Red-Hot for Green Businesses

Small_business_resource_center_jpegOriginally posted Nov. 6, 2007
by Dick Wolfe, smallBusiness Resource Center

The environmental or "green" movement is no longer on the fringe. In
fact, green is so hot right now—both domestically and internationally—
that it isn’t even a movement anymore: It has become a big business
with marketplace estimates ranging from $300 to $500 billion annually.

Factors contributing to this renewed focus on earth-friendly endeavors include:

• Better consumer understanding (and scientific consensus) that the global warming phenomenon is real.
• Escalating energy prices that have consumers shifting gears not only
in the way and how often they drive, but also the vehicles they buy.
• Broader availability of affordable, energy-efficient products from
home appliances and office equipment to heating and cooling systems and
compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Being in the media spotlight has a lot to do with it,
too. According to national media watch group, Fairness and Accuracy in
Reporting, between 1988 and 2005 more than 3,500 articles were written
about global warming alone. More recently, former Vice President Al
Gore helped nudge social consciousness along with his documentary on
global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.

From the White House to the house next door, Wall
Street and your customers are all taking the environment very
seriously. Likewise, corporations worldwide are realizing that
environmental stewardship is creating opportunities to innovate and
differentiate. For example, The Home Depot’s Eco Options program allows
customers to easily locate 2,500 environmentally friendly products in
its stores. Daimler-Chrysler, Alcoa and AbTech are all part of an
effort called EcoZone to spread positive environmental messages.

Communication is Key

In the book Cause for Concern: Results-Oriented Cause Marketing,
77 percent of consumers polled changed their purchasing habits due
solely to a company’s green image. Green clearly has the power to move
markets. A green corporate image can be profitable, too.

"Being green" presents communications and marketing
professionals with entirely new avenues to sell products and deliver
services. It also means marketing and communications strategies must be
defined and implemented sooner rather than later.

Yet, with all the media attention and corporate
activity is it too late for you? Not at all. There are plenty of
opportunities for innovative and decisive companies to define and
communicate a green leadership position. Fully assessing how your
operations impact the environment and developing eco-friendly products
and programs are complex areas that many companies are still figuring
out. It’s having a plan to get into the game is what matters most.

Regardless of your current position on "being green,"
environmental issues are top of mind with the media, the public and
your stakeholders, which can affect your business in many ways. A key
component of your marketing, PR and advertising should be built around
how your company is developing or supporting products and processes
that are environmentally friendly, healthy and safe.


Volunteer or Be Drafted

More environmental legislation is being proposed and
passed everyday—effectively taking environmental responsibility out of
the realm of choice and making it mandatory. Legislation can have a
devastating impact on companies and industries that are unprepared. In
the U.S., the majority of lobbying efforts are to fight regulation.
What would happen if that dynamic were reversed, if companies became
part of the solution?

Why not drive legislation instead of fighting it?
Wouldn’t it be better to help craft regulations that address
environmental issues while being sensitive to business concerns? The
alternative is having uninformed lawmakers passing legislation that
could potentially devastate your business and industry.

Smart companies and industries will anticipate the
hot environmental issues, where regulation may be headed and then move
to become an ally to get sane, sensible legislation implemented. Take
Apple for example: In response to green legislation on the disposal and
recycling of electronics, the company started an iPod take-back program
at all of its U.S. retail locations. While the free recycling program
is eco-friendly, the company also uses it to build long-term customer
relationships by offering a 10 percent discount on the purchase of a
new iPod when customers bring their old one in for proper disposal.


More Than a Green Image

Being green is not only an image building campaign.
It cannot be a rolled-out, hyped-up window dressing that only becomes
an afterthought. Like any other initiative there has to be internal
buy-in—it has to become a real part of the company culture. Being green
requires commitment and action from the CEO to the receptionist.

Establishing a viable reputation as a green company
will make it easier to be viewed by lawmakers, consumers and key
stakeholders as an ally instead of an adversary.

Leadership and relationship building are common
refrains in sales and marketing. Planting your green flag on the summit
ahead of the competition is one more way to take a leadership position
and create positive customer relationships.

Dick Wolfe is a vice president at Gibbs & Soell Public Relations (,
which specializes in business-to-business communications for many
Fortune 500 and Blue Chip companies, as well as emerging leaders. Dick
can be reached at [email protected].

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