- Earth Day is just around the corner on April 22
- Eco-friendly e-commerce is on the rise and, now more than ever, independent businesses are building momentum and brand recognition by putting extra emphasis on their green efforts and empowering customers to feel good about using their products
- Nearly three-quarters (71%) of today’s consumers are concerned with a company’s commitment to the environment
- One silver lining to COVID-19 is a lower level of overall emissions
Earth Day is just around the corner on April 22. And while the planet’s surface area is heating up from human-made emissions, 9 out of 10 people are inhaling high levels of pollutants and global sea levels are rising by 3.3 millimeters each year, a single day devoted to climate change seems to be just what Mother Nature has in mind.
This year, most of us will celebrate from a safe social distance. Through a worldwide mobilization platform called EARTHRISE, a diverse 3-day lineup of conversations, teach-ins, performances, calls to action and more will provide a massive online outlet for environmental advocacy. All you have to do is opt in.
In the midst of the globally life-altering COVID-19 pandemic, one silver lining has sprung up to surprise us all: planet Earth showing small signs of repair. Our collective curbing of CO2 emissions seems to be having a positive impact on the environment.
Now more than ever, growing merchants are well-positioned to build on this momentum by championing sustainability strategies that show what being a successful green company is all about. Read on for more information about how to get your green efforts off the ground and promote them to powerfully boost your brand.
Consumers Prefer Environmentally-Conscious Companies
Did you know nearly three-quarters (71%) of today’s consumers are concerned with your company’s commitment to the environment? Some of them even expect you to take a frontline approach to environmental protection. Others (88% in the U.S. and the UK) want your business to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their day-to-day lives.
While this might feel like a lot of pressure (fair), it’s actually a major opportunity. By helping them help the planet, you can both address your customer’s biggest concerns and exceed their expectations. This is a win for the environment, a win for your customer, and a win for you.
Growing Merchants Going Green
Was that e-commerce or green commerce? Today, a growing list of eco-friendly companies are making a name for themselves by being gutsy about going green and giving back.
Proof is a sustainable eyewear company that grew itself from garage to global in just a few years. They produce sunglasses made from sustainable forests and a natural form of plastic called cotton-based acetate. Aside from helping the environment, Proof is a fierce advocate for social responsibility—living out their Look Good. Do Good marketing campaign by supporting everything from tsunami relief efforts in Japan to child soldier rehabilitation in Africa. They set up the #ProofCrew ambassador program to embrace that motto and connect it through the community. With more than 55,000 Instagram followers, it looks like it’s working.
In2Green is fusing sustainable materials with a luxury approach to accessories and apparel. They’re fired up about eco-friendly manufacturing in the U.S. and contributing to a greener way of life. Using organic, recycled cotton yarns, In2Green creates “classic yet modern and sustainable products.” In 2016, they won the Icon Honor Award for Innovation and they work with luxury hotels and resorts to design and manufacture custom throws and bed scarves so their consumers can feel ethical and extravagant.
Happy Earth’s motto is Your planet. Your choice. With each purchase of their sustainably and ethically sourced apparel, the customer can choose whether they want to prevent 150lbs of greenhouse gas emissions, plant 15 trees or remove 1lb of trash from natural areas. That’s an enterprising way to empower the consumer and help save the planet. To date, their purchases have prevented 2,425,085 lbs of greenhouse emissions, planted 203,222 trees, and removed 1,079 lbs. of trash. This running tally is one way they promote exactly how much of a difference they’re making.
Walk the Walk: How to Foster Your Green Efforts
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (Really)
This one seems simple, but are you really walking the walk with a lighter carbon footprint? Everything from your shipping materials to your procurement practices and daily operations have an impact on your independent business’s carbon footprint. When done right, the EPA finds reducing, reusing and recycling can prevent pollution, save energy and money, decrease the amount of waste sent to landfill and allow your products to be used to their fullest extent.
How to achieve? You can opt for less product packaging overall or use materials that are reusable or recyclable like corrugated bubble wrap, biodegradable packing peanuts, corn starch packaging or cost-friendly mushroom packaging. You can also commit to using less raw materials for production to reduce waste and costs.
As for your day-to-day business operations, think about cutting your carbon footprint by reducing overall paper use, using cloud computing to cut down on transportation and make collaboration easier, switching to energy efficient lighting, saving water, and using timers and automatic sensors to keep things powered off when you’re off.
Conduct a Sustainability Audit
If you’re wondering what your independent business can do to protect the planet and assess the impact you have on the environment and society, consider performing a sustainability audit. A sustainability audit helps you learn about current best practices for sustainability, see which ones your business already has covered, and pinpoint areas for opportunity and improvement.
The following checklist can be used to audit where your business’s environmental and social footprint stands:
• Waste Reduction – how is your business currently reducing waste?
• Resource Conservation – how is your business currently conserving resources?
• Carbon Footprint & Toxics Reduction – what’s your business doing to lighten its carbon footprint and reduce the use of toxic materials, including cleaning products?
• Product Development & Life Cycle – what’s your business doing to minimize the environmental footprint of its products and packaging?
