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More Than Going Green
From "Business Toolkit"
By Haley Jones
September 2009

How to run an eco-friendly business and communicate your efforts to your clients.

Few revolutions in the industry have grown as rapidly as the green movement. Since it took off in 2004, the trend of “going green” has gone mainstream and developed a market of earth-conscious consumers most companies can’t afford to ignore. The market of green or eco-friendly products has ballooned from only 100 marketed “green” products in 2004 to 526 products in 2008, according to research reviewed by emarketer.com. If the green market continues to flourish at its current rate, emarketer.com projects 1,529 green product launches by the end of 2009.

Even if your company does not have a green product offering, it can still become more environmentally responsible by implementing a few small changes around the office. But, before you stick recycling bins in every office and call it good, Mark Trotzuk, president of Boardroom Custom Clothing (asi/40705), says a business needs to build a case of why it wants to go green. He says the four main reasons most businesses can apply are social responsibility, health of employees and the planet, financial responsibility and reducing its environmental impact.

“Reducing energy use and waste are the two biggest things people can do to impact the environment,” he says.

Trotzuk also suggests to reduce your environmental footprint by using alternate transportation, reusing paper before recycling it, installing low-flush toilets, unplugging computers and equipment at the end of the day and making your office as paperless as possible. 

Although the market for sustainable products and services is continuing to grow, some in the industry wonder whether it is just a fad. Glen Colton, president of Seville Marketing (asi/323798), says the majority of products labeled as eco-friendly are fundamentally the same products, tweaked a little and given a new name. He says he offers environmentally-friendly products, but his customers rarely want to pay the higher premium.

“We pay lip service to being environmentally correct but when it gets down to it, we’re just trying to get by,” he says. “The only ones who are still looking for environmentally-friendly are the people in charge or those who are committed to the deep wonderfulness of it.”

Conrad Franey, vice president of sales and marketing for Gateway CDI (asi/202515), cites the burgeoning array of eco-friendly suppliers as proof of the green movement’s own sustainability. Franey says the market of sustainable products has grown from offering only grayish-colored products the quality of burlap to a colorful variety of high-quality specialties.

“I don’t think this is going away,” he says. “We’ve seen all the trends in our industry, from neon colors to monstrous-sized t-shirts, and just as companies had to implement a child labor policy, they now have to have a green policy.”

Franey says the narrowing price differential of eco-friendly products will enable many more companies to jump onboard with the environmentally aware, but he depends on consultative selling techniques to close green product sales.
 
“I’m finding people are still willing to spend money,” he says. “It comes down to consultative selling. If you’re just selling on price only, you always want to be fighting to bring more value and tell a compelling story.”

Tell Clients Your Eco-Friendly Message

Whichever practices you decide to start in your company, Mark Trotzuk, president of Boardroom Custom Clothing (asi/40705) says to let customers know the steps you are taking, but beware of labeling your company “green.”

“Calling yourself green is almost old now,” he says. “Many companies aren’t even marketing that they’re buying from a company that’s green unless they can substantiate it by a third party – and that’s expensive.”

Instead, consider publishing an environmental code of conduct explaining what you’re actually doing as a company and share your efforts with clients. Adding the tagline “Would you like to know about our commitment to the environment?” to all your letterhead and invoices with a brief statement beneath or a link to where they can find more information is a great way to inform clients, Trotzuk says.

Trotzuk also suggests joining industry partnership and stewardship programs sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help you build your company’s repute with other green business owners in your industry and build credibility with clients.

Haley Jones is an editorial intern for Wearables. 

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