Millennials put their money where their beliefs are. Two out of three say they’re willing to pay higher prices for products and services from socially and environmentally conscious businesses.
For obvious reasons, consumer trends like this catch the attention of business leaders. In recognition of the shifting priorities and corresponding customer loyalty, more and more businesses are making sustainability a strategic priority. The number of companies reporting on sustainability quadrupled between 2011 and 2015.
That said, integrating sustainability into the corporate mindset can be difficult for some businesses to maintain long-term. Twenty-eight of the companies on Radley Yeldar’s 2015 list of top 100 companies for social purpose failed to earn a spot on the 2016 list. This may be due in part to a widening field of companies to recognize, but there’s also a common thread: When it comes to sustainability, you can’t succeed by merely talking the talk.
Authenticity Is Critical
To be successful, corporate sustainability efforts require buy-in up and down the org chart and a strong focus on integrating policies and practices into the company’s culture and day-to-day operations.
Patagonia is an excellent model for how to weave sustainability into your company’s DNA. Their commitment to reducing consumption is more than a slogan. They back up their ads discouraging customers away from unnecessary purchases with programs to repair (versus replace) Patagonia products.
Granted, Patagonia sets a high bar that may not be realistic for many companies, but the point is to define a path that’s right for your company. Doing so requires organizational commitment and employee engagement, and business leaders hold the key. Lead by example to inspire employees to want to be part of something that serves the triple bottom line; this is how sustainability becomes a permanent part of your company’s culture.
Here are three simple tips to help you to successfully integrate sustainability into your company brand:
1. Show, don’t tell.
Challenge your employees to compare your actions to your words. If your actions aren’t aligned with your message, people will see right through it, and sustainability will become just a trendy word that people use to sound current.
For our company, pursuing B Corp certification is where it all came together. Proving that our company meets high environmental and social responsibility standards goes a long way toward conveying our values and credibly connecting the dots for customers who share the same philosophy.
2. Communicate the benefits clearly, and lead by example.
Inspired buy-in is critical: When people understand the impact of sustainability initiatives and the role they play in it, they’re usually eager to participate.
The B Corp certification process prompted our company to examine and change our everyday habits. For example, recycling wasn’t offered at our offices, so we made it happen ourselves. When business leaders are emptying recycling bins or dragging them outside for pickup, employees take notice.
3. Invite people to join you.
Visible support from leadership can inspire employees to translate your corporate values into their daily lives, at work and beyond. For example, the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk gives its employees 10 paid days off per year to volunteer. Facilitating employee involvement in community-based initiatives sends a powerful public message about your company’s values.
Succeeding at sustainability comes down to effective leadership. Figure out how best to tell your story, show employees and customers why the initiative is important, and lead the way forward. You might be surprised by how effective and inspiring these simple actions can be.