sustainable

Don’t be gloomy: A marketing strategy for sustainable products

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According to a recent article in Triple Pundit, a popular panel session at SXSWeco offered a fresh perspective on sustainability marketing.

Want to sell more of your sustainable products? Time to drop the green finger wagging and start peddling a more joyous life

What motivates consumers of green products? “Empowerment, efficacy, and fun.” One of the panelists shared his observations on trends over the past few years.

…[trends have changed from] pre-recession, where the focus was abstractly on “the environment,” to the recession years, where the focus was on saving money, to the emerging post-recession context, where the focus is shifting towards the health and wellness of the individual consumer. In this new highly-personal context, empowerment is in and guilt is out.

If this is true (and I would love to see the underlying research), then we are seeing a shift in values around sustainability. Rather than being motivated by guilt or fear, consumers of sustainable products are driven by a desire for enjoyment and empowerment. Frankly, it sounds like future sustainability campaigns may be a lot more fun to create!

Read the article here: http://www.triplepundit.com/2013/10/sell-sustainable-product-stop-being-gloomy/

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Sustainability reporting: How it’s useful for PR and communication

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Here’s an article written by one of the most energetic and fascinating people in sustainability communication, Lynnette McIntire at UPS (check out some of her work on the UPS blog). The article, titled Why I Love the Sustainability Report Assurance Process and published on Triple Pundit website back in August, shares McIntire’s appreciation for the utility of sustainability reporting. Public relations and communication groups are beginning to view the sustainability report as more than just an opportunity to talk about the good actions of a company. It is a management document that allows for greater accountability within the organization by identifying opportunities and holding the company accountable for responding to them. The document also can become a tool for media relations and activist communication by quantifying an organization’s performance improvements year over year.

Producing a sustainability report requires a high level of investment from a company, and as McIntire says in the article, “gone are the days when carpooling and lighting upgrade stories and smiling volunteer photos made the grade. Now, credible companies talk about such contentious topics as human rights, climate change, racial diversity, sexual orientation and product responsibility.” Companies have the opportunity to take a closer look at their impact on society through the arduous process of compiling a sustainability report.

Check out Lynnette’s work on the 2011 Sustainability Report for UPS. It is a model of goal setting and reporting.

For those of you interested in how sustainability reporting can be leverage in social media, here is the Social Media Sustainability Index published earlier this year. It’s full of interesting examples of sustainability communication on the web, and I’ve found the material in the report to be somewhat useful for strategy development.

Sustainability communication strategies: the good and the bad

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I’ve been reading through a series of articles on CR communication by AHA! found on the Triple Pundit website. Jen Boynton offers some interesting insights in her articles Why Communication Should be at the Heart of Any CSR Strategy, 5 Reasons Why You Need a CSR Communications Roadmap, and Top 10 Mistakes in CSR Communication on how CR communication can help an organization meet its sustainable business objectives.  A few points resonated with me and fall in line with research I’m conducting with sustainability communicators at large corporations in the US. This group of passionate communicators loves to talk about their companies’ sustainability efforts, but they’re also candid about the struggles of communicating complex issues to sometimes apathetic and sometimes hostile audiences.

So, here are a few thoughts that I would pass along from Boynton’s articles and from my own experiences. First, if you’ve done something, say it. I’m always surprised when sustainability reputation and reality don’t match. In fact, I’ve talked with a number of companies that the public ranks poorly in sustainability, but the real numbers tell another story. In this case, the companies need to be the ones telling the story. But, often these organizations are afraid of greenwashing, so they err on the side of working quietly behind the scenes. Though this is an honorable approach to sustainability activities, it isn’t helping the companies gain the reputation that they deserve. Transparency can help prevent greenwashing and still let companies tell their story.

However, let’s be honest; not everyone cares about your sustainability efforts as much as you do. Frankly, most people only pay attention when a company is causing harm to the environment. They really don’t care that the company reduced its carbon impact or uses less water in its production processes. They just expect that kind of activity from corporations. So, spending inordinate amounts of time and effort to reach a broad audience with messages of sustainable business practices may not be the best use of resources. Rather, these audiences may want to know about your cause marketing efforts toward environmental issues.

But, some audiences do care. Advocacy groups, local government leaders, community members, and employees want to know about the efforts companies are making to minimize their impact on the environment, so take time to talk with these audiences and listen to what they have to say about your actions. This will build trust and openness in the relationship and lead to long-term gains in reputation.