Apr 18, 2023

How to Gain Customer Trust By Caring about Earth Day

Our planet is in crisis, with climate change now an ever-present topic or headline across news outlets. From wildfires to droughts to flooding, many experts believe action needs to be taken now to help and heal our planet. 

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg has been vocal about the need for governments and leaders to act now.

She warns in a Guardian article that the word 'change' is misleading as it lets people think there's room for improvement. While the word 'climate' is also problematic if you live in one of the high-emitting nations of the global north, the idea of a “changing climate” could be interpreted as the opposite of scary and dangerous - rather warm and tropical. 

But the reality is very different. 

“Climate change has become a crisis sooner than expected. So many of the researchers I’ve spoken to have said that they were shocked to witness how quickly it is escalating. ” Greta Thunberg

However, action is being taken across the world to fix the disconnect from nature and its repercussions.

Each year, on Earth Day (April 22nd), it’s worth shining a spotlight on how our business relationships are being affected and how brands must make changes to stay ahead.

The Weight of This Year’s World Earth Day

In 2023, Earth Day will focus (for the second year) on the theme 'Invest in Our Planet'. This theme is focused on engaging governments, institutions, businesses, and more than 1 billion citizens who participate annually in Earth Day to do their part - everyone accounted for, everyone accountable.

At the COP27 conference in Egypt, world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and introduce a new 'loss and damage' fund for vulnerable countries hit by climate disasters. 

Earth Day is a chance for us as business owners, parents, digital marketers, and stewards of the earth to pause and consider what really matters and how to implement actions that must be met.

Because, as we’re about to see, it not only solidifies a stable future for our children but for our businesses and working relationships as well.

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The Expectation of Corporate Responsibility

No business client, customer or partner enjoys working with someone who only meets expectations halfway.

According to a recent report by Salesforce, 73 percent of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations while 88 percent believe trust becomes more important in times of change. 

However, these days, your customers are expecting more than excellent customer service. They’re looking for environmental responsibility actions as well.

Take outdoor clothing retailer, Patagonia as a shining example.

Patagonia makes sustainable clothing and products for outdoor activities. Not only does Patagonia use sustainable materials, but it also gives customers the option to repair their clothing and buy items second-hand. It's also outspoken on many areas including climate change, sustainability, fair labor conditions and pay and supports grassroots organizations to make a change. In 2022 its founder Yvon Chouinard gave the company away to a trust and non-profit organization.  

Read: '16 Brands Doing Corporate Social Responsibility Successfully' to get some inspiration. 

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This is exactly why businesses’ true-hearted participation in Earth Day can be so powerful. It allows businesses to become brand leaders, meeting customer expectations head-on while inspiring customers to understand how their purchase creates a positive chain reaction.

So, how do you become an industry leader and a trustworthy source for a loyal customer base?

We’ve compiled the steps to get there.

5 Steps to Develop Lasting Sustainability Initiatives

There's been a shift in recent years with customers asking brands to be more transparent about their practices and do more to support and advocate on issues such as sustainability. 

A survey by Deloitte found that 58 percent of respondents want organizations to change their practices, 55 percent want brands to create awareness around problems such as climate change and another 41 percent want companies to take a stand by donating to a nonprofit.

But how does your brand begin a journey that maintains social and environmental initiatives?

1. Narrow & Solidify Your Focus

The problem most companies face is that of focus.

While organizations understand the value of sustainability practices and want to create initiatives to achieve them, it's not that simple.

The key to any initiative is for it to align with the purpose and mission of the brand. In other words, brands need to focus on achievable goals and changes that will make an impact and appeal to customers but also realize it's a long-term commitment that can take time and a lot of investment.  

The solution?

Pick one sustainability focus and stick to it.

2. Set Concrete Goals

Once you know what you’re focusing on, the next step is to create specific and measurable goals to work towards externally.

Before you integrate these goals into your yearly business strategy, make sure your intent is sharp and detailed. Use specifics in terms of amounts and timelines. For instance, if you choose to focus on eliminating emissions, outline how much and when you plan to reach that goal.

While it's important to create measurable and detailed goals, you should also define the difference between outcome and performance metrics for your goal.

Need ideas? Try these to start:

  • Develop sustainable products or services
  • Publish weekly sustainability reports
  • Eliminate 'X' pounds of packaging or waste by 2024

Diageo, the multinational beverage company, exemplifies this singular and concrete sustainability goal by reducing its plastic footprint in a simple yet effective way.

As part of its broad ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ targets the enterprise plans to ensure all of its plastics are widely recyclable, achieve zero waste in direct operations and zero waste to landfill in our supply chain, and develop regenerative agriculture pilot programs. 

