Updated: Apr 14
A Wealth of Evidence is Emerging
There’s no point in pretending that sustainability is a subject small businesses and soul traders don’t find creates more work. And it costs money. However, adopting environmental practice is increasingly becoming one of the smartest moves you can make to gain real competitive advantage.
There’s a glut of data that shows both consumer and B2B buyers seek out green credentials from those they purchase from, and more and more reject those that don’t have them. We are not talking about sizeable minorities of buyers here. We are talking about at least half of business buyers and a similar proportion of consumers. This trend is only going to grow, both in terms of numbers, and depth of feeling.
In the long term, robust green credentials will be a sales and marketing necessity, in the short and medium term, they provide escalating competitive advantage to those that push sustainability the fastest.
So when did buyers adopt such strong environmental attitudes?
It started during lockdown. Something extraordinary happened to the UK population’s commercial thinking. It moved from that of ‘What does the brand / label do for me?’, to ‘What does the brand / label do for my family, friends and society?’ Buying motivation shifted from self to those closest, and to creating a better society.
The discovery was made during analysis of tens millions of social media posts and discussions that took place during enforced isolation. The Brandwatch study discovered attitude to buying changed fundamentally. This incorporated the need to see social responsibility from brands, including work practices and supply chain, and high standards of environmental behaviour. These qualifications for purchase are now key factors in consumer buying decision making.
Unsurprisingly, the same shift in attitude occurred in business. Business buyers are after all, subject to private influences, and the same applies to senior management, procurement departments, and shareholders too.
What was initially identified through social media analysis, is now reflected in widespread consumer and business purchasing habits. Green credentials significantly help sell products and services, and the influence sustainability has on buying decisions is growing.
B2B Buyers Insisting On Supplier Social Value Credentials
Fleishman Hillard’s 2022 report on the influence of social impact and environment on B2B buying, finds 50 per cent of companies switching suppliers say social and environment are the top reason for change. 42 per cent of businesses have switched suppliers or business partners due to inadequate credentials and commitment. 73 per cent of managers of larger companies, and 51 per cent of SMEs, say social value will become more important factors in their decision making in the next two to three years. 76 per cent of decision makers think other companies should do more to make their social and environment commitments known.
What This Means Commercially
If you want to get ahead you need to demonstrate action on sustainability, but this doesn’t require major change overnight. Nobody expects companies and the self-employed to get everything right all at once. There’s an intrinsic understanding that each company and sole trader is in a different situation, that each has unique challenges, and it’s not always easy to take big steps.
Obviously it’s important to broadcast sustainability progress. Even the most advanced initiatives are invisible if they are not made public. The best way to do this is by telling the story of the journey towards better practice. Like all good stories, it should feature the ups and downs, the stumbling blocks, and how they were overcome. Everyone likes a trier. Put your story on social media and other marketing channels, and it will engage and bring rewards.
There is one trap it’s important to avoid. Never give in to the temptation to overclaim. It’s fraught with danger. Greenwashing has entered the top tier for public annoyance and condemnation. And it’s very difficult to win back credibility once there is a belief that exaggerated green claims have been made. What’s more, big projects aren’t always what creates the best perception. It is genuine consistent progress that matters.
As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one small step. Make your sustainability progress commercially rewarding by making sure customers and sales prospects know about it.
Get in touch with us for more advice about how we can help your company grow by developing and activating your brand across all marketing and media channels.
PR & Marketing agency - Good Karma Media