“Be sure there’s substance and real action behind your message,” says Michel Bergeron, BDC’s Chief Strategy Officer. “A reputation takes many years to build but can be lost in minutes.”
Play it straight with sustainability
Consumers have become adept at spotting questionable environmental marketing claims.
They won’t hesitate to attack what’s known as greenwashing—making false or exaggerated environmental claims—on social media.
Remember that genuine efforts to reduce your company’s environmental impact can also be an important competitive advantage.
Find out the size of your environmental footprint
To avoid the perception of greenwashing, businesses should partner with credible organizations, or seek third-party certifications that offer concrete, measurable performance standards.
There are a growing number of companies and organizations that will help small companies assess their environmental footprint and recommend ways to reduce it.
For example, Climate Smart in Vancouver works with partners to offer training, software and a technical support program that are designed and priced for small and medium-sized businesses.
Cutting emissions reduces costs
We emphasize the business case for reducing carbon. Cutting emissions is not separate, but directly related to cutting the operational costs of doing business.
One Climate Smart clients, Sunrise Soya, installed a boiler economizer at its tofu manufacturing facility in Vancouver to capture and re-use waste heat. Combined with other process changes identified in its greenhouse gas reduction program, the company saved up to $22,000 annually in natural gas costs.
Credibility goes beyond customers
BDC’s Michel Bergeron says it’s not only customers that companies should worry about alienating with exaggerated environmental claims. Greenwashing can also tarnish your credibility with suppliers.
For example, an increasing number of large retailers now require their suppliers to measure the environmental impact of their goods as part of a new labelling program, akin to nutritional labels on food.
Not living up to your environmental claims could also trigger a backlash from employees, and diminish your company’s ability to hire and retain top talent. Bergeron says recruiting was a main driver behind BDC’s decision to ramp up its environmental practices.
“What we’re seeing among our employees, is that corporate social responsibility is important to them,” he says. “If your company doesn’t measure up, they’ll often look elsewhere.”
Top tips to build consumer trust with sustainability
- Environmentally friendly products must be able to compete with conventional products.
- Be careful not to expose your company to greenwashing charges.
- Support your environmental claims with independent certification.
- Not all products are appropriate for environmentally friendly marketing (green marketing).
- Your business doesn’t need to be completely sustainable, as long as you can show commitment.
- Sustainable practices are good business, enhancing the company’s image and saving you money.