Many established brands don’t have positive credentials when it comes to their green status. They have knowingly made mistakes in the past or were naïve to the consequences of their actions.
It may be unfair to blame the past negative behaviours of the global corporations - what’s done is done. People long gone made those decisions, and you can’t change the past. Instead we could all try to put the past behind us and help inform, shape and champion the corporates who are beginning to develop a greener and more sustainable future. As marketeers and also consumers we have the ability to help shape these decisions.
It is true - there is fast becoming a clear financial benefit for brands to be more eco-aware. Consumers, and in particular Millenials and Gen Z’s, are demanding more sustainable credentials. Gen Z’s are influencing purchasing decisions in the household too.
I completed my degree in Environmental Science 25 years ago, before the lure of the marketing world took hold of me. My tutors and fellow students were very aware that the global energy and car giants already knew how to resolve greener energy and transport issues - that those very companies had bought patents or had developed the prototypes for greener solutions. These patents and prototypes were then put to one side until such time that the price of oil, gas and metals increased to a point that developing an environmental solution became more profitable.
Fast forwarding to present day, and there is mounting pressure from consumers for companies to develop greener solutions and tackle the global environmental crisis. Younger companies are able to respond to this trend developing products with green credentials from the outset - woven into their brand DNA. They are able to balance the needs of the environment, consumers and their financial bottom line.
But could the rise in the consumers’ desire for greener solutions have been born out of their own positive value system, or has the environmental debate been gently pushed along by the more established Corporates seeking to benefit by launching their eco products now that the cost of raw materials has risen greatly and natural energy reserves dwindle?
Whichever the direction this seed of change is coming from, many organisations who have had a tarnished past are now moving towards a more sustainable and ethical future. Shouldn’t we just be happy that this would make a positive difference to the environment? Does it really matter about the motive behind these changes?
Whether you’re a new, emerging brand or one that needs a bit of a re-fresh when it comes to your eco-creds, it’s important to think about a few basic principles when you are setting your Eco-Policy.
Consumers have gone through their honeymoon period with social channels. Smoke and mirrors don’t fool them; they can sniff out a fake from a mile off and are happy to tell the world.
Whatever policy you develop, be real, be consistent and be honest. If you’ve made a mistake, own it. Apologise and be clear about the improvements you are going to make going forward.
Charity partnerships have to be real. They must be entered into with integrity and with the knowledge that you will have to invest time. It’s not a one-way stream.
Eco-creds on products must check out. Never make false claims. It might not be possible to change your entire packaging, distribution and/or ingredients overnight but you can communicate a timeline and be open about when those changes are taking place.
Involve your consumers. Invite them to help participate in change. Research groups, super users, surveys etc., all enable people to feel involved and invested in the brand.
Don’t try to jump on the eco-bandwagon until you are really comfortable with what you are doing.
Employee engagement - make sure that your Eco-Policy is in your employee handbook and think about how you can reflect these values in your work space, environment, recycling policy, training and well-being programmes.
Be realistic in your achievements. It is better to implement a small change well than attempt too much and fail.
Everything you do right can make a meaningful difference to your brand, consumers and your employees.
Amy Stobie is co-founder of AgencyUK