How to market your green measures to attract those with similar ideals.
There are two main reasons why managers decide to make their companies more eco-friendly – they believe it is a necessary thing to do for future generations, or they know it is a legitimate way to both reduce costs and attract new eco-conscious customers. Most often, it is a mix of both.
Regardless of the reason, genuine green initiatives should be highlighted – don’t be shy. A business that makes the first steps and starts to “become different” can see tremendous indirect gains by showing these changes to their staff, customers and suppliers. For instance, employees who understand the new direction of their company might start to feel better working for a business that “cares” and even motivate new initiatives.
Sharing your green vision with the world is essential in attracting people with similar ideals. The more you express your values, the more customers, staff and suppliers will be attracted and motivated.
So how can a company concretely and credibly market its eco-changes? It all starts by using your existing communication tools, adding information in a relevant manner so that people can see your commitment. Start by listing the tools you use, such as your website, your Facebook page, adverts etc. Think also about the direct customer facing tools, anything they can read or see – brochures, menus, notes in guest rooms etc.
Below we look at two examples of the most common communication tools and give further guidance on how to maximise the visibility of your green efforts.
Your company’s website is most likely the main point of access for customers to understand what you do. In less than a minute, a customer will be able to “feel” if your venue matches their expectations, and they will dig into the specifics of what they expect to find. For a venue, it might be the size of the spaces, the surrounding scenery, the décor and vibe, prices etc. In every case, marketing a “green” orientation means that you demonstrate additional care for details that go further than just offering a good service.
So how can you show on your website that you make extra efforts to protect the environment? Let’s see how wedding venue The Wellbeing Farm, Lancashire, does it…
When you land on the venue’s website, your attention is instantly captured by the slider with large images displaying the venue and its beautiful surroundings, which include a renewable energy generating wind turbine.
Clearly, the environment is of utmost importance for this business. Right next to its logo in the header of the website is evidence of its B-Corp status (a verification that it meets high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability). Directly under the slider is more information about the independent accreditations the venue has received, and in the footer is a whole sub menu detailing all its achievements and eco goals.
If the home page captured the interest of potential guests and they want to learn, the ‘Sustainability’ tab prominent in the main menu leads you to a deep dive into the venue’s specific initiatives, including infographics, video and the whole story behind its journey.
It is important to note that many of the things that The Wellbeing Farm implements are within reach of other venues. Take a look at www.thewellbeingfarm.co.uk – owner Celia Gaze is a leading light in initiating change in independent hospitality so why not drop her a line?!
If you offer catering, one of the most important steps you can take in order to become more sustainable is to thoughtfully choose ingredients and suppliers. By using local organic producers or selecting products bearing specific labels (such as MSC certified fish or Fairtrade cocoa) massive gains can be made in terms of reduced environmental impact.
It can be a challenge, and it sometimes means changing the menu to serve more seasonal products, but customers are increasingly concerned about the quality and origin of their food. So we need to make sure they know about this effort.
A simple icon shown on the menu next to those dishes prepared with local ingredients from organic farms can be enough to drive someone’s attention to this specific item. And if you were in their shoes at that moment, you would certainly favour the dishes with “green” ingredients over more conventional ones. This is part of the experience they can later tell their friends about, and it will gradually attract more customers of the same kind to your business.
You could offer a suggestion of the day or a full menu called “the local choice” that would be based entirely on low-environmental impact ingredients, such as specific mushrooms from the local woodland, seasonal vegetables and fruits grown in a local organic farm, or a typical local cheese from the milk of the goats seen grazing on the nearby hills.
Customers do not expect to find everything all the same time, and if they were to come back to your restaurant because trout and artichokes are in season, that means they visited your restaurant twice instead of just once. Most importantly, make sure to share the reasons behind the change. Your staff can even initiate the conversation with an introduction along the lines of: “This month we’re offering a special dish based on local, seasonal produce because celebrating our local suppliers and creating a sustainable food offering is part of our overall guiding principal.”
Take things one step further and increase visibility and credibility through a recognised certification or label. The recent rise in visitors’ concern for sustainability made green claims rather popular, but not all claims are the same. Some are environmentally relevant and based on the results of actual efforts to improve environmental performance while others are unfortunately more vague commitments with unproven effectiveness. It is difficult to distinguish the first from the second if only based on self-declaration.
To make your actions and result stand out among the jungle of messages and to benefit from increased credibility, you could consider applying for one of the different available schemes that offer independent proof of your engagement in environmental improvement and of the results achieved.
There are two types of such schemes: environmental management systems and environmental certifications and labels.
Environmental certifications or labels are awarded to organisations that comply with a specific set of criteria. Many labels exist in the tourism sector (the website ecolabelindex lists 87 different ecolabels for the UK). The most reliable are those which are based on multiple criteria (i.e. covering different environmental pressures) and third party audited (i.e. the fact that the organisation complies with the criteria is checked by an independent auditor). Some examples are Green Tourism, B-Corp, Blue Angel and Green Key.
Environmental Management Systems (EMS), such as EMAS or ISO 14001, require organisations to implement a certain number of processes and commitments (such as demonstrating legal compliance, understanding the most significant impacts on the environment, facilitating employee participation) that ensure an improvement of their environmental performance year after year. The processes and the environmental improvement results achieved are checked and confirmed by an independent auditor.
In this category, EMAS is recognised as the most transparent and credible system, because EMAS registered organisations commit to making publicly available an environmental statement, verified by the independent auditor, detailing their environmental performance. This is particularly relevant when it comes to credibly promoting green efforts!
Unlike environmental certifications or ecolabels, the recognition of an EMS is not based on a specific threshold of environmental performance in determined areas (e.g. 100% renewable energy or 80% of waste sorted). Therefore, the use of an EMS can be a good preparatory step to achieve the levels of performance needed to obtain an ecolabel, or used to go further than the requirements of an ecolabel.
Start with small steps
Update your website and/or menu and any other communication tool you have with information about how you care for the environment. Don’t forget to talk with your staff about the need to inform customers about your green efforts.
If you want to go one step further, think about introducing an environmental management system or applying for an ecolabel. They are a guarantee of your commitment and will result in bringing many savings, involving your staff and guests, as well as generating more income by attracting eco-conscious customers.