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Changing weather patterns, disruptive floods and unprecedented forest fires have all dominated headlines over the past few years. Combined with continued warnings about the detrimental effects of climate change overall, these events have raised consumer awareness of the impact daily purchases have on the environment and society as a whole.
Sustainability has developed into “an extraordinarily disruptive phenomenon impacting business.” The changes are not limited to measures relating to the environment in a traditional sense. Instead, a more modern take on sustainability includes environmental, societal and even economic factors.
Brands that want to stay ahead of their competitors need to put sustainability at the heart of their identity to build a secure future.
Related: Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurship — How to Build a Business that Makes a Positive Impact
The importance of sustainability and green branding
It is almost impossible to escape daily headlines about the negative impacts of climate change on entire populations. For this article, however, we will focus on the impact of the transition toward sustainability on businesses and the opportunities created by green branding.
First and foremost, offering sustainable products and positioning a brand as one that puts sustainability at the heart of its decision-making helps businesses attract new customers. Nearly four out of five participants in a recent survey conducted by Nielsen IQ stated that they valued a sustainable lifestyle.
In addition to that sentiment, consumers are increasingly willing to back up their intentions with actual purchases. A 2022 study by Deloitte found that two-thirds of all respondents were willing to pay a premium for sustainable offerings. The research went further and determined that those consumers would consider spending up to 41% more on environmentally friendly offerings.
Deloitte’s findings mirror those of a 2020 McKinsey consumer sentiment survey that focused specifically on sustainable packaging. In that survey, more than 60% of respondents stated they favor brands offering sustainably packaged products.
Green branding can help your business win new customers and become more profitable. But what about the alternative, can companies afford to ignore sustainability and the effects of climate change? The answer is no. Questioned for Deloitte’s 2022 C-Suite Sustainability Report, 97% of participants stated that their companies were already affected by disrupted supply chains and business models.
Putting sustainability at the heart of your business, including your branding, is necessary to ensure the company’s future.
Related: Earth Day 2023: Why Sustainability is a Win-Win for the Environment and Your Business
Strategies for sustainability and green branding
How can businesses implement sustainable practices? The options depend on the nature of the business.
- Sourcing eco-friendly materials is one of the most obvious options for brands to increase the sustainability of their products. Ensuring that raw materials come from reputable, proven sources increases consumer trust.
- Reducing waste throughout production and other business processes is another option for businesses to become more sustainable. Not every company will have the same potential in this respect. But even if your business is offering a service, there are generally areas in which wastage can be reduced to benefit the environment and reduce expenses.
- Look beyond the environmental aspects of sustainability and consider elements like diversity and inclusivity. They all increase the brand’s sustainability and contribute toward its positioning as a responsible business.
Implementing sustainable business practices is not something reserved for large multinational corporations. Businesses of any size have an opportunity to identify areas for improvement and work on those.
Related: Examples of Environmentally-Friendly Business Ideas
Here are just two examples of businesses that are putting sustainability first.
Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia has built its reputation as much on durable, high-performing gear as on its focus on sustainability. In 2022, the company’s founder and his family went one step further. Rather than selling the business to facilitate a comfortable retirement, the Chouinard family gave Patagonia away to a non-profit and a specifically designed trust.
The stipulations are simple: all profits will be used to fight climate change and protect undeveloped ground globally. Patagonia’s move was widely publicized and removed any doubt about the company’s standing as a leading sustainable brand.
2. Beyond Meat
Vegan meat manufacturer Beyond Meat is a company built on offering a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional meat. The company also prides itself on producing a burger made from simple ingredients that require less water and has significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than classic beef burgers.
Challenges and risks
Like all major business transitions, green branding and moving toward more sustainable business practices do not come without risks and challenges for businesses. However, with a solid strategy in place, these can be overcome or mitigated in the first place.
- Greenwashing: to be successful and resonate with consumers in the long term, sustainability efforts must be genuine. The practice of greenwashing, where companies make environmental claims that are found to be untrue, can be highly detrimental to a brand’s reputation. Instead of making big claims, businesses do better when they prioritize smaller but consistent efforts.
- Increased costs: sustainable raw materials often come at a higher cost than other materials. However, bear in mind that customers are happy to pay more for sustainable products and services. Balance your costs against the benefits of gaining access to new audiences and ensure your business is charging a fair price to mitigate this risk.
These are only two examples of the potential challenges and risks brands face during their transition to sustainability. Although they can pose serious challenges, neither is as dangerous to your brand as the risk of being left behind by competitors embracing sustainability.
Related: 6 Ways Going Green Can Make You More Profitable
Over the past few years, consumer attitudes toward sustainability have changed dramatically. Sustainability, including environmental, societal and other aspects, is having a growing influence on purchase decisions. Research shows that consumers have good intentions in this respect and are prepared to back those up with actual purchases. To secure their future, brands must embrace sustainability now or risk being left behind.