Today’s consumers are interested in more than just great products at fantastic prices.
Now, more than ever, they’re looking to invest in companies that don’t just take care of their customers but ones that take care of Mother Earth and are socially accountable.
It’s estimated that more than 70% of North American consumers are looking to buy eco-friendly products whenever possible. However, that’s not always easy.
As a business owner, you know all too well that the journey from supplier to manufacturer to retailer to buyer is often a long and murky one. This can easily result in “greenwashing.” Greenwashing refers to the practice, intentional or not, of marketing a company as “green” when not all of its processes actually meet that standard.
But how can you avoid unintentional greenwashing in your own marketing strategy?
One of the biggest risks for greenwashing is unfamiliarity with your suppliers’ and manufacturers’ operations. A particularly prevalent trick used to deliberately “greenwash” is to outsource the “dirty” parts of their operations to other parties.
So understanding who your partners are and what practices they follow is key to preventing allegations of greenwashing. That includes understanding how your ingredients are sourced.
Some ingredients simply cannot be procured sustainably. If consumers see them on your ingredients list, that’s going to be a major red flag for them. And it should be for your company as well.
The good news, however, is that looking for eco-friendly alternatives is usually not difficult. In fact, “green” ingredients are not only bountiful and good for the earth, but they’re also often no more expensive than the alternative. And when you factor in the increased demand for green products, you’re likely saving money in the long run!
If you are looking to avoid the appearance of greenwashing, then transparency is key. Operating a business, especially in these challenging times, is not easy. And as committed as you may be to sustainability, there are times when eco-friendly processes just aren’t feasible, financially or logistically.
If and when that happens, though, don’t try to hide or downplay it. As is so often the case, honesty is the best policy here. Far better to be upfront regarding your decisions and why you have made them than to be “discovered.” The last thing you want is to look as if you were trying to deceive your customers.
That does not mean, though, that you have to fall on your sword. After all, having to opt for a non-green process in one part of your business does not erase all the earth-friendly moves you make in other aspects of your work.
So, even as you acknowledge the non-green aspects of your business, be sure to call your customers’ attention to all the sustainability work you do engage in. Don’t be afraid to give people an inside peek at your progress either. If your business is aiming to reduce energy usage and switch to greener forms of it, let customers know what your game plan is and the steps you’re currently taking to reach that goal. Again, openness is everything.
And if you’re not sure how to do a phase-out, don’t panic. You can reach out to one of the many legitimate “green business” auditing organizations to get their input and, ideally, pursue their green certification. This is also a terrific way to market your business and assure your customers there’s no greenwashing here!
Greenwashing is a major taboo in today’s environmentally-conscious business environment. Unfortunately, however, greenwashing can happen even when you don’t intend it. To prevent that from happening, a thorough understanding of your business processes and those of your partners is key. It’s also crucial to be transparent with your customers and, ideally, enlist the support and advice of independent “green business” auditors and certifiers.