Will Your Customers Pay for Sustainable Goods?
Today’s consumers want sustainable products like never before. Brands are trying to meet those demands so they can come out on top in the new “green” rush. However, sustainable goods and practices often come at a premium leaving many business leaders wondering “will my customers pay for sustainably-sourced goods?”.
According to GreenPrint’s Business of Sustainability Index, the answer is yes:
- 77% of Americans are concerned with the environmental impact of their purchases
- 64% are willing to pay more for sustainable products
- 73% use environmental friendliness as a factor in their purchasing decisions
- 78% are more likely to buy a product that’s clearly labeled as environmentally friendly
(for a generation by generation breakdown, get GreenPrint’s Business of Sustainability Index; GreenPrint also provides sustainability services)
Unfortunately, most consumers (74%) don’t know how to identify environmentally friendly products.
There are also tons of stories of customers buying products they thought were environmentally friendly only to find out they’d been duped by greenwashing. Naturally, customers are suspicious of environmental claims made by businesses.
How to Prove Your Sustainability
So, if consumers want to buy sustainably but are suspicious of your attempts to go green, how can you convince them of your environmental friendliness?
To put it bluntly, you have to prove to them that you’re walking the walk and not just talking the talk.
Your customers want to believe you—after all, they want to buy sustainably. But they’ve been burned before. If customers are suspicious of your environmental claims, then provide evidence and support for your claims. You’ll need to prove your commitment and give them enough facts, data, and third-party verification that they can put their doubts to rest.
Start with Greener Products
While it might go without saying, we’ll say it anyway. The cornerstone of your eco-friendly marketing must be being eco-friendly.
That means providing goods or operating your business in ways that either helps the environment or minimizes our impact on it. Eco-friendly foodservice can take many shapes. It can be:
- Locally sourcing foods to minimize transportation and greenhouse gas emissions
- Using all parts of the animal
- Minimizing food waste and disposable tableware
- Using environmentally-friendly packaging that minimizes waste and/or is compostable or recyclable
- Maximizing your shipping efficiencies. Fitting as many products on a truck as possible will minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
- Reducing water and energy usage
- Cleaning with eco-friendly products
- And much more
Seek Third-Party Verification
According to GreenPrint, third-party verification matters the most—45% of Americans say they’d need third-party verification to believe a company is sustainable. 28% wanted annual reports and 11% wanted a speech from the CEO.
Additionally, 83% of people surveyed said they’d trust some form of third-party validation.
To provide that verification, you’ve got to have the right partners. Independent organizations with rigorous standards for recyclable, compostable, or sustainable products—and with the ability to explain those standards and why they matter—are ideal.
While your partners may differ depending on your market, region, and clientele, we partner with:
- Biodegradable Products Institute
- Compost Manufacturing Alliance/Cedar Grove
These valued partnerships enable us to provide proof of various environmental claims. Trayak’s life cycle assessments help us prove that our rotisserie chicken bags vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to domes. How2Recycle, BPI, and CMA show how various Inno-Pak products can be recycled or commercially composted. And IdeoPak tests the material health of our product lines. They test for total fluorine, CONEG heavy metals, BPA, and DINP.
You can partner with us and take advantage of our stock products that have been tested and, where applicable, certified. Or you can partner directly with your own partners or the ones listed above. Either way, look for partners that can demonstrate your sustainability claims in clear, understandable terms.
Communicate and Educate
You’ve done your research and found the perfect, sustainable solution for your business. Maybe it’s PFAS- and CONEG heavy metals-free. Or maybe it’s made from post-consumer recycled materials. Or maybe still it’s fully compostable in a commercial composting facility.
Your customers don’t have the benefit of your research. Odds are they don’t know about many or even all these terms.
Their lack of awareness is your opportunity to educate them while building your brand and winning over sales at the same time. Talk about a win-win-win.
Use any of your communications channels to share the adjustments you’ve made and why they matter. For example:
- Social media photos of your food and how local sourcing minimizes your environmental impact
- Blog posts or emails about your sustainable business practices
- Messages on your packaging about how it’s sustainably sourced, compostable, or recyclable
- In-store displays dedicated to your environmental commitments or supply chain management
- Reach out to local food/environment bloggers about your program
- Explain your environmental impacts on your menu
- And more
Communication and Education in Action
Amazon does a good job of this. They put information about their sustainability practices on their website and on the packaging that their goods come in. Not only do they explain what changes they’ve made, but they also explain the impact of those changes.
For instance, Amazon writes that they’ve changed their plastic packaging “to use less material and incorporate more recycled content… Together, these improvements are expected to eliminate more than 25,000 metric tons of new plastic each year.” They’ve clearly explained what they did and why that change makes their business more sustainable.
By taking the time to educate your customers about the changes you made, you’re building trust between your brand and your customers. Both the education you provided and the trust you’ve built will help you make your case for your business’s sustainable practices.
Be Transparent—And Anticipate Miscommunication
Speaking of building trust, it’s vital that we be as transparent as possible when talking about sustainability. You don’t want to risk losing that trust over an undisclosed weakness in your sustainability practices.
Marketing your sustainability practices can be challenging and potentially dangerous—the Federal Trade Commission is chartered to enforce deceptive advertising rules on environmental claims.
Fortunately, the FTC has also created a “Green Guides” to help you avoid miscommunications and deceptive promotions. The guides include advice on the terms “compostable,” “recyclable,” and “degradable,” as well as “free of” claims and “non-toxic” claims, among other items.
Using the Green Guides and a healthy sense of caution can help you clearly communicate your brand’s sustainability and avoid miscommunicating. In turn, you’ll build even more trust with your customers—and avoid breaking that trust.
As someone who has chosen to invest in eco-friendly operations, you see the value of making changes to minimize our impact on the planet. Advocating for those and other changes in your community can help you build trust as well as interest in your business’s sustainability practices.
In addition to informing customers about your changes, urge them to take similar action on their own and in their community. That could mean encouraging them to recycle or commercially compost your products’ packaging (where applicable) or encouraging them to shop and eat local, too.
For example, if you’re buying produce from local farmers, share those farmers’ stories and how your partnership supports your mutual visions of business that’s good for the environment. Don’t forget to communicate how those changes matter and why you’re doing them.
On that topic, sharing the goal of your environmental strategies—and how customers can support them—is another way you can advocate for environmental change.
Showing customers that you care enough to advocate for the environment in and outside of your business will demonstrate your commitment and sincerity to the changes you’re making.
Capturing sustainable sales can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. Consumers want to buy from eco-friendly businesses, but they want proof that their actions make a difference.
Give them that proof, and they’ll be glad to support your business.
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