So, you know all the good reasons for moving to more sustainable business practices. You know that government regulations are increasingly requiring sustainability in various business platforms. You know that many sustainable practices will save you money over the long term, largely in the form of energy costs, material costs and maintenance. And, you feel that your customers will appreciate your company’s dedication to the environment through the development of a sustainable businesses plan and the execution of such sustainable practices. But, how will your customers know about these great sustainable initiatives you have embarked upon? The answer is that you need to be sure they know through advertising and word of mouth.
Proactive Communication about Your Sustainability Efforts Even if you are making efforts towards sustainability solely for your own business reasons or peace of mind, you should get the proverbial “credit” in the minds of your customers for doing so. To do this you need to take the proactive step of telling your customers what you have been up to. So, let’s back up just a moment and discuss your overall sustainability plan. When it comes to develop a plan for sustainability there are five basic steps that you need to take.
1) You need to begin by understanding the issues that are of concern. This means doing some research and understanding the reasons that sustainable business is such a hot topic today. Recognize, in your particular industry, what standards are emerging. Look at what your competition is doing, what the government is regulating (or considering regulating), and what the public is saying. The more you understand the better decisions you can make for both short term and long term sustainable business practices.
2) Next, you need to develop your company values. This is where you decide where your company fits in the overall scheme of things. You might ask yourself the following: Do you want to be an industry leader and innovate, or just follow the pack? Do we want to think short term or long term? What are the actual values of our company, meaning, what do we want to add to the world?
3) Once you have values you need to state them clearly. Once you have answered the above questions, use that to develop a clearly articulated vision statement. This statement should include sustainable business as a value, specifying what areas of sustainability are most pertinent to your business and how it impacts your customers.
4) The next step is to set goals so that you can measure your performance. Once you have a vision you can create concrete goals. Write your goals out, and do so in a way that they are measurable. For example, if one goal is to reduce energy use be clear. Say what your energy use is now, what steps you will take to reduce it, and what your goal is and within what time frame you will achieve it.
5) Finally, you need to communicate your plans to your customers. Now that you have a plan, communicate it. Shout it from the top of a mountain and let everyone know what your plan is. Continue the communications throughout the plan until you meet your goals.
Communicating Sustainability By simply having a plan to move towards more sustainable business practices you act as a positive example. This is a great start. But take it further and really tell your customers what you are about. You can do this in a variety of ways, here are a few:
- Use the packaging. If you have minimized your product package WRITE IT on the package; point it out. Honk your own horn, as they say. Include a brief paragraph about WHY this reduced packaging is important.
- Train your staff. Ensure that your staff understands your efforts and can speak to them. Prepare them to inform the customer and to answer customer’s questions about the plan and the value it has.
- Put it on your website. Ensure that your website has the complete information on why you are doing what you are doing, and what your goals are. Make it very transparent, allowing the customer to see your progress.
- Seek green certifications. By getting an outside company to approve your efforts you open yourself up to more exposure and positive word of mouth.