Whether the interest is in protecting the environment or managing personal health concerns, the consumer interest in seeing “clean” and “sustainable” products has risen drastically in the last decade, if not longer.
From reduced-waste packaging to ingredients that are free of preservatives and chemical processing, many companies have jumped on the sustainability bandwagon. With the Millennial generation, concerns over sustainability and eco-friendliness are at an all-time high. Consumers want to make sure that not only are the products they receive sustainable, but also that the companies providing those products have a sustainability-minded mission.
The question for suppliers becomes, how can we make it clear to retailers that we fit their customers’ requirements for sustainability efforts? Some retailers like Walmart have specific criteria so it’s important to follow that criteria.
In other situations, especially when telling your story to the consumer, it’s important to have a measurable sustainability or social responsibility plan. Obviously, you also want to make sure this plan is clearly communicated via your website (including your blog) and even to some degree, on your packaging.
Another concept to consider is what elements of your plan or business practices should you highlight to your consumer, including both the retailer and their customers? For example, if you use recycled manufacturing practices or recycled packaging or offer incentives for recycling your packaging, you need to make that clear on your packaging and in your marketing.
Want your customers to appreciate your sustainability effort? Get them involved! Seek out their opinions and include learning ways that you can give back to their local communities. Building bridges with communication and community involvement will make life better for all involved, including your company as it builds brand loyalty.
I do want to caution any supplier or retailer wanting to capitalize on the sustainability movement to avoid “greenwashing.” That’s the concept of promoting your products, packaging, and company ethos as being environmentally friendly when they don’t really fit that bill.
If your company doesn’t actively participate in “green” activities (simply having a recycling bin next to your office trash can doesn’t count), then don’t try to sell yourself using that messaging. It’s dishonest and consumers will figure it out. If you choose to not have a social consciousness or ecologically friendly business plan, simply find another positive component of your business to highlight.