Chas Moloney of Ricoh UK argues embracing the latest technology can help companies develop more effective green marketing
Green, eco-friendly, sustainable, carbon efficient, environmentally friendly - the list of words associated with being green is endless. However, being 'green' no longer means simply meeting sustainability regulatory requirements. Using less paper in the office and having the odd recycling bin in the staff kitchen is a start but businesses can now look to more intuitive ways to position their company as eco-friendly, to employees and to stakeholders. Fundamentally, a green ethos must be part of an organisation's DNA.
Why sustainability in business matters
Just as the technology revolution has streamlined business practices across the globe, the drive to adopt a sustainable model is propelling businesses to take a new look at their operations. With technology, the step-change did not happen overnight, as businesses took their time to ensure the right technology was being implemented for the right outcomes. However, sustainability has a more urgent feel.
Governments are forcing businesses in their regions to meet tighter regulations in line with the strict standards being set by the European Union. The 2009 Renewable Energy Directive sets a target for the UK to achieve 15 per cent of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. Also, if the UK is to meet its long-term target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050, it will have to make serious progress on its renewable energy ambitions. This is where responsible businesses can make significant contributions.
Given all of this, brands need to identify new ways to cement their credentials amongst present and future stakeholders. As society as a whole strives to embrace sustainability and millions of consumers actively try to make greener lifestyle choices, green credentials are the new status symbol for a business.
In the boardroom, in many sectors, companies are beginning to hire dedicated sustainability or CSR directors with the remit to re-position their brand through a more responsible lens - often using this as a USP (unique selling point) for the company. The CSR directors will be looking for sustainability aware practices to be implemented across the business, including in the marketing team. Chief marketing officers (CMO) and marketing teams are now being asked to effectively communicate their company's green credentials as part of their complete offering.
Making a green statement
In order to market themselves as green, organisations should set out with the goal of taking a leadership approach. Companies making waves with a green approach currently include Innocent and the Body Shop. These brands are renowned for acting in a sustainable way to underpin green credentials throughout all elements of its business. There are a number of ways in which marketers can approach 'being green.'
One way is through the website, the shop window for any business. Clients looking at your website will use it to form opinions even if they haven't seen your products close up or haven't yet spoken to a representative first hand. Company news, campaign and business information uploaded to a site showcases a company's vision and clearly outline green positioning plus proof points. This will help to educate clients and ideally should feed positive chatter in the social stratosphere through channels like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin ensuring that those assessing your green capabilities get it right. This is where you must demonstrate your green ethos, prove your own adherence to your beliefs and showcase how your offerings will help clients to achieve the same results.
Another way is in how you advertise. For companies that are willing to think one step beyond the usual sustainable marketing tools, it helps to think on a much bigger scale. Billboards have long been used as a way to advertise a message, clearly and quickly and on a mass scale. But new standards are now being set with a move away from the traditional digital boards as focus on energy consumption and wastage increases. We ourselves have developed a series of 'eco-boards' which are powered by renewable energy sources, most commonly, solar and wind power so they are only lit when sufficient energy has been generated. Ricoh has installed eco-boards across three continents, the first in Osaka, Japan, followed by Times Square in New York with the most recent in June, 2011 in London. Our London one uses only 1/5 of the energy of an LED billboard and 1/4 the energy of a fluorescent light billboard.
Finally, there is also how you package your products, sourced through your supply chain. Sometimes this can be a compelling reason for purchase if your customers recognise and appreciate the fact that beyond the product, all the trappings also reflect that sustainable ethos. It may be that marketers need to support any such initiatives with an education campaign to raise awareness with audiences that it's not only about doing these things, it's about why it should matter to them that they buy from a company which has a clear, proven green track record and an ongoing commitment.
New technology as a catalyst
Technology naturally plays a part in implanting sustainability in an organisation. The online revolution has helped to reduce the amount of waste paper generated in the UK through unnecessary printing and at the same time, more broadly, technology has encouraged us to look at healthier alternatives like digital printing. State-of-the-art production print systems ensure top performance and set new standards of productivity, efficiency and quality, working seamlessly with the new e-marketing initiatives in businesses today. In digital content, analytical tools can monitor the click-through rates of embedded links in these, tracking the success of each one helping to ensure the design process can evolve with the success. Making this blended approach into best practice is simple - marketing departments must ensure that mailing lists are cleaned up regularly, adhering to new subscriptions and making sure hard work doesn't end up as junk.
Not all technology that helps you go green is expensive either. Businesses should keep up to date with the latest trends, campaigns and green marketing tools that can be quickly and easily adopted. Goals should be set to keep track of progress; not only does it make you and your team feel better about the business, but your clients and prospective clients will see you as actively adhering to your ethos. Taking this rounded approach will lead to true eco-friendly companies being able to show off their credentials to stand out from their peers.
We believe that the iconic marketing campaigns of the future will feature sustainability or green messaging centrally. With growth for global advertising spend in 2012[i] set to increase, and with the advent of the London 2012 Olympics less than a year away, every brand will be competing for visibility across traditional and digital marketing channels. Marketers should lead the way and be fearless in their approach, challenging their company to think in a different and sustainable way. Those that don't, will be left behind.
Chas Moloney is marketing director at Ricoh UK
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