The BP/Transocean oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a stark reminder that even a single company can have a catastrophic effect on the environment and the economy of an entire region. But the effects of this accident reach far beyond the Gulf coastline – it has impacted all businesses in America and much of the developed world. No, I am not referring to the rapidly devaluing shares of BP. There is a greater, indirect impact. This event has dramatically intensified the already heightened environmental awareness among the American consumers. And while the majority of businesses out there could never cause an accident of such grand proportions, now more than ever consumers expect their favorite brands to step up and prove that they are doing the right thing. Are you ready?
The New Green is Not the Old Green
First of all, forget any negative press the environmental movement had received in the 80s and 90s. The green movement of today has nothing to do with militant environmentalists blockading whaling ships or chaining themselves to the trees to protest logging. Instead, it has to do with companies large and small pursuing environmental sustainability – a drive to do more business while minimizing the adverse impact on the environment.
Still sounds too fruity for you? Get over it! All major brands have had sustainability programs in place for years now, and companies like Harley-Davidson® are leading the way. Yes, the iconic world-renown maker of macho bad-a** motorbikes cares about the trees, and the water, and the air, and is not ashamed to admit it. In the recently released 18 page Sustainability Strategy Report, Harley-Davidson® outlines its strategy to be greener by reducing waste, water and energy usage, and greenhouse gas emissions (click here to read the report). The improvements they have made to their manufacturing processes are already impressive. Is this better for the environment? You bet! Better for the rest of us? Of course! Better for Harley-Davidson®? You have no idea!
Go Green, Save Green
One of the biggest reasons Green initiatives are being so widely embraced by companies right now is not only because sustainability is good for the environment, but also because it helps companies be more efficient and reduce operating expenses, leading to greater profits. In this economy, reducing operating expenses is the only way for some companies to survive. It’s no surprise, then, that many companies are going green to help the environment and also their bottom line. For example, when Harley-Davidson® installed more efficient lighting at several of its manufacturing facilities, they reduced CO2 emissions by 750 tons per year, but also saved the company around $111,000 in energy costs per facility annually. Granted, switching light bulbs at your business will probably net you much more modest savings, but then again, you don�t have the overhead Harley does!
What can your company do to be more green and more profitable? The good news is that you don’t have to completely reinvent the way you do business. Start by looking for opportunities to improve in your day-to-day operations:
- Electronic Invoicing
Give your customers the option to receive your invoices over the email. Many will gladly agree to help you save paper and toner cartridges from going to the landfill, and you will also be saving the cost of printing and mailing the invoice.
Do you ship or deliver items to your customers? Use recycled/recyclable boxes and packaging materials. Making regular deliveries to the same customers? Use reusable containers and pick them up during next delivery.
Print less. When you have to print, use recycled, SFI-certified paper, which costs the same or less than standard white paper.
Do you make multiple deliveries per day? Optimize your delivery route to drive fewer miles, reduce emissions, and save gasoline costs.
Deal with mechanical parts? Use eco-friendly parts cleaners, lubricants, and finishes whenever possible. Most suppliers will gladly provide you with a list of environmentally friendly supplies.
- Energy Consumption
Turn off lights, computers, and other machinery overnight. Replace conventional light bulbs with efficient ones – they will use less energy, and they will also put out less heat, reducing your need for air-conditioning, which on average accounts for about 50% of your electric bill
Have a pop machine at the office? Go through a lot of office paper? Start collecting and recycling whatever you can. Google your area for companies that buy recyclables, and you can turn trash into revenue.
Market Your Green
From the marketing standpoint, your green efforts should be a part of your overall content strategy. You certainly shouldn’t “greenwash” every piece of marketing communication, but you definitely should make this information easily accessible for those customers who care. Here are several steps:
- Create a section on your website outlining your company’s environmental stance and the steps you are taking to be more sustainable.
- Most companies can talk the talk when it comes to being green. Using real numbers will show that you can walk the walk. Establish a “green scorecard” measuring your company’s energy and water consumption, greenhouse emissions (have a company vehicle?), recycling, and other relevant metrics like your company’s carbon footprint (click here to calculate). Report the improvements annually on your website and/or newsletter.
- Use the applicable eco-logos (like the “recycled” logo, energy star, or other industry-specific logos or certifications) on your marketing literature, products, and packaging as an unobtrusive way to remind customers that you care about the environment and that you practice what you preach.
Have other ideas? Share with us in the comments section below!
This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 at 4:05 pm and is filed under Sales and Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.