“There is no company whose business model won’t be profoundly affected by the transition to a net zero economy…companies not quickly preparing themselves will see their businesses and valuations suffer.” Larry Fink, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BlackRock

3. Treat Sustainability as an Opportunity

Sustainability initiatives can not only help lower company costs but result in increasing profit. According to a McKinsey study, value-creating companies are more likely to make sustainability an element of their corporate culture and train employees on how to integrate sustainability into their work.

These types of companies also extend this in customer relations and are more likely than other companies to change product designs, develop new product-as-a-service models to address sustainability issues, and offer sustainable brands.

Customer engagement on sustainability issues
Customer engagement on sustainability issues

It's important to not silo sustainability, it has to be part of a business with organization-wide accountability for the results. For example, reaching sustainability targets shouldn't be the sole remit of those responsible for the supply chain, it should be built into every department across a business with performance-related targets. 

Collaboration can also play a key role here. Often sustainability initiatives are complicated and so coalitions with other companies or experts to set new standards or promote innovation can help.   

4. Create Sustainability Roles

An analysis by New Street Consulting Group (NSCG) found that the average monthly vacancies for sustainability directors jumped from 10 per month at the beginning of 2020 to more than 200 per month in 2022. 

By creating a position like Chief Sustainability Officer, Head of Sustainability or Head of ESG (environmental, social and governance in your company, you’ll be able to implement and manage sustainability goals on an ongoing basis.

On top of engaging with stakeholders, assessing the company’s sustainability perception, and creating a culture of corporate responsibility, a position like this can also integrate new ideas that may help the company expand in other ways.

“Addressing our climate crisis requires collective action, and businesses worldwide must be drivers in this effort,” said Anna Celner, Global Banking & Capital Markets Leader at Deloitte Global. “CSOs focused on measurable, decisive action can help make this a reality, and the more empowered we can make them, the more impact we will see across all areas of an organization. The future of our people, planet, and professions depend on it.”

“82% of senior executives are concerned that the next generation of business leaders don’t have the green credentials to build sustainable companies” NSCG

5. Document & Share Your Impact

66 percent of US consumers and 80 percent of young US adults (ages 18-34) surveyed are willing to pay more for sustainable products according to the Business of Sustainability Index report

However, 78 percent say that, despite their desire to support companies that align with their values, they don’t know how to identify environmentally friendly companies

So, if you’ve decided to make a sustainability change in your business strategy, make sure everyone knows. You can do this by: 

  • Using clear language on products
  • Offer independent source confirmation and research
  • Include labels or third-party certifications or credentials
  • Communicate openly and have information available in the public domain (e.g. a landing page or section on your website)

Be aware that the recent surge in inflation and rise in the cost of living is putting pressure on many households. Capgemini's report, ‘What Matters to Today’s Consumer' suggests that brands re-evaluate pricing strategies to provide affordable and sustainable options to consumers such as loyalty programs.  

Read: '8 Ways To Promote Corporate Social Responsibility On Social Media' to find out how to communicate to the public and your customers on social media. 

“What really makes our planet stand out is the clear, driving story that runs through the entire series and the wider communications project: The natural world isn’t just nice to have. It fundamentally matters to each and every one of us.” David Attenborough

Today’s Company to Customer Pledge: A Promise for a Sustainable Future

Earth Day means doing something big – not for a single day, but to implement and build upon, for life.

From the fashion group Cotton On's partnership with One Tree Planted and WWF-Singapore to plant 1 million trees in vulnerable areas, to the global youth-generated policy-focused movements such as Zero Hour, aimed at offering resources and training for young activists, people are answering their calls to action.

While the facts show that transitioning towards a more environmentally and socially responsible business strategy is financially beneficial, the core of these efforts shouldn’t come from marketing success. They must come from the heart.

Without a human response, ambitions fall short – a result of both the customer’s relationship with the brand and the business owner’s commitment to the goal.

(Blog updated April 18th 2023)

Become a Digital Marketing Pro

Events like Earth Day are a great way to engage prospects and boost brand awareness. DMI's Digital Marketing Pro course will not only teach you the fundamentals of digital marketing but explore the areas or social media marketing, SEO, analytics, strategy, PPC, email, and much more. Book your spot today to become an in-demand digital marketer.    

Diana Myers
Diana Myers

Diana Myers is a Candian copywriter, content expert and CBO of her content agency, Quill and Craft. Consumed by the art of storytelling, Diana is on a mission to humanize brands through humor, heart, and CSR practices. When she’s not glued to her laptop, you’ll find her studying ecological restoration, mapping out hikes less-traveled or brewing herbal potions for her reluctant partner.

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