Go green and boost your business

Peter Crush

Friday 6 March 2015

It used to be a potential risk to sell yourself as ‘green’. But staying genuine about your eco-friendly credentials will help to avoid a consumer backlash and give your margins a boost. We highlight the businesses who are doing just that.

As most people now accept, being ‘green’ not only makes good environmental sense, it makes good business sense too. At fast food giant McDonald’s for example – which is currently moving all of its lighting over to low energy LED solutions; including at its flagship Amsterdam restaurant – not only are fewer fossil fuels being burned, but each store using it now saves 70 per cent on its annual lighting bill. That represents a very real business saving.

A problem for many organisations, however, is just how overtly they try to ‘sell’ these and other environmental improvements. In the past, many companies have been accused of ‘green-washing’ consumers – a measure which can dramatically backfire – especially if it leads to the kind of scrutiny that reveals the same company to be acting un-green elsewhere in the business. For instance, when Starbucks made a huge fanfare of wanting to reduce global energy use by 25 per cent, it was at the same time using continuously running taps (to clean utensils), wasting 6.2 million gallons of water per day. And naturally, if there’s any suspicion that a green initiative actually has more to do with disingenuous marketing rather than any genuine concern for the planet, this will invariably make matters worse.

On the other hand, in 2008, Max Burgers – Sweden’s number one burger chain – decided to ditch kids’ meal boxes in all of its 75 restaurants to reduce waste. Not only did noone complain, but sales rose. Sustainability became a selling point.

The good news is that the evidence suggests that more firms are now recognising this. According to the State of Sustainability Initiatives (SSI) Review 2014, there has been a dramatic increase in ‘certified production’ – which includes Fairtrade and various organic labels – with a reported growth of 41 per cent in 2012. To give a more specific example: certified coffee comprised 38 per cent of global production in 2012, compared to just 9 per cent in 2008. There’s also been significant growth in the market share of sustainable palm and cocoa production.

So, what are you waiting for? Now is no longer the time to be shy about being green. Apart from it being the right thing to do, of course, establishing your credentials as a genuinely environmentally-friendly business could be the best way forward – not just to boost your reputation, and engagement amongst staff, but to boost new sales growth too.