Establishing a brand image is a difficult challenge. The first step for any aspiring business is to determine what their values are and how they will portray them. With all of the discussion about climate change, many brands are looking to decrease their environmental impact and appeal to eco-minded consumers. But there are also brands looking to capitalize on “green” branding without following through. Below are some strategies for implementing an environmentally friendly brand and making your message resonate with like-minded consumers.
If you’re a service-based company, you might be tempted to skip to the third section of this article. Though these first two are product-focused, they do offer some actionable tips for getting in the environmentally-conscious mindset.
If your business model centers around products, the first step to becoming environmentally friendly is to analyze the impact your products have on the environment. Below are some questions to ask yourself:
- What is the environmental impact of the production of my products (gas emissions, water use, waste generation, etc)?
- What effect will my products have on the environment when they reach the end of their lifespan (are products recyclable, do they contain hazardous materials, etc)?
- Are my products made of sustainable materials?
- Are my products themselves sustainably produced?
- What can be done to improve the environmental impact of my products?
The production of your products and their base materials is the most straightforward way you can decrease your company’s carbon footprint. After you figure out how to improve your products, you can then work on marketing these earth-minded changes you’re making.
Actionable Branding Tip: Look for eco-friendly certifications you can qualify for. If you’re building your headquarters or your products are buildings, consider pursuing a LEED Certification. If you work with wood, look into the sustainable forest initiative. If you can qualify for any green certifications, apply. The process of applying will often reveal improvements you can make. Once you’re certified, put the certification name or logo on all of your branding materials. If the certification requires explanation, write about it on your website and send potential customers there to learn more.
After you’ve ensured your products are as sustainable as possible, it’s time to look at your packaging. Is packaging even necessary? Do your products benefit from being packaged? Does it make shipping easier? If packaging is necessary, then look at sustainable options. If plastic is your best bet, try to use recycled plastic and be sure to encourage customers to recycle when they’re finished with the packaging.
Perhaps you’ll find that glass is a better option like Argo Tea did. Glass is more difficult to recycle than plastic, though, and some cities and states have little-to-no resources for glass recycling. So be sure to give your customers ideas for reusing your glass packaging. This could be a great subject for blog and social media content and a great way to show that you’re serious in your dedication to the environment.
Actionable Branding Tip: If you use glass containers or another reusable packaging, you can implement a buy-back program. Either build a deposit into the initial purchase or simply offer compensation for those who return your packaging. Then, you can reuse it for future products, recycle it properly, or use the returns to demonstrate creative reuse possibilities to customers.
General Business Practices
The way you run your business can also drastically affect your carbon footprint. Below are some proven methods to reducing the environmental impact of your day-to-day business practices:
- If your business model allows it, allow employees to work some hours from home, reducing their commute
- When upgrading office equipment, work with an electronics recycling company to properly dispose of old printers, computers, and other office appliances.
- Ensure that your office has energy efficient appliances
- Invest in energy efficient lighting across the office and encourage employees to utilize natural light from windows as often as possible
- If you regularly have large batches of waste, such as weekly a truck shipment that results in large amounts of cardboard boxes, find local groups who need the items you would otherwise throw out. Local shelters and housing programs are often in search of boxes for clients who are moving.
There are two aspects to consider when it comes to marketing an eco-friendly brand. The first is the environmental impact of the marketing itself. The second is how to market the environmentally friendly efforts.
When it comes to managing your marketing’s environmental impact, there are many steps you can take:
- Implement a “necessary printing only” rule. Disallow printing for drafts and mockups. Only final versions of marketing materials should be printed
- Use soy inks and recycled paper in your office
- For tradeshows, order fabric banners. These are more reusable than paper signs and contain more eco-friendly materials than most vinyl products.
As for marketing your environmental efforts, the best way is to simply advertise what you do. You can build this into your brand image by:
- Listing your eco-friendly materials on your product packaging and on other branding materials
- Blogging about your environmental efforts
- Inviting feedback from customers and employees
- Placing any certification logos on your packaging and on other branding materials
- Attending environmental conferences and talking about them on your blog and to your customers
- Host environmentally friendly public events like tree plantings, litter cleanups, and hazardous waste collection drives.
These are just a few methods to both reducing the environmental impact of your company and marketing those efforts in order to establish yourself as an eco-friendly brand.