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You and the eco-aware consumer

How going green can bring in business

Just what is an eco-aware consumer? Helen Rake, CFP, principal and financial advisor for Collins Capital Management Inc. and speaker at a recent Knowledge is Power workshop, states it is “a consumer that when given a choice, is choosing to spend their hard earned money on products that move the world toward to more sustainable or more energy-efficient tomorrow.”

One of the most recent forecasts on the state of green business, the economy, and its drivers conducted by Green Biz Intelligence Unit found that the economic downturn has taken a backseat to growing consumer requirements as the principal driver of corporate environmental strategy.

“What this means,” says Rake, “is even with the economic downturn that has happened, consumer requirements have picked up, which means the companies have had to answer regardless of what their economic situation is.”

Who are they?

Today’s eco-aware consumer is doing business with companies that embrace environmental preservation, treat employees well, and provide products that allow them to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. The eco-aware consumer also wants to ensure that their children will be able to live a healthier lifestyle.

There are two categories of the eco-aware consumer: the behavioral greens and the think greens.

•Behavioral greens—This is 62 million Americans that think and act green. They buy green products and believe companies should help consumers become more environmentally friendly.

•Think greens—These up and comers are still being convinced. They think green, but don’t always act green.

“Eco-aware consumers are not extremists nor are they impractical in their product and service demands,” says Rake. “Basically, the eco-aware consumer is really just a socially responsible buyer that wants to put their money where their conscience is. They want to feel good about what they are purchasing.”

Why you should care

Rake says you should care because for one, there are some basic economic principles at work:

1. Supply and demand. What is mainstream for consumers is mainstream for companies. Basically, whatever the consumer wants, the company should provide because when consumers demand and the company produces, consumers buy and companies profit.

2. Reduce costs equals increased profit. Adopting energy-saving green business practices has a positive effect on the company’s bottom line.

And for another, “Locally, your business has a fantastic opportunity to set itself apart from the crowd by putting practices, products, and services in place that will attract these eco-aware consumers that are willing to spend more for a better choice,” says Rake.

She also says those companies that embrace it, do it for the right reasons, want to provide something to the community that is sustainable, and want to provide to these consumers are the ones that will benefit.

“The opportunity is yours,” says Rake. “I think now is the best opportunity we’ve ever had in this area to do this, to pay attention to this, and act on it.”

How to market to the media

Julie Watkins, green reporter and meteorologist from Action News CBS 47/Fox30 and the second speaker at the event, says that news stations are always looking for story ideas, and stories that promote green practices are always good.

“If you provide press releases detailing visual live shots and stories, and the more compelling the story or active the video, the more likely it will get covered,” says Watkins.

When writing a press release, you should be sure to:

•Include who, what, when, where, why, and how;

•Keep it short;

•Highlight the visual aspects; and

•Provide contact information at the top and at the bottom.

With two types of news, hard news and soft news, Watkins says there are many opportunities for you to promote your green business or actions.

Hard news is generally what you see on the evening news with a live reporter. While not always good news, it is what people tend to pay closer attention to. For your green story to be considered hard news, it will most likely have to involve dangers and risks, or offer help during a disaster, is innovative to the consumer, is leading the city, is socially responsible, or has tie-ins to breaking news.

For example: A hair care product was found to have high amounts of formaldehyde. If you ran a hair salon that carried all-natural, green products, you could inform the news stations and get some recognition.

Soft news is more so what you see in the mornings or on weekends with in-house interviews and evening news “kickers.” These are generally the more fun packages. For your green story to be considered soft news, it will most likely be your community projects, sponsored local events, festivals and expos, fundraising efforts, or has ties-in to holidays.

For example: Your business will run a paper retriever drive in your community with it titled something like, “30 bins for 30 days.”

“One of the best things you can do to promote your green practices is to get to know your local news anchors and reporters,” says Watkins. While some anchors and reporters are more active in green movements than others, your morning or weekend reporters are most likely to cover your green events. “And if you can find a green reporter in your area, you’ve hit jackpot,” says Watkins.

To see a green office checklist, visit http://advantagebizmag.com/archives/5710 and click on the link.

Steps to a greener business model

When you remake and rebrand yourself as green, the more attractive you will be to the eco-aware consumer. Here are a few things you can do.

•Get an audit and act on the results. 

•Make small changes in phases and be transparent about it. Things such as using power strips, changing to energy-efficient light bulbs, and using leaner packaging are small things that can have a big ROI. 

•Brand yourself green. If you use a local printer who prints with soybean inks on recycled paper, tell people about it. 

•Promote your business through green business organization and online listings. 

•Track your results and report them. 

•Tout your stewardship. Send out press releases, print it on your business stationery, tell your customers, etc. 

•Be careful and be serious. You need to be sincere in your efforts and honest about the challenges you face when going green. Don’t be a “green washer.”


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