• Supply Chain & Procurement – how do you engage with your suppliers to promote sustainability throughout the supply chain
• Workers – how are you engaging with your employees to ensure they’re treated ethically and fairly? How are you empowering them to uphold your company’s green initiatives?
• Civic Engagement & Giving – how’s your business giving back to the community?
Believe Wholeheartedly In The Mission
It’s one thing to piece together an “Our Mission” page and throw it up onto your website. It’s another thing to sit down and decide what you believe and how your business can leverage that set of beliefs. Savvy marketing isn’t just about showing off; it’s about being true to your word and letting customers see for themselves that your business is trustworthy, honest and committed to a well-defined set of eco-friendly values. Don’t underestimate the merits of revisiting your mission entirely and aligning it with your new green growth plan. Show your authenticity, don’t just tell it.
Make Things Better
Evolving as an eco-friendly company means going beyond sustainability and into eco-innovation. Best in class businesses have the forethought to keep their green mission in the back of their minds at all times and continuously tweak their business model to support it. It’s not just about ticking off the sustainability checklist (though that’s important!) it’s about infusing environmental efficiencies into everyday innovations. In short: make things better.
Eco-innovation involves reinventing what’s possible for your company and deviating from “business as usual” to “business unusual.” It’s about creating a business model that’s both competitive in profit and respectful of the environment. Eco-innovation aligns your processes and products so they comply with regulatory requirements and also match the growing environmental, ethical and social standards upheld by your customers and partners— a community who can make things better.
Marketing Tips to Promote Your Company’s Eco-Friendly Policies
Once your e-commerce business bolsters up its sustainability efforts, it’s time to promote your eco-friendly brand attributes and show how you walk the walk.
Publicize concrete ways your green company is contributing to a more sustainable climate and reducing its carbon footprint. You can start with the results of your sustainability audit and expand your ideas outward.
Leverage the Power of Social Influence (AKA Peer Pressure)
Social influence is the process where a person’s attitudes, beliefs or behaviors are modified by the actions of others. It takes on numerous forms, including conformity, peer pressure and persuasion, to name a few.
According to the Harvard Business Review, harnessing the power of social influence is one of the most effective ways to elicit pro-environmental purchasing behavior in the “green consumer.” A great way to engage this elusive market is by making their sustainable behaviors evident to others (note Happy Earth’s free impact pin). Showcase how their support for your brand makes them feel good about themselves and what they’re doing for the environment. Let them tell your brand’s story for you.
You can go a step further by sparking a little friendly competition between social groups. Communicate the many ways your customers are behaving in a positive, environmentally-conscious manner and compel other green consumers to get involved with your brand and match (or surpass) their behaviors.
Take it Further With Influencer Marketing
Social influencer marketing is a powerful tool for promoting your product. It can help you build a larger brand following, increase your company’s credibility, and drive in more leads, conversions and sales. Collaborating with a successful social media influencer helps you target a niche audience and offers even more value to your vision.
In terms of finding social media influencers that align with your brand, start by defining your top-selling target audience. Is it thirty-something mothers in suburban areas with a full to-do list? Or idealistic Gen Zers and Millennials on a mission to change the world? Once you have a clear picture, find social media influencers who resonate with them. Buzzsumo is a search tool that can help match you up based on the influencer’s keywords and page content (perhaps go with “eco-conscious” and “go green”).
Use Skillful Storytelling & Video Marketing
Stories engage our senses and take us on a journey through our feelings. With solid storytelling, you have the opportunity to co-pilot that journey for your customers. Tell tales of your team’s can-do energy and dedication to the environment. Share stories of the day-to-day procedures that successfully lighten your company’s carbon footprint. Feature content that builds the legitimacy and credibility of your eco-friendly brand.
These stories can come in the form of blogs and other long form copy, testimonials from key stakeholders who support your initiatives, social media stories (on Facebook and Instagram) and short (2 minutes or less) videos that show your mission in action. As a matter of fact, people are twice as likely to share video content with their friends over any other type of content. So your stories can travel seriously far. Eighty-six percent of those people would like to see more video from brands in 2020, according to Wyzowl. Your audience awaits.
Build a Green Brand Community
Don’t underestimate how willing people will be to support your environmental and social responsibility efforts. Interaction is an important part of green marketing. Use your brand power to create communities of common good (which now, more than ever, we need).
You can set up a Facebook group and fill it with engaging content (like the stories and videos you create). Or bring your brand community to cross-channel life by giving it a hashtag (like the #ProofCrew). Another option is to set up a community forum (as Spotify did) where users can share solutions, recommendations and more. There are a number of different platforms you can use to create your own community forum, depending on your budget and audience size.
Boost Your Brand Equity With The Right Partners
Influencers aside, allying yourself with like-missioned partners is a great way to expose your brand to new and evolving channels. A brand partnership is a mutual agreement between two or more businesses in which they commit to helping each other break into new markets, increase brand exposure and add extra value to products and services.
Explore Shippo to streamline your shipping and logistics operations.