How to attract customers with sustainability

Develop lasting customer relationships by being clear about your sustainability efforts and their impact

6-minute read

Are you ready to embed sustainability into your company’s day-to-day operations, but unsure about the likely return on investment—or where to start? That’s understandable.

But rest assured: The better a company can present its commitment to sustainability—that is, to creating economic, social and environmental value—the more success it will have in attracting both customers and employees and creating long-lasting relationships with them, says Carla Heim, Director, Corporate Sustainability at BDC.

Many customers want to know that their purchases are having an impact—and they’re willing to spend time researching a business’s products, its social structure and environmental impact.

By making sustainability the cornerstone of your business model, you can actually increase your bottom line.

Need to show customers you’re serious about sustainability

If you’re just getting started with your sustainability efforts, there are several easy and inexpensive strategies you can use to show customers your intentions and practices when it comes to sustainability.

1. Create an impactful mission statement

Before sharing your company’s sustainability initiatives on social media or spending money to rebrand marketing materials, take a closer look at your mission statement.

An effective mission statement should include the product or service you’re selling—and the sustainable impact you intend to make with it. It should be your north star from which everything is built.

For example, the two mission statements shown below clearly set out the companies’ sustainability goals. This helps customers to connect with the brand and motivates them to make purchases.

Sustainability-focused mission statement examples

Reduce our collective plastic footprint and contribute to the global initiative to ban single-use plastic packaging.

Harvest Recycling is committed to delivering waste management services that improve the social, economic, and environmental well-being of Albertans. We are devoted to leading the industry by offering outstanding commercial and domestic waste collection services, recovery of recyclable material, and waste transportation and disposal services to enhance a sustainable future for our local communities.

How to embed sustainability into your mission statement?

According to Heim, a sustainability-driven mission statement should be:

  • Focused—The statement should have a clear and targeted tie to the products or services you offer rather than trying to solve an assortment of problems.
  • Credible—To build relationships with current and potential customers, you should be able to quantify and measure your company’s impact.
  • Transparent—Customers will not be shy about asking questions or sharing feedback on your sustainability initiatives, so being open about your successes and failures will help you avoid future headaches.

Most of all, you need to make sure the statement is backed up by actions. Customers value authenticity.

If you’re going to embed sustainability in what you do, don’t just check off boxes, because customers will see right through that.

2. Establish good communication practices

Communicating your company’s commitment to sustainability can be a key factor to attract customers and differentiate your business.

A 2021 BDC study found that 34% of consumers consider the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions. This percentage grew to 45% for consumers aged 18 to 34.

Establishing a consistent message and talking about your sustainability efforts on social media, on your website, in marketing materials and with your employees and customers will help you appeal to these potential clients.

Be open with your customers and employees about your successes, challenges and setbacks, and share frequent updates using data to back up your goal. Above all, be direct and genuine in your communication, says Heim.

“Companies that truly understand the impact that they're having with their products and services are able to communicate their impact story very clearly in an engaging and authentic way.

3. Use third-party verification to build trust

Third-party verification of sustainability is when an independent organization assesses your operations and data to confirm that your business is what it claims to be. For example, B Corp certification measures and confirms your company’s sustainability impact as outlined in your mission statement.

The B Corp B Impact Assessment reviews your worker practices, customer impact, your relationship with your community and the impact you have on the environment. The B Impact Assessment offers a wealth of sustainability tips.

Whether you build LEED-certified buildings or sell certified organic produce, third-party verification can be an important tool to help build and maintain trusting relationships with your customers or clients.

4. Look to others for inspiration

If you are still struggling with where to begin, other sustainability-driven companies can provide valuable sources of inspiration.

How did they write their mission statements? Do they share testimonials or statistics on social media? What are they doing to earn loyalty from customers who value sustainability?

By understanding what your peers are up to and what other successful companies in your space are doing, you can set similar standards for yourself.

Are you ready to embed sustainability into your business and attract more customers? Here are some more sustainability resources to help you get started.

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