How Can Brands Be More Eco-Friendly?May 19, 2023 | 0 Votes by Mel - rate In order for brands to stay relevant with younger shoppers, sustainability and eco-consciousness will have to play a major part of a company’s business model. By incorporating sustainable branding initiatives, companies can help build their brand’s image and, at the same time, do their part for the planet—both of which will help gain (and retain) customers.
It may be arguable that businesses have a far greater impact on the planet than the sum of the world’s citizens, but there’s no doubt that impact affects all of us. With this reality in mind, sustainability has become more important in business than ever with 54% of companies claiming to have formal green programs to remedy their negative impact.
In relation to this advocacy, consumers—in particular, 90% of Millennials and Generation Zers—are increasingly seeking to engage with eco-friendly products and companies as well. In a 2019 report from Nielsen, 81% of consumers said it is “extremely” or “very” important that companies “implement programs to improve the environment,” and 30% of consumers said they are “willing to pay a premium for products that deliver on social responsibility claims.”
In order for brands to stay relevant with younger shoppers, sustainability and eco-consciousness will have to play a major part of a company’s business model. By incorporating sustainable branding initiatives, companies can help build their brand’s image and, at the same time, do their part for the planet—both of which will help gain (and retain) customers.
That said, many companies are having difficulty, or worse, showing some reluctance, in shifting their business model to reflect a greener profile.
In 2022, brands are challenged to assess environmental issues and the sustainability of their supply chain. Any brand aiming to become eco-friendly also needs to be able to market their initiatives to their audience in the proper way in order to earn their trust, and consequently, their business. In this article, we discuss several sustainable brand building strategies companies need to consider in their efforts to become a truly eco-friendly brand.
So, what makes a company sustainable or eco-friendly?
To be sustainable, a company must operate with the genuine intention of leaving the world, communities, the people, and stakeholders it encounters as a result of its existence, better off and to maintain it at a certain rate or level.
Traditionally, companies have valued profit and the bottom line over all else. Sustainable companies, on the contrary, position their impact on community and environment as critical measurements of their success. They are expected to employ a triple bottom line in which people, planet, and profit are all considered equally.
For a brand to claim their operations are sustainable and eco-friendly, consumers must take note of whether they significantly employ the practices below—the same attributes conventional companies should strive for if they plan on becoming more eco-friendly.
Transparent & Ethical Sourcing of Materials
Unfortunately, a lot of materials used in clothing, household goods, and other products are not always sustainably sourced. Sustainably sourced materials are those that don’t harm the environment or damage the communities that produce them.
When designing and producing products, brands should consider swapping out some of their materials for more eco-friendly alternatives. For example, if a company produces apparel, instead of cotton, they can consider using hemp or bamboo fiber which gives a much higher yield with less water than cotton does. For food manufacturers, instead of packaging food products in plastic, they can opt to use glass which is infinitely recyclable.
Switching out materials where companies can help make a difference is one of the easiest ways to implement sustainable branding in a way that customers can clearly see and understand.
Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing Practices Such as Utilizing Renewable Energy
Whether it be for a warehouse, factory, office, or storefront, using some form of renewable energy in business is a great way to be more eco-friendly.
Wind, solar, and hydro energy are a few forms of renewable energies businesses can incorporate into various phases of their operations. For example, if a company owns its own building, it may want to consider putting solar panels on the roof to reduce dependence on conventional energy providers. Meanwhile, offices can find ways to use less paper, and, therefore, less wood and avoid raw materials such as palm oil or wood from clear-cutting. Other more practicable solutions include reducing water usage and conserving energy by turning off office lights after hours.
If setting up a renewable energy system within the organization is not something that can be accomplished immediately, a more feasible solution is to purchase renewable energy credits instead, which allows companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Recyclable Waste-conscious Packaging That Uses as Little Material as Possible
Shipping and packaging products in more environmentally-friendly packaging is another way for brands to incorporate sustainability in their business.
Many packaging materials, like plastic mailers and packing peanuts, are hard to recycle and tend to create excess waste that degrades the environment and contributes to climate change. Instead, brands should consider using packaging made of eco-friendly materials like post-consumer waste, plant fibers, bioplastics, or compostable packaging, all of which won’t generate more waste when disposed of correctly.
Companies can also minimize the amount of overall packaging they use. Packing a small item in a big box is a common packing mistake and one that customers notice right away — but also one that costs businesses. Sometimes, a lighter package can take up more room than a heavier one based on the dimensional weight, which is computed by multiplying length x width x height. The more you minimize the amount of packaging used, the more economical it might be to be shipping a smaller dimensional weight.
