Going solar can be a tough call. The benefits of solar for business are often hidden behind phrases like "corporate responsibility," but that's hard to translate into hard dollars. Likewise, solar installations often promise a return on investment, but when your choice of how to pay for commercial solar is by purchasing the system outright, that ROI can take years to realize.
Corporate responsibility and solar ROI have already been heavily discussed, but there's a third avenue where businesses can capitalize on the benefits of solar: marketing. If you can run business-critical aspects of your organization without hurting the environment, you're definitely allowed to say so. What's more, customers are proven to respond to environmental messaging. Here's how marketing represents one of the lesser-known advantages of solar panels.
Why go solar? Because environmentalism sells
Environmentalism is nothing new in marketing. Almost two decades ago, marketing researchers began responding to a growing wave of consumers who demanded high-quality products with a minimal environmental footprint. In a paper entitled, Environmental Marketing: A Source of Reputational, Competitive, and Financial Advantage, researchers Morgan Miles and Jeffrey Covin wrote, "There is strong support that being a good environmental steward helps create a reputational advantage that leads to enhanced marketing and financial performance."
Essentially, the authors found that environmentalism acts as a long-term strategic benefit. When treated as a core competency, businesses don't just gain a competitive advantage based on price, they also break into new markets full of environmentally sensitive consumers. In the years since the paper was written, this research has been borne out in spades.
As of 2016, 70% of Americans believe in climate change—and three quarters of millennials will consider sustainability when shopping amongst major brands. Almost 60% of younger consumers will pay more for products known to come from companies with a commitment to the environment. Therefore, one of the benefits of solar for business is the ability to charge more for your product.
How do you transform corporate responsibility into a marketing strategy?
For anyone passing by your corporate campus, the solar panels on your roof, lawn, or carport will function like a giant billboard saying, "This Company Cares about the Planet." If you want to really unlock the marketing benefits of solar for business, however, you may also want to consider some press releases.
One of the best strategies in marketing is to copy what others are already doing well. For example, lots of big tech companies—most recently including HP—have made waves by publicly committing to goals that significantly reduce or eliminate their carbon footprint. Solar is a massive component of that strategy. Manufacturers like GE have demonstrated products made by factories powered with solar and other renewables. Essentially, there are hundreds of ways for your company to demonstrate its environmental commitment for consumers.
By demonstrating corporate responsibility via switching to solar, your company will reap several dividends. There's not just a proven increase in the bottom line to consider. Your organization can also break into new marketplaces full of younger consumers who will be willing to pay more for your products.