There’s an adage that claims, “You don’t own your brand. Your customers do.” That’s because each interaction a customer has with your company’s employees, stores or website contributes to how they perceive your brand. In turn, that perception goes a long way in shaping how successful your brand is. If you’re like today’s progressive organizations, you recognize the value of sustainability in business. And you’ll also learn how to adopt sustainable business practices and actively promote them to the public.
Here are four key ways sustainable business practices help you improve your organization’s (or brand’s) reputation:
- Follow the lead of environmentally-conscious Fortune 500 companies
- Position yourself to consumers and investors as a forward-thinking company
- Initiate a “green marketing” strategy
- Highlight your ability to align sustainability in business with profitability
1 Follow the lead of environmentally-conscious Fortune 500 companies
Traditionally, Fortune 500 companies have used financial results as their primary benchmark for success, but many now factor in numerous social and environmental measurements as well. But how exactly can sustainable business practices improve both your brand image and your financial bottom line?
As companies account for climate change in their long-term strategy, many are turning to clean, renewable energy sources—such as solar power—to reap the benefits of sustainable business practices. In fact, SunPower research reveals that brand elevation and financial benefits go hand-in-hand, comprising two of the three most common reasons companies invest in a solar strategy.
Especially in the age of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, even a small misstep can have enormous repercussions on your brand’s image. However, you can also use social media and other methods to generate positive news about your efforts to achieve sustainability in business.
Many Fortune 500 companies have become environmental stewards based on a triple bottom line commitment to sustainability. This approach focuses on the planet, people and profits as a way to help businesses be more socially, environmentally and financially accountable.
In fact, The State of Green Business 2017 report notes that 71 of Fortune 100 companies and 215 of the Fortune 500 are already committed to sustainability goals or a renewable energy policy. Nearly two dozen companies—including Google, Walmart and Bank of America—have even pledged to power their operations with 100% renewable energy, with varying deadlines for achieving that goal.
In 2016, the majority of the top 10 corporate solar users in the U.S. had SunPower systems: Apple, Hartz Mountain Industries, Macy’s, Prologis, Target and Walmart.
2 Position yourself to consumers and investors as a forward-thinking company
Consumers, employees and investors alike are increasingly embracing companies they view as:
- Innovation pacesetters with a clear vision for the future
- Industry leaders that prioritize long-term investment strategies
- Businesses that value corporate social responsibility
That’s why actively promoting your company as a progressive brand simply makes good business sense. Companies that brand themselves as sustainable tend to attract younger, more conscientious customers who will pay more for products that are environmentally sustainable and carbon neutral.
Being an environmentally conscious company also makes it easier to attract “green” employees, who quickly buy into sustainable business decisions and strategies. Moreover, if investors also believe in fighting climate change and reducing their carbon footprint, they’ll likely value your sustainability efforts and act accordingly.
3 Initiate a “green marketing” strategy
It’s clear that more consumers are embracing green businesses that demonstrate environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility. According to a study highlighted in an Inc. article, a $1 trillion market opportunity awaits companies that can successfully communicate their sustainable products and practices to the public.
A majority of consumers—including 78% of shoppers in the U.S.—report positive feelings when they purchase sustainable products.
Leveraging this market trend, you might want to align your environmental and traditional selling points in an approach often referred to as “green marketing.” If you’re attempting to increase brand awareness, consider highlighting the benefits of sustainability in your products (or services), as well as the attributes of your company as a whole. The primary goal is to create a more positive public image, while continuing to promote sales.
Green marketing can make a big difference at both a strategic and tactical level. However, be sure that your products and services actually deliver clear, indisputable environmental benefits—because the backlash from overselling sustainability can be both swift and long-lasting.
Whether you include it on a product label, share it in a press release, post it on social media or build an entire advertising campaign around it, green marketing can dramatically impact how consumers view your brand. Some common examples of green marketing include:
- A grocery store promoting a new line of organic foods
- A car dealership installing solar carports on its lot to help promote hybrid vehicles
- A manufacturer that encourages a zero-waste to landfill policy for its supply chain partners
4 Highlight your ability to align sustainability with profitability
Saving money while promoting social and environmental responsibility is a great motivator for adopting clean energy policies, such as a solar strategy. You can typically improve your bottom line significantly by paying a lower price for electricity, generating your own electricity or reducing utility demand charges. Other common sustainability savings stem from federal and state tax credits, exemptions and incentives.
When the public knows you’re serious about sustainability in business, they’ll quickly take notice—supporting you with their purchasing and investment decisions. You’ll likely see an uptick in brand awareness, along with an improved reputation. Internally, you’ll likely see a more efficient business that no longer feels like it must choose between sustainability or profitability.