Why It’s Time to Kick Your Green Initiatives Up a Notch

Kelly Spors

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Results of the second-annual Sustainability & Innovation Survey of global corporate leaders by MIT’s Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group suggest that green practices are taking firm root in the business world. Nearly 60 percent of the 3,000 businesses surveyed said they are increasing their investment in sustainability.

Perhaps the most interesting revelation is why they’re doing it. About half of businesses surveyed said the biggest reason was brand reputation and conveying a green image to customers – not to save money (though that’s a common reason, too).

The results reconfirm what many businesses already know: Consumers have altered their buying habits and are paying closer attention to the sustainability messages of the businesses they patronize. It’s a trend unlikely to go away anytime soon, and businesses that don’t understand this risk getting left behind.

The survey results notes that small companies are lagging behind their larger competitors when it comes to sustainability: Only 9 percent of companies surveyed with fewer than 1,000 employees were classified as “embracers” of sustainable business practices, compared to 34 percent of companies with more than 10,000 employees.

So what’s a small business to do?

If you haven’t started looking seriously at how to improve your company’s environmental footprint, start now. You can start by evaluating your company’s energy use (even get an audit, if your facilities are large enough to warrant one). Also look at your company’s waste and figure out how you might recycle more and send less to the landfills. Basically, you have to get a full picture of where your businesses stands in terms of sustainability.

Once you’ve gathered the data, it’s about weaving together a viable sustainability plan that explains how you intend to reduce your environmental footprint, and then following and revising that plan as needed. Many companies now form employee green teams as an effective way to engage employees in the discussion and get their buy-in. Employees also may have ideas you didn’t think about.

And once you get the green actions underway, there’s fantastic opportunity to communicate these good deeds to your customers. But there’s also a great opportunity to mess up. Many companies don’t know how to effectively communicate their green message and whether to make it a core part of their marketing endeavors. Here are some ideas for improving your green marketing.

About Kelly Spors

Kelly Spors is a former small-business reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal and has also freelanced for Yahoo! and The New York Times. She is now communications and outreach coordinator for Energy Smart, a Minnesota nonprofit helping businesses save money through energy efficiency.