The trend for sustainable consumption has taken hold in the UK, millennials in particular are concerned with the production of goods and the behaviour of brands they buy from. In the digital age, a brand’s social, ethical, and environmental profile is easy to find and track.
With this information at our fingertips, consumers are empowered and can make informed decisions about the brands they use and support. Perhaps more importantly, it also pushes manufacturers to pursue more ethical means of production and operation.
For businesses that are able to show consumers how buying their products supports not just the brand, but ethical values and sustainable practice, they have a good chance of securing a large and loyal customer base. There are a number of practices fledgling businesses can adopt early on in order to create a sustainable identity for your brand.
Make it clear with a good first impression
Smaller, less well established businesses need to be focused on creating a strong first impression – more so than larger competitors who have the advantage of familiarity. When it comes to promoting ethical values, branding is therefore hugely important to the former. From your logo and packaging design through to your website, consider how effectively your business image communicates a green message.
There are many qualities people associate with eco-friendliness; both brand and website names can be easily and subtly imbued with these sensibilities. Business name curators Novanym have played on this psychology when creating names for green businesses. By using natural, organic and energy related words, the names (such as ‘Bionuvo’ and ‘Ecoveta’ aim to evoke innovation and ecology.
Your business name doesn’t necessarily have to mean anything, but it’s certainly a good idea to convey an impression of the kind of service you are offering. Through the power of suggestion, it’s possible to convey a range of sustainable and responsible imperatives.
Whole Foods is one example of a brand that started off with a name bearing all the right connotations. They’re in the business of supplying organic goods, but it’s a supermarket too, so their business strategy is also about reaching a wide audience. Still, the word ‘Whole’ implies some semblance of efficient farming practices, ‘wholesomeness’ and community spirit. It says everything about the brand before you’ve even set foot inside the store.
Invest in sustainable development projects
Supporting sustainable practices doesn’t have to be limited to your own business operations, there’s plenty of scope to campaign the effort of other eco-conscious groups. Like Velvet Tissue, who have committed to plant three new trees for every one they use in the production of toilet tissue. A Sustainable Brands initiative hopes to leverage further private investment to help achieve sustainable development goals.
More and more companies are joining the B Corp community because they believe in the inherent value of using business to promote greater social and environmental sustainability. B Corps are for-profit companies that are certified as having met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency by the nonprofit B Lab: “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee.”
Preserve is a producer or housewares and personal care products based in the US. It’s an example of a B Corp business working to build environmental sustainability into every practice, committed to using only 100% recycled materials. Flagship products include its recycled plastic toothbrush, kitchen and food storage products and razors. The company’s tagline: ‘Nothing wasted, everything gained’ says it all.
Why are such initiatives important for your brand? Well, they’re important for your business. According to a 2013 survey, a quarter of UK consumers said they would take the green, or fair trade option even if it cost them more money.
Communicate your efforts to be more sustainable
If you’re doing good work for the planet, make sure you tell someone about it. Legal practices and agencies often share details of their pro-bono work across web and social media platforms, while others communicate their sustainable practices as a tangible measure of success. But be wary of ‘greenwashing’, or over emphasising your eco friendliness.
Intel is a good example of a company communicating their investment in sustainability well. The company’s 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report, for example, provides readers with a clear, accurate picture of the company’s sustainability initiatives.
Another example is Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, which updates in real time to provide readers with progress on performance and the necessary social media tools to share this information. Stakeholders can visit Unilever’s website at any given time and access current information on environmental impacts and data, watch relevant videos and keep up on sustainability trends and news.
It’s not just about reporting, champion your credentials with approved badges and certificates. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo indicates a business supports the responsible use of forest resources; the Green-e logo certifies that a product was created with 100 percent green electricity, and a certification from the Chlorine Free Product Association ensures a product is manufactured without chlorine. Details of how to apply for permissions to use these logos in your business communications can be found on their websites.