As the world faces the mounting challenges of climate change, Canadians have shown concern about the balance between economic growth and environmental protection. As Canada continues to increase focus on sustainable development efforts (such as those outlined in the government’s Federal Sustainable Development Strategy), small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) are wondering how they can implement eco-friendly measures in their own operations.
The focus on eco-friendly business development is a rising global trend. By 2025, 50% of the world’s 500 largest companies will have a chief sustainability officer (CSO) (full report available to subscribers), or a person in charge of an organization’s environmental programs, according to Gartner research. Although SMEs may not have the financial resources to employ a CSO, businesses of all sizes should pay attention to the growing importance of environmental programs. If your business is interested in sustainability, green marketing may be the right place to start.
What is green marketing?
Green marketing, also known as environmental marketing or ecological marketing, refers to a strategy that highlights the aspects, actions, and values of a brand regarding its impact on the environment. All business operations can be adapted to a green marketing strategy; it is not strictly an advertising approach.
Retailers should pay special attention to their green marketing strategy. As Gartner highlights, recent studies have shown that nearly 50% of Generation Z and millennial consumers actively seek out retailers that carry sustainable products (full report available to subscribers). SMEs in other industries can also adopt more sustainable business processes as part of a green marketing strategy.
Green marketing ≠ greenwashing
Younger generations are driving sustainability trends in business. This shift in consumer priorities presents both an opportunity and a challenge for marketers. Businesses can now use sustainability initiatives to appeal to Generation Z and millennial customers, but there is a catch. Poor execution of a green marketing strategy can be seen as greenwashing, leading to reputational issues that are difficult to set straight.
Making generalized statements in a green marketing campaign, such as using vague words like “eco-friendly” or “conscious” to describe business processes, can be seen as greenwashing. If a business has truly prioritized green initiatives, more detailed information should be easy for customers to find, either on their website or on the product label itself. If more information isn’t available, the environmental claims aren’t likely to be seen as credible.
How can SMEs create a sustainable marketing strategy?
Supporting the environmental claims that SMEs make in sustainable marketing strategies with more information is paramount. Any declarations made by a company should be backed by an activity or program that offers insight into how the company is working towards those goals.
For example, SMEs selling physical products who want to implement a sustainable marketing strategy could adapt business operations in the following ways:
- Formulate a product with less environmental impact
- Switch to biodegradable packaging
- Create a program to offset the company’s carbon footprint
- Focus marketing messages around environmental efforts
Once a business cleans up the wasteful elements of their business processes, they’ll need to get specific on how they did so in order to convince customers. Using simple-to-understand claims, such as the amount of CO2 emitted, or concrete initiatives, like tree planting, is the most verifiable way to promote an environmental marketing strategy. Environmental software can help keep your business on track with its initiatives and generate reports to verify green marketing claims.
Sustainable business trends to implement
Some businesses may mistakenly think a green marketing strategy is only applicable to certain industries. However, agricultural and natural resource industries aren’t the only sectors that can take a more sustainable approach. Businesses in every industry can position themselves as organizations that care about the environment —as long as they implement the policies to prove it.
1. Trade wasteful solutions for more sustainable ones
The longer a business has been operating, the more likely it is to have outdated software and hardware. Canada has carved out a leading role in the clean technology sector, which comprises technology that aims to improve environmental sustainability. SMEs should evaluate the impact their current technology solutions have on the environment and consider swapping them for more eco-friendly products. IT asset management software can help ensure that the software and hardware solutions of your organization are aligned with your green marketing initiatives.
2. Seek sustainability partnerships
SMEs in the beginning of their sustainable marketing journey may feel overwhelmed by the amount of business processes that need revamping. In this case, sustainability partnerships can help. Teaming up with one or more businesses with similar sustainability goals can bring mutual benefits to both. Pooling resources to create a green marketing initiative can help organizations who may not have the budget to achieve these goals alone.
3. Switch to green cloud-based services
Although cloud management software saves businesses space by keeping files, programs, and other data secured stored offsite, the extensive information must still be stored somewhere. The towers of servers behind the cloud constantly require power to run as well as keep from overheating, and the energy consumption from data centres is immense. To reduce the amount of server space a business requires, archiving documents that are outdated or irrelevant can help.
4. Reduce reliance on consumables
Printing physical documents, especially if a business relies on thousands of individual contracts, is an unsustainable practice. While more eco-friendly alternatives like vegetable-based ink and recycled paper can be implemented, switching to digital solutions is often even more environmentally responsible. Use virtual data rooms to send electronic copies of forms safely via internet. For contracts that require signatures, look into digital signature software.
5. Implement a teleworking model
The recent rise of teleworking across Canada helped keep employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The telework model also boasts benefits to an organization’s sustainability efforts, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by reducing road traffic. Other benefits include savings in energy, office space requirements, maintenance, and housekeeping, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
A sincere approach to sustainability
Before loading sustainability software up with new green initiatives, it is important to establish a clear and complete green marketing strategy. Making declarations of a less-pollutive production process while still wrapping products in layers of plastic could seem like greenwashing.
Above all, green marketing should be done by highlighting the precise data of your company’s efforts. It is not enough to say that you’ve made the production process more sustainable. To be clearer with environmental claims, preempt consumers’ questions.
- What amount of CO2 emissions have been reduced in the production process?
- How much more sustainable is your software than others of its kind?
- What actions is your company taking to offset carbon emissions?
- Which certifications have your company or its products received?
- What are the measurements of water/energy/electricity being used in production processes?
Making specific environmental marketing claims is the most trustworthy approach to green marketing and building a credible reputation. Giving customers as much information as possible on the why, when, and how behind environmental commitments will help claims be seen as sincere.