Shipping Options That Negate Carbon Footprint
Shipping orders carbon neutral is an easy way for e-commerce brands in particular to incorporate sustainability. When it comes to logistics, shipping emits a high volume of black carbon affecting the carbon dioxide in the air.
Since carbon-dioxide is one of the leading reasons for climate change, switching to carbon-neutral shipping helps monitor carbon dioxide emissions and contributes to protecting the environment.
There are different ways to accomplish carbon-neutral shipping. One way is to work with fulfillment providers such as Ecocart that have solutions in packing and shipping products more efficiently and sustainably.
Also, distributing your inventory across multiple fulfillment centers can not only help reduce shipping costs while speeding up transit times, but it can also reduce carbon emissions. When inventory is split across locations, the distribution hub closest to where the customer lives will pick, pack, and ship the order versus having it originate from a main warehouse located further out.
Diverting Landfill Waste
Waste diversion or landfill diversion is the process of diverting waste from landfills. Some of the ways companies can reduce the waste they contribute to landfills is by: waste reduction; recycling; thermal treatment (though incineration can lead to other environmental issues that may have positive or negative results); biological treatments; return of waste to supplier of original materials; reusing waste in the same or other steps of production process; selling waste to a third party; and converting waste to energy.
Paying Workers a Living Wage
A company’s workforce is just as important as the materials they use for their products. Companies can reduce inequality and build more resilient supply chains by ensuring a living wage for workers for suppliers.
Addressing compensation using a fair wage approach is not only beneficial for employee well-being, but it also improves company profits and helps respective supply chain partners achieve more sustainable outcomes, including greater productivity, lower turnover, more substantial worker commitment, and a better quality of life that contributes to stronger communities and fuels prosperity for employees.
Proof of “Eco-friendly” Claims, Such as Certifications, Audits, and Accreditations
Another way to determine whether a brand is truly environmentally-friendly is through their certifications which measure how reliably they represent your values. For example, B Corporation Certification is considered the gold standard for sustainable business practices.
If you “see the B” on a company’s website or product, that means the company achieved an impressive minimum score on the “B Impact Assessment,” an assessment that is divided into five Impact Areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers.
The environmental area of the assessment is very stringent and thorough, and B Corp Certified companies often provide an impact report that details their sustainability plan and implementation.
Two other major certifications/associations include 1% for the Planet and Climate Neutral Certified. All 1% for the Planet members (including Grow Ensemble!) pledge 1% of their total revenue to highly-vetted environmental nonprofit organizations. Some take these partnerships further, joining together both the financial and human capital of the partners to create impressive and widespread environmental impact. Companies that are Climate Neutral Certified, on the other hand, measure, reduce, and offset their carbon in order to neutralize their carbon footprint. Some companies have become extremely creative with their efforts making their entire operation carbon-free—or even carbon-negative—as well.
Use of Green Web Hosting
Serious environmentally-conscious firms also engage the services of a green web hosting company on their websites. Green web hosting is a term used to describe a web hosting company or data center running on green sustainable electricity/energy. To earn the status of being green and sustainable all energy/electricity must come from renewable resources such as solar power, wind power, or water power. This means no coal was burned or nuclear waste was created when producing the electricity to run these data centers.
Another way that a web hosting company or data center can be green is by compensating for the amount of energy used to run their servers. This can for example be done by planting trees to compensate for the amount of CO2 emitted while running their servers or by buying climate credits to cancel out the amount of CO2 emitted during the year.
By green hosting their websites, eco-friendly brands not only foster the use of renewable energy sources but can end up being quite economical compared to traditional hosting plans.
In light of the climate change crisis, eco-issues are, not surprisingly, at the forefront of consumers' minds and that sustainable branding has taken on much greater importance.
Consumers are no longer satisfied to simply buy a product and forget about it. They are much more aware of what their favorite brands are doing, and want them to care about the same things that they do, or at the very least know that the money they spend will in some way go to help environmental or social causes, rather than just looking to make a profit. Otherwise, they have no problem boycotting those brands that do not align with their own values.
This shift has inspired many brands to become more sustainable and eco-friendly in their practices, from sourcing environmentally-friendly materials and paying fair wages to recycling materials and reducing their carbon footprint. It's these brands that are best positioned to win a loyal customer base.