Pros and Cons to Marketing Your Company as Green

Late last week I found myself in New Jersey in a deep conversation with a friend, Ron Bergamini, CEO of Action Carting, a waste management company.  Their several hundred employees and 100+ trucks on the streets makes them one of the largest in NYC.

The conversation turned to marketing his company and how to promote it as being “green”.  Ron has not fully leveraged this as of yet.

I was really surprised.

Surprised because he has one of the greenest waste management companies I’ve ever seen!  Not only do they do use extremely detailed and intensive recycling of materials for their customers in their recycling center, they also collect about 35-40 tons of compost… a day!  This diverts a significant amount of NYC waste from ending up in our already overloaded landfills.

Some of Action Carting’s clients are the largest and best-known businesses here in the City.

So, why isn’t Ron fully leveraging all this in his marketing?

What he knows that most don’t is how tricky it is to market a company as being green… in a way that won’t trip his company up later.

Pros to Green Marketing

  • Reputation—people love to know how your product or service is helping communities and the environment.  Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop, made her company so incredibly successful on this principle before she sold it.  The more the authentic value the potential customer gets from the story, the less they focus on the price.
  • Leadership— when you take a lead in your industry for being the first, the best, or the most engaged in being green, you most likely will be seen as the expert and/or leader.  Soon you’ll have the industry including you and coming to you for advice and input.
  • Loyalty—the more involved your business is with your stakeholders and taking on environmental issues that you can relate back to your business goals, the more people will want to support you.  To a degree.  Make sure you keep this in check and are clear on what the benefits and costs are for what you are doing.
  • Leverage— by engaging your community, vendors, customers, and other stakeholders, you will create a team who will more likely help promote your business.  Also to leverage the fact that you are authentically green will often times attract new sets of eyeballs.
  • Efficiency—in many cases, but not all, your costs will decrease by going green.  Reduced expenses often occur in ways difficult to predict:  reduced sick days of employees, less expensive energy costs or smaller invoices for garbage collection, for example.
  • Growth—existing products or services can (sometimes) demand a higher price.  Additionally, you might have access to new vertical markets as well as create new applications of your product/service.  Perhaps even develop a new one or two to complement your existing line.

Cons to Green Marketing

  • Skepticism—with so many companies promoting their “green-nes”, when often times they are not that green—known as greenwashing—its no wonder consumers are trusting less these claims.  Managing this can be quite tricky, even when you are authentic about your claims.
  • Engagement—getting your stakeholders on board with your green company is usually time consuming and can be expensive.  Social media can help, but can take a tremendous amount of time and often has limited results if not well planned.
  • Complexity—to really address and take responsibility for your company’s impact on the planet is by far not an easy task.  It takes research.  And it takes commitment to fully understanding the core issues.
  • Perception—your product is more expensive and/or not as effective than “non-green” alternatives.  Usually this is not the case, and getting your customers to understand this can be costly and challenging.
  • Resistance—in trying something new.  From investors to customers, getting stakeholders to embrace your company going green may not be a smooth ride.

To implement a green marketing campaign is your choice.  It comes down to if you have what it will take to navigate these complex waters of promoting your company as green.

And whether you have a passion for it or not.

In Ron’s case, his commitment to his business and the environment is obvious.  And while the results in increased revenue and reduced costs are still being tabulated, they promise to be significant.

So Ron has decided to take on telling the world about how green his carting company really is and the impact it is having on New York City.

Perhaps you should do the same?

NOTE:  My newest company, the Shift Group, helps small-to-medium sized companies get the most out of their “green ways”.

Action Steps for the Week

Been thinking about marketing your company as being green?  Great!

First, take a hard look at what you are committed to.  Are you authentically committed to integrating your company with your community and taking responsibility to improving the environment?

Or are you doing it because you see a way to make more money?

Or both?

Depending on your answer is how you should proceed.  If you’re doing it just for the money, you will most likely fail.  Because without the authenticity and passion, you will either be discovered in the marketplace and be labeled as a greenwasher, or you’ll quit early on as you try to do it correctly.

Once you are clear on your commitment, examine how to integrate your involvement with your local community.  How do you engage them?  Get them to want your involvement?

Do the same for environmental issues you feel fit your company’s brand, mission and vision.

Once together, start to implement your strategy.  Don’t forget to engage your stakeholders along the way.

And tabulate the results of your green marketing campaign.