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Does Your Company Know What Aspects of Sustainability Matter to Your Customers?

There’s often a disconnect between what corporate decision-makers think people will care about most when it comes to eco-friendly operations and offerings, and what actually matters to them.

With customers around the world increasingly voicing their sustainability concerns, companies must act in ways that truly matter to those audiences. There’s often a disconnect between what corporate decision-makers think people will care about most when it comes to eco-friendly operations and offerings, and what actually matters to them. Here are some potential ways to close that gap.

Ponder Packaging as a Starting Point

A 2021 survey of more than 8,600 consumers in 22 territories uncovered some of the eco-conscious behaviors people do most. The responses varied slightly depending on whether the respondent worked from home most of the time or not.

For example, 61% of people working from home buy products with eco-friendly or less packaging. Moreover, 61% of home-based workers bought eco-friendly or biodegradable products.

Among respondents who typically work outside the house, 50% prioritize purchasing from companies that are conscious and supportive of protecting the environment. Then, 55% opt for products with eco-friendly or reduced packaging. Finally, half of the respondents with employment outside the home said they purchased eco-friendly or biodegradable products.

Together, these takeaways suggest that minimizing packaging and making it eco-friendly or biodegradable may be good places to start. After all, across both groups, at least half of the people polled specifically purchased items with packaging that was better for the planet.

Include Productivity in Sustainability Aims

Numerous options exist for companies to engage in sustainability efforts. For example, statistics indicate companies use more than half the water available to residents of industrialized nations. That’s why many large companies have started monitoring and minimizing their water footprints.

People often focus on water and electricity when discussing sustainability. Those are undoubtedly important. However, helping employees minimize their wasted time and effort are other ways to operate sustainably that may get overlooked.

In one case, the president of the equipment department at a water treatment company searched for ways to improve the work panels used by the company’s testers. He identified straightforward improvements. For example, a lighted or shaded work surface could help people test more efficiently, depending on environmental conditions. Moreover, putting storage space on the panels improves organization.

When a workplace makes things easier for its employees, customers often reap the rewards of those improvements, too. In the case of a service provider like a builder or utility technician, such enhancements could mean customers get their needs met faster.

Additionally, a company might optimize routes to avoid the wasted fuel and excess emissions associated with poorly organized assignments that require workers to travel to customers. That action also targets sustainability and productivity.

Make Sustainability Accessible and Understandable

Many customers may feel eager to become more sustainable, but they don’t always understand the associated definitions that have become buzzwords in some newspaper headlines. A 2021 study examined people’s feelings about the energy transition to get more details.

Firstly, 84% of those polled believed that sustainability is an important part of purchasing decisions. Then, 80% said brands must be transparent about how their production methods impact the planet. However, only approximately a third of the people in the survey thought they had a high-level understanding of the terms “carbon-neutral” and “net-zero.”

Similarly, only half of the participants felt confident they knew the meaning of “sustainability.” Putting those definitions in context is vital because it could impact whether people buy new energy products and services, the research showed. More specifically, 47% said they considered the environmental impact before making such purchases.

These conclusions indicate that it’s not enough to merely include environmental definitions in marketing copy and conversations with customers and assume they understand them. Some will, but others require more clarification. That goes for all companies, too. If an e-commerce company’s packaging reads, “We’re 100% carbon-neutral,” that statement might include a website or QR code people can use to learn more.

Get Confirmation of Sustainability Priorities

These examples show that it might take some extra effort for company representatives to determine which sustainability aspects people care about the most versus which ones are less impactful or even virtually meaningless.

One way to get to know customers better is to ask them to take a short survey about how they most like to see companies operating sustainably. Another option is to publicize certain sustainable changes enacted by a company and monitor social media feeds and other channels to see how customers respond.

Learning how customers feel about sustainability and what resonates with them is not always easy. However, it can be worthwhile if the efforts translate to improved profits and reputation while helping to protect the planet.

See more posts from Jane Marsh at environment.co

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