As Millennials and Gen Z become a larger share of consumers, businesses can make a lot of green by going green.
Globally, and in the United States, consumer demand for environmentally-conscious products is growing.
For decades, social responsibility has gained steam as an important factor among employees and consumers. The next evolution of social responsibility, environmental responsibility, is getting closer to reaching its tipping point as the Millennial and Gen X groups continue to make up a larger segmentation of consumers.
In certain industries, going green has been more noticeable than others.
The beauty industry has exploded in recent years, with brands prioritizing sustainability and without animal testing leading the way. Nike and Adidas have both moved towards emitting fewer carbon emissions and created clothing and footwear from recycled materials.
Perhaps more than anyone, the outdoor sports brand Patagonia has led the charge among major brands shifting towards going green. Most famously, its 2011 Black Friday ad in the New York Times urged customers not to buy its signature jacket, highlighting how much waste was created to make and distribute it to retailers. Additionally, they’ve pledged 1% of all sales go to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
While it makes perfect sense that an outdoor brand such as Patagonia would take such a bold stance on the environment, making a committment to sustainability could go a long way for companies in any industry.
What is Sustainability?
Before digging any deeper, perhaps it’s best to answer the question of what “sustainability” actually means. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) answers this question with the following:
“Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”
In a 2020 study conducted by IBM and the National Retail Federation that monitors consumer trends, the significance of ecologically ethical products stood out as a significant takeaway.
In the study, experts note that the idea of environmentally responsible shoppers has shifted from a forecast to fruition.
“As consumers increasingly embrace socialA 2020 IBM and NRF Study
causes, they seek products and brands that
align with their values. Nearly six in
10 consumers surveyed are willing to change
their shopping habits to reduce environmental
impact. Nearly eight in 10 respondents
indicate sustainability is important for them.
And for those who say it is very/extremely
important, over 70 percent would pay
a premium of 35 percent, on average,
for brands that are sustainable and
Elsewhere in the same study, it’s noted that 81% of shoppers worldwide are considered to be either value-driven (41%) or purpose-driven (40%). While the value-driven shopper has cost and convenience in mind, the purpose-driven shopper prioritizes brand trust, the importance of sustainability and expresses a willingness to change habits to reduce environmental impact.
Ways To Make Your Business More Sustainable
Kudos to sellers who have already taken steps to run a greener business. For many sellers, the idea of changing their business can be quite intimidating, but there are a few basic ways that you could implement environmentally sound practices into your business.
- Source a sustainable product
If you’re sourcing a product, whether it’s your first or most recent, consider prioritizing sustainability in your product research. Based on the customer data in the IBM and RTF study, sustainable products have an organic (pun-intended) advantage, as most customers prefer a more sustainable product and some would even spend more for sustainability.
- Reconsider your packaging
We’ve all ordered a product that has a ridiculous amount of unnecessary packaging. While the effort for safely delivering a product is appreciated, consider if you could scale down your packaging to create less waste. Additionally, sustainable packaging materials exist, and instructions for recycling any relevant materials would likely be appreciated by your customers.
- Get certified
Across industries, there are certifications business owners can earn by a commitment to environmental responsibility. Not only does this exemplify your ecological awareness, but it also can be wonderful for marketing materials.
One of the most popular is a Certified B Corporation stamp of approval. Ben & Jerry’s, Allbirds, and Tillamook are just a few of the thousands of companies from around the world with B Corp certifications. Some customers even begin their product search on sites that aggregate sustainable brands. If this practice becomes more popular, there could be a tremendous advantage to being in these marketplaces sooner rather than later.
Let’s Make Our World A Better Place
While it’s easy to look elsewhere, even the smallest changes incrementally have a positive impact. No matter how small, each step in the right direction leads by example and gives us a reason to feel good about ourselves!
We all share one home. Let’s all do our part to take care of it!