Sustainability and CSR create a clear competitive advantage and play a key role in building positive reputation. Much more important than what we sell is who we are. Customers, employees and investors are increasingly interested in business sustainability and CSR activities. Ethics, the way business treats their employees and their communities and how they answer the customer needs is vital for the consumers when choosing the products to buy.
New York Reputation Institute claims that sixty per cent of our consumer behaviour is influenced by the brand reputation. Good reputation, greatly affected by good CSR, leads to 6 % higher sales and 2x better market performance. This way, business public performance, its values and especially sustainability are becoming vital aspects for marketing and PR.
Businesses that have accepted sustainability as part of their identity, change their communication with consumers to show their heart and story rather than discounts and offers. The main assumption for this move in the marketing strategy is that businesses focus on the long term value for the customers rather than the short term profit. It is exactly what companies like to say is important but repeatedly fail to execute it.
Highlight functional or emotional advantages
Although statistically speaking the number of „environmentally conscious“ consumers is rising, this group is failing to turn its values into their consumer behaviour. The problem is that businesses are failing at selling sustainability as it is. They keep selling products good for the planet but it is evident that key factors affecting sales are:
- Product functional advantages for individual consumer – including value for money, performance, safety or ease of use.
- Emotional advantages delivering a good feeling that we have done something for ourselves – we got inspired, met our expectations, made ourselves more beautiful, smart etc.
- Social benefits making „my statement” to the world – that I am modern, successful, or relevant.
The goal is to sell sustainable products that bring about these advantages for individual customers. There are a few examples of how such marketing could work. Do not talk about sustainable diet as such, highlight instead that eating sustainably means better taste, weight loss and other health benefits due to less pesticides or other unhealthy food additives. Do not tell customers just to save water, show them that less frequent hair washing leads to natural hair shine and prevents split ends. When was the last sustainability campaign that promised any direct personal benefits at all?
Avoid the jargon and give credit to your inspiration
You can hear all about circular economy, biological diversity, carbon footprint – ditch the terminology and use simple and clear language, you will get closer to your customers. The world has enough of boring communication about how companies are trying to be better. If you want to get noticed for what you do, it is time to be bold, heroic and not afraid of big milestones. Your customers will back you up.
Do not be afraid to show your inspiration. Individuals or organizations that inspire your actions deserve to get the credit. They can work in different fields, countries or they can even be your competition. Be honest in recognizing their results.
Use data and be authentic
Support your sustainability story with interesting data. Data will make it more interesting as well as trustworthy. But if your audience is not specialized, do not base your story on it. Every piece of information should be carefully selected but do not make anything up, there is no space for greenwashing these days.
World is changing rapidly. Working with values and seeking opportunities – that is what businesses should focus on. Only talk about topics relevant for your organization. If you talk about something that does not affect you, you will end up looking silly. Present your specific CSR activities. This all increases your credibility and improves your reputation. And marketing can work very effectively with all this.