goals.