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Your Sustainable Small Business: How to Showcase You Care
Incorporating sustainability into your business model isn't only good for the planet — it's also good for the bottom line. Being sustainable has a direct positive impact on consumer buying behavior. That's not just a feel-good message, there are studies that back it up.
In mid-2017, Unilever released a study showing that a third of consumers prefer to shop brands that are doing good — socially and/or environmentally. And one out of five study participants said they would “actively choose brands if they made their sustainability credentials clearer on their packaging and in their marketing."
In late 2018, creative agency Futerra conducted a related study, and found that a whopping 88 percent of consumers want brands to help them be more sustainable citizens.
And in mid-2019, NYU Stern's Center for Sustainable Business released an extensive report showing that between 2013-2018, half of growth in consumer-packaged goods (CPG) came from products marketed as being sustainable.
As an owner of a small business, you are wise to be excited about these numbers…within reason. Some companies have faced trouble in recent years when overstating sustainability metrics, failing to acknowledge wasteful supply chain practices, and/or unwisely advertising products with false claims of being “all natural" or “organic".
To showcase your sustainability efforts in a thoughtful and honest way, here are a few tips on how to get started:
Incorporate Sustainability Into Everything You Do
Today's consumers are savvy to companies that say they're sustainable but don't really deliver on that promise. For example, if you were to claim to care about the environment, but use packaging with five layers of Styrofoam your customers may well see your claims as greenwashing.
- Before marketing your company as environmentally friendly, make sure all aspects of your business match that moniker.
Talk About It
You'll only enjoy the positive effect of your sustainability efforts if you talk about them.
- Post about your sustainability efforts on social media and your website.
- Organize events where you showcase your eco-friendly efforts.
- Staff booths at sustainability festivals and conferences.
- Encourage your employees to talk openly about your dedication to sustainability.
Take Questions and Answer Them Honestly
Being open and honest about your efforts is arguably the most important component of a sustainability strategy. When customers can see that a company is trying to do the right thing and is open about possible missteps, they are more likely to stay loyal.
- Host Facebook Live events where customers can ask questions — and answer them with full transparency.
- Post an FAQ section on your website dedicated to your sustainability efforts.
Look Into Getting Your B Corp Status
Companies that are serious about showcasing their positive social and environmental impact are smart to look into getting certified as a B Corporation. Note, though, that the process of certification is lengthy (months, sometimes years) and involves a tremendous amount of documentation. In order to qualify, your company must meet many legal and transparency requirements, you must have a charitable giving program, competitive employee benefits and more.
- Start the process of becoming a B Corporation or bookmark it as an action item down the road.
Register a Dedicated Domain
It can be challenging to weave in your sustainability message throughout your sales and marketing materials. Ensure you have a dedicated landing page to promote your initiatives.
- Register a .green, .blue, .bio or .organic domain so you have a dedicated destination for your green initiatives or organic products.
Keep Up the Good Work
Being sustainable is a goal in and of itself. You can boost the impact of your efforts by talking about them in a considerate and truthful manner. Your customers are eager to know what you are doing for the environment, so be sure to tell them.