There have been many business buzzwords, like synergy, and phrases like 'think outside the box,' but everyone is talking about sustainability now. It wasn't very long ago that sustainable practices and living were more of a fringe element. These ideas were associated with homesteaders, hippies, and minor activists, but now it's inescapable. Customers want to know how your business is sustainable almost as much as they want to see reviews for your products and services. What is sustainability branding, and why does it matter?
Sustainability Is Essential
A surprising ninety percent of CEOs recognize that sustainability is a critical element of the future success of their business. Companies with a harmful environmental or social track record are becoming unpopular. Losing the favor of the public means losing customers. It can also mean boycotts, loss of employees, or even having protesters outside your door. Customers want to know your carbon footprint and how you are reducing it. Other businesses don't want to work with companies that have no sustainability. More than making a profit, sustainability is about the future of all industries and life on earth. Just as the word's meaning implies, modern corporations and smaller companies need to find ways to sustain themselves in the future. This means looking at supply lines, distribution, energy use, and every other aspect of doing business to find better, less damaging solutions.
Like it or not, we are transitioning into a sustainable society for our own safety and prosperity. Naturally, this is going to hit some sectors much harder than others. Non-renewable resources like oil and helium will eventually end, and people are aware of the environmental impacts of using these supplies. Beyond the physical aspects of sustainability, customers want to see real, measurable forward progress economically and socially. Taking a stand on human rights or committing to buying fair-trade supplies used to be less common. Now people expect businesses to do these things as a standard practice rather than a special interest. Companies that cannot create sustainable products and practices are doomed. However, you also have to share your impact openly and show people how you're working on social, economic, and environmental sustainability practices legitimately and honestly. People want sincerity, not just thoughtless convenience. Sustainability is to cost of doing business in the 'woke' world of the twenty-first century.
Pillars Of Sustainability
There are three fundamental pillars of sustainability; economic, social, and environmental. While some businesses consider even one of these to be 'enough' for sustainability branding and marketing, customers want more. Corporations and small businesses alike need to integrate all three of these aspects to succeed in the future.
Unquestionably, every business needs to be financially feasible and profitable to be sustainable. For most established companies, this is a given, or at least a reasonable certainty for the near future. Although things can change rapidly, creating instabilities like the rise of internet-only sales, which has destroyed numerous brick-and-mortar businesses quickly, most still feel they have a handle on future sustainability. Through responsible corporate governance and appropriate risk management, most companies can stay afloat and continue to profit. Showing the public how you do this in a simple, understandable, accessible manner is vital. Your customers want to know if there are conflicts of interest and who is lobbying for your interests. Moreover, they want to see fair, legal, and equitable behavior in this area. According to Investopedia, "The economic pillar provides a counterweight to extreme measures that corporations are sometimes pushed to adopt, such as abandoning fossil fuels or chemical fertilizers instantly rather than phasing in changes. "
The two main components of environmental sustainability are waste and carbon footprint. Activities such as buying credits to offset a corporation's carbon footprint are part of sustainability, but they are no longer enough. Customers and the public, in general, expect to see active, positive forward progress toward the complete reduction of environmental damages. For obvious reasons, the applications of environmental sustainability look different for different businesses. For example, Aldi doesn't offer plastic bags at any of its grocery stores. Meanwhile, companies like Beyond Meat and Ecosia are entirely structured around providing sustainable and environmentally friendly products. From reducing waste to converting a whole fleet over to electric energy, there is a myriad of ways to create a better, more environmentally friendly business. However, without sustainability branding, no one will know you've made a change. You can easily show your efforts by including information about your business's environmental impact and its progress toward change on your website and in promotional materials. By doing this, you get the added advantage of creating more brand loyalty among customers seeking sustainable businesses to support.
The social pillar is the least defined aspect of sustainability. In general, socially sustainable businesses need the approval of more than merely the board and shareholders. Treating employees fairly, providing living wages, good benefits, more leave time for new parents and illness, and using other successful employee retention strategies is an excellent place to start. The public wants to see businesses that use fair labor practices and put the employees at the top of the priority list rather than eating them as a disposable commodity. Without labor, there is no industry. Customers don't want to hear that a CEO got a pay raise or a yacht before they hear that a corporation pays a living wage and provides adequate facilities for workers. Safety in factories, warehouses, and other work environments is a part of social sustainability. However, so are equality-based hiring practices and taking a stand for human rights.
How To Leverage Sustainability Branding
The first step in leveraging sustainability branding is to create a plan of action that incorporates all three branches of sustainability into your business practices. That is the sustainability aspect. Branding is all about letting the public know where you stand in an ongoing and progressive manner. The best way to leverage sustainability branding is to create genuinely sustainable practices and be extremely vocal about them. CS Wire recommends adopting tactics like sharing your authentic brand story and educating people as well as helping empower them. You have to connect to stakeholders and consumers on a relatable, personal and valuable level. Companies need to do more than making a promise to be sustainable. Follow through is vital.
Sustainability branding is about more than saying the right buzzwords. Customers are far more aware and care more about future resources and pollution than they did in the past. Evidence of climate change is inescapable. People are worried about the world, and they should be. Dwindling resources combined with shipping delays have made it evident to everyone that we cannot continue to live and work by consuming and destroying thoughtlessly. Businesses need to find ways to show customers that their concerns matter and actually to make a difference. Sustainability branding matters because sustainability is the only practical way forward.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee