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4 steps to start on a ‘green’ journey

By Helen Rake     

One of your most difficult challenges is to set your firm apart from the crowd. Unless your product or service is so innovative it cannot be ignored or is in such demand that marketing is almost an afterthought, you mustiStock_000010981058XSmall find a way to differentiate your business and get noticed.

If you embrace the triple bottom line principles of “people, planet, profit” in your workplace, produce green product alternatives, or simply have the desire to be the most responsible corporate citizen you can be; then now may be the perfect time to promote these practices or take the steps to become a truly green organization. Aside from preserving natural resources for future generations, going green makes good business sense.

But why is now the right time to promote your green business?

• Consumers want sustainability. Shrewd corporate leaders know how to take advantage of the shift in consumer preferences for sustainability. According to a 2008 National Marketing Institute study, from 2008 to the end of 2010 green product sales and services are expected to almost double from $209 billion to more than $400 billion. Many companies hungry to increase their profits and ride the new “eco-aware” wave, have answered with the production of more environmentally friendly product lines, more efficient packaging and cleaner production methods. Profits from green products have soared to record levels. Research and development to improve current products lines and develop even more innovative products is taking a larger share of the corporate funding pie.

• Green operating costs have come down. As management has embraced sustainable practices, there has been an added benefit: lower operating costs. Conserving energy, reducing packaging, and producing less waste can save millions, even billions over time, for large companies. That translates into basic business principle No. 2: Reduce costs; boost profits.

• The government likes green. If you are in a business that depends on government contracts or funding, being truly green or producing green products may actually help you obtain government contracts specifically meant to spur green business growth and training. The current administration is encouraging green business models and production with billions of dollars in government incentives and dedicated funding, why not position your business to get a piece of the pie? 

Although it may take some investment of time and money in the beginning, the savings and improved competitive advantage of going green can quickly make up the difference.

Here are four steps to take toward a green journey:

1. Get an audit. A great and underutilized program in Duval County is the nonprofit organization, the Green Team Project (www.greenteamproject.org). Its experts come to your business to evaluate what you are currently doing then give you tools to improve your processes and show you how to capitalize on your green business model for small fee.

Making a few small changes can yield savings to offset some of your up-front greening costs. Some examples of economical ways to green our businesses include replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescents or LED bulbs; using leaner packaging; reusing office supplies; recycling office waste to reduce disposal costs; turning the thermostat up a degree or two during the warm seasons; having a free energy audit done (and acting on its results).

2. Brand yourself green. Branding yourself as a green business goes a long way in setting your organization apart and giving you a competitive advantage. As an example, if you are one of many local printing companies but one of only a handful that prints on recycled paper with soy based inks, you may attract an expanded clientele that doesn’t mind spending a few dollars more to use a local green printer. You can also promote your services through green business organizations and online listings you may not otherwise have access to.

3. Tout your stewardship. Regardless of how green your company may be, if no one knows what you are doing or plan to do how can it benefit your bottom line profitability? Consumers want to feel good about their purchases and about the businesses they purchase from. Make sure your marketing material and website outline what you are currently doing to be more green, acknowledge membership in green organizations by posting their logos prominently on your website (with their permission), obtain a legitimate green business certification if possible, and regularly send press releases regarding your accomplishments.

4. Track your results. To show your commitment to sustainability track the results of your efforts and make them publicly available. You can start by measuring your carbon emissions (there are several calculators online to help), energy efficiency, and waste reduction in real numbers from year to year in an annual sustainability report accessible from your website. This will add a layer of credibility to your claims and provide you with a forum to talk about your corporate philosophy, future goals, and talk about the challenges you face as you constantly work to be greener and more efficient.

Standing out in the crowd remains one of the most important marketing strategies for large and small business alike. Corporations are changing how they do business and improve their public image in answer to demands of eco-aware consumers. They are embracing more responsible business practices and developing cleaner and greener product offerings. They are also promoting their efforts in very effective ways.

Regardless of the reasons that motivate corporations to change—for profit or principle— if we pay close attention we can learn from their example. If you believe in the triple bottom line, today is the best day to promote that fact. Start setting your business apart through green branding and increased public awareness and you could see your business prospects improve. With today’s consumer demanding more efficient, cleaner and greener products and services your green business can be seen as a valuable local asset.

Helen Rake smallHelen M. Rake, CFP, is a principal and investment advisor representative with Collins Capital Management, Inc. She can be reached at HRake@CollinsCMI.com or 904-493-7500, e xt 9.

 

 

 

SIDEBAR

 Be sincere about being green

A word of caution if you decide to promote your business as green or decide to go green: It takes a passion for the environment, commitment to responsible business practices, and focused long-term effort to walk the walk. Many consumers are serious about this trend; they do not approach it casually. They live the green life every day, and they expect companies that claim to be responsible and green to be just that.

 The worst outcome for a business that decides to promote itself as “green” or “socially responsible” is to be called a “greenwasher”—a poser. Eco-aware consumers and green leaders will know if your efforts are genuine (or not) and will award you accordingly.

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