The Playbook for Becoming a Sustainable Business
If your company is working toward improving its sustainability performance, you need a strategy, plan and roadmap. There are ten steps we’ve defined at Green Business Bureau to gear your company’s purpose, culture, focus and actions towards sustainability. All 10 steps below were summarized in the first article, The Executive Guide for Becoming a Sustainable Business:
Step 1: Define your vision, mission and values
Step 2: Create a sustainability committee or green team
Step 3: Benchmark and assess your current sustainability performance
Step 4: Engage your employees
Step 5: Plan, set goals and prioritize based on over 400 GBB initiatives
Step 6: Implement the plan, establish and communicate new policies and practices
Step 7: Leverage the GBB Scorecard to track progress and measure results
Step 8: Analyze your results and compare to goals and benchmarks
Step 9: Celebrate and communicate your accomplishments
Step 10: If you’re ready, get Certified or continue making improvements
Today’s article will cover Step 9, how to celebrate, communicate and promote your accomplishments through sustainability marketing.
Step 9: Sustainability Marketing and Communication
The 9th step in your green business journey is to spread the word. If your company has become a more sustainable and greener business, you should celebrate your success and get recognized for your achievements. Your accomplishments are part of a powerful and beneficial story you should share with your employees, customers, partners and investors.
Benefits of Sharing Your Green Story
Telling your green story in the right way to the right audiences will improve your reputation, elevate your brand, draw in new customers, attract great employees and promote a more sustainable ecosystem around you. The benefits of communicating your sustainability accomplishments in the right way are very tangible in either soft dollars (brand, morale, trust) or hard dollars (increased sales, lower customer and employee churn).
Benefits of Communicating With Employees
Almost all employees care about what their company is doing to protect the environment and be more socially responsible. By committing to being a better steward of the community and planet, a company will attract and retain more employees. Here are just some of the benefits of communicating your sustainability plans, commitments and accomplishments to your employees:
- Increased Transparency and Trust – By sharing your completed initiatives and certification level internally, you demonstrate your commitment to sustainability openly and create a more trustworthy relationship with your workers.
- Universal Understanding – By taking the time to summarize the tenets of your sustainability program and mission, you ensure everyone is on the “same page”, i.e. everyone has the same understanding of the company sustainability priorities and goals.
- Stronger Workforce – Employees, especially the younger generation, seek out employers who are ethical and environmentally responsible. Being green and promoting this will attract like-minded individuals and enable you to hire exceptional purpose-driven employees.
- Improved Moral and Productivity – Your employees will be more fulfilled and satisfied knowing they work for a company that genuinely cares and is making a positive impact. Not to mention, when employees enjoy and believe in the work they’re doing, they tend to be more productive.
- Higher Employee Engagement – Employees enjoy participating in meaningful projects, programs and events that support causes they believe in. This is a great opportunity to recognize individual strengths and talents as well as encourage team building.
- Purpose-Driven Culture – Actively exercising your leadership role and formally announcing your missions and commitments will help drive a purpose-driven green culture and inspire your employees to participate.
Creating the Right Green Culture
Full transparency is the best approach to communicating with employees about sustainability. Engage them early, involving them with the definition and launch of your sustainability program. Release regular reports to allow employees to track progress and adjust their individual practices. When large milestones are achieved, like reaching the Gold or Platinum level of Green Business Bureau certification, celebrate!
Engaging with employees around sustainability will energize your workers. Done right, your sustainability program will result in several very beneficial attributes:
- Passion – Internal champions will emerge and help drive your program. This often comes from an organized green team or sustainability committee.
- Goals and Commitments – By communicating the strategic sustainability goals to employees, you enable all teams and areas of your company to be aligned with the most important priorities.
- Structure and Discipline – Working groups, teams and committees will bring both an organized structure and program management in achieving your sustainability initiatives.
- Celebration and Team Building – Groups across the company will celebrate their sustainability achievements and acknowledge key progress and key individuals. This will boost morale and reinforce the benefits of becoming a more sustainable business.
Benefits of Using Sustainability Marketing To Attract Customers and Partners
Your customers and partners also deeply care about the impact your company has on people and the world at large. Promoting your commitment to sustainability will help you attract new customers and partners and retain the ones you already have. Companies that share their progress and commitment with stakeholders will reap benefits such as:
- Improved Reputation – Companies that are greener tend to be perceived as more ethical, reliable and responsible.
- Elevated Brand – Letting stakeholders know your business cares about the environment and society will associate “good” with your brand and improve your overall brand identity. Sustainable businesses are also perceived as being more honest, with higher quality products and services.
- Higher Sales – Being known as a green business will attract new customers, specifically eco-conscious consumers and companies who seek out sustainable businesses, products and services.
- Competitive Differentiation – Being sustainable allows you to stand out when competing for business. In fact, it is common today to see requests for proposals requiring sustainability information from competing vendors bidding on a contract.
- Increased Transparency and Trust – By sharing your completed initiatives and certification level publicly, you demonstrate your commitment to sustainability openly and create a more trustworthy relationship with your customers and partners.
- Universal Understanding – By taking the time to explain the tenets of your sustainability program and mission, you ensure customers and partners understand the company priorities and goals and appreciate the dedication and formality of your sustainability program.
Winning Contract Bids With Sustainability
Sustainable sourcing, sometimes referred to as green procurement, has become commonplace in most state and federal contract bids. These federal government and municipal organizations are requiring their suppliers and vendors to be sustainable. Many private sector companies issuing Requests For Proposals or contract bids also require or prefer purchasing from sustainable suppliers. They often require some sort of green, environmental or sustainability certification that demonstrates the bidders’ products, services or business practices are built and delivered in a sustainable way.
Learn more about sustainable sourcing and contract bids in GBB’s blog article: Sustainable Sourcing, How to Demonstrate Sustainability and Win More Contract Bids
Benefits of Sustainability Marketing When Talking To Investors
Oftentimes, investors choose to provide funds to companies because they believe in their purpose and impact. If your company gains investors based upon your sustainability merits or ESG rating, it is absolutely essential you follow through with your promised goals, otherwise there is risk of fraud and losing important investments. Ensure that there is clarity on both sides, in what investors expect of you and of your intended initiatives and outcomes.
Next Actionable Steps
Take the time to schedule specific internal and marketing events to celebrate your accomplishments. These celebrations can be a time to acknowledge corporate progress in sustainability. Use these events to recognize the achievements of a sustainability team or a specific individual. Celebration needs to be built into the corporate culture to give credit where credit is due and to show that pursuing sustainability, though it may be an ambitious feat, is truly rewarding in the end.
Integrate Sustainability in Corporate Communications
Your corporate communication plan should include sustainability updates. For employees, this may be as simple as well-timed emails, a section in the employee newsletter or an update to the corporate intranet. For customers and partners, emails and newsletter updates also work well. Customer sustainability communication can also open up an opportunity to collaborate with them. Ask them to join you in your cause to create a greener business world. Have them evangelize their partnership with you. Ask them for feedback. Sustainability can become a common bond you share.
Update Your Sustainability Marketing Strategy, Plans and Materials
Every company that becomes greener has earned the right to share and promote their story and accomplishments and reap some sustainability marketing benefits. Of course, this self-promotion has to be done in an honest, transparent way. Seek out a 3rd party verification or certification to establish credibility to avoid coming across as a greenwasher. Use the certification on your website, brochures and presentations to elevate your brand.
Leverage Social Media
Social media including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram are a great way to get the word out about your sustainability story. Don’t forget to share your sustainability accomplishments on all the social media channels you typically use for communication and marketing. This is also a great opportunity to engage users online and ask for their feedback.