Counselor Commentary: Don’t Give Up On Green

Target Right Companies And Results Can Be Impressive

Dave VagnoniAlright, let’s just be blunt right out of the gate with the of-course-you-knew-that part of the story. Eco-friendly or “green” promotional products aren’t as popular as they used to be. Bet your jaw didn’t drop over that nugget, huh? Indeed, the latest Counselor State of the Industry report shows 90% of distributors sold the same amount of green items or fewer of them in 2012 compared to 2011. This is not a one-year blip – it’s a multi-year trend. So it would be reasonable to think, then, that the eco-friendly movement – at least when it comes to promotional products – has moved on, right?

Well, maybe not entirely. It turns out that if you target the right companies, the revenue results can be quite impressive. In the November issue of Counselor, there’s a Q&A profile of Fairware Promotional Products (asi/191452), one of the fastest-growing distributors in the industry. You can read the complete Q&A by clicking here. Between 2010 and 2012, the Canada-based firm increased its sales by 65%, working with clients like Johnson & Johnson, Aveda and Patagonia. How did Fairware do it? By strictly selling eco-friendly products.

“We identified a gap in the market,” said Denise Taschereau, Fairware’s CEO. “Eight years ago, there were some distributors focusing on the green products arena, but very few that were also identifying social compliance as an issue.”

Translation: Fairware goes after companies that are eco-conscious – demonstrated through their branding, policies or mission statements. OK, at this point, since Aveda isn’t taking your calls, you might be thinking how exactly does this help me? Well, true, this prospecting strategy doesn’t relate to your local pizza shop, but how about your local florist, or health food stores, or energy companies?

So, that’s one part of the potential eco-revival. There’s another side, too. Survey after survey shows that Millenials – those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s – are embracing social responsibility and sustainability. As just one example, a survey released by the Intelligence Group and published in Adweek showed that 50% of Millenials consider eco-friendliness when buying products. You’ve heard stats like this before and you don’t buy them, right? Fair enough, but consider the brands that are now aggressively pushing sustainable and green products: Puma, 3M, BMW, H&M and Nike, among others.

And, by the way, before Walmart and Target started running an endless stream of Black Friday commercials, they both ran sustainable products and Earth-friendly ads in 2013. Maybe these brands are onto something. No, everything consumer doesn’t filter into the ad specialty industry. But, take notice: there are an increasing number of brands taking the eco plunge. It wouldn’t hurt for your firm to dip its toe into the water.