Why Marketing Needs to Understand Sustainability

One of the most common questions we get at WeSpire is “why does every employee need to understand our sustainability goals? Shouldn’t it just be for the facilities team or used as a way to rally passionate Millennials on the green team?”

To answer, we often speak about the value of seeing the entire business through a sustainability lens, both to identify new opportunities for impact and to see potential risks that are impossible for any one leader or team to see.

Then last week, a prime example showed up in our office mail. Two companies that wanted to do business with us tried to generate a deal by sending their marketing efforts our way.

The first was a clearly expensive, heavy-to-mail “Bossface Emergency Kit”.

Upon opening, one received several items that were hopefully meant to be a humorous — including a travel eyeshade, a fidget spinner, a large bottle of “prescription mints”, a spray bottle with an unknown substance in it, and a prescription note pad. It was wrapped in reams of bubble wrap and the entire thing was, in a word, useless [except the mints, although one colleague noted that in the age of opioid addiction that sending around fake prescription bottles is probably a bad idea].

Our team had no use for, or interest in, any of the items and couldn’t fathom anyone else would appreciate this kit either. Assumedly if you need an eyeshade to sleep, you have one. Are you going to spray an unknown item in your face? It was hard to write on the prescription note pad unless you flipped it over to the backside. And of course, very little of it was recyclable so nearly the entire kit went into the garbage. Not only did the marketer not get a response, but now we were collectively annoyed at how much waste was generated by this company. Waste that we had to pay to dispose of in both time and money.

The other marketer took a different tack. We opened the box to find it filled with colorful shredded, recyclable filling. A simple card, also recyclable, explained what they wanted us to buy. The kit included a high quality, all-natural peanut butter, a sleeve of saltines, and packets of Bonne Maman jelly which immediately prompted several people to come get a snack — and read their card.

Now we didn’t buy either company’s product that day.

However, I remember which company sent the high quality, brand aligned snacks, as does my hungry team, and I’m appreciative that they sent something useful. From a brand standpoint, that company’s direct mail piece also conveyed a ton about what mattered to them. It suggested that quality, and sustainability, were important which meant our values were aligned, particularly relative to the contrast provided by that other company. Assuming I’m in the market for this service someday, who am I more likely to call? Yes, the Peanut Butter and Jelly people. In fact, some of our customers have proven that engaging employees in sustainability increases customer loyalty.

But would the marketing person at the other company even know how bad an impact their gift had on my perception, and perhaps others, of them as a company? Doubtful — we will just be marked down as one of the other 95% plus of non-responders. We know that more and more companies, and people, care about their environmental footprint and will not appreciate having to trash someone else’s unsolicited junk. Their sales people likely have no idea that there is a brand hurdle they will need to overcome created by a not-that-funny and wasteful marketing tactic.

In this case, marketing needs to understand sustainability to make better, smarter decisions about direct mail customer acquisition efforts. This need to understand certainly goes beyond marketing, as a sustainability lens helps make better business decisions in nearly every single role in your company. I’m also confident that the cost of the PB&J was a lot less than those custom bossface mints and mystery-ingredient face spray. That’s the beauty of a good sustainability strategy applied to everyday activities — it saves money, it reduces risk, and it grows brand. Now that’s something marketing can support!

We’d love to hear about more examples of the best, and worst marketing items you have received, particularly vis-a-vis sustainability, in the comments.

Three Honest Reflections from Watching “An Inconvenient Sequela”

It’s been 10 years since Al Gore’s landmark film, An Inconvenient Truth, succinctly made many everyday people aware of the very real climate crisis we were facing. This week, I had a chance to watch the follow-up movie, “An Inconvenient Sequel,” and reflected on the progress, and challenges, we’ve seen in the past 10 years.

My own awareness of environmental health related problems had been awakened a year earlier and as a result, my family was embracing lots of new personal choices. I remember seeing the first movie and realizing that no matter what I did to change how we ate, how we reused and recycled, changed what we drove, and how we powered our home that the climate crisis required big, bold audacious solutions that scale. That movie was just one of the many inspirations for leaving an organization I loved to become part of a relatively early wave of “climate entrepreneurs” when I founded WeSpire [formerly known as Practically Green].

This week, as I watched the follow-up movie, “An Inconvenient Sequel” and it prompted the following reflections.

  1. This has been a really hard 10 years. Although it’s been filled with some landmark reasons for hope and celebration, like the Paris Accords and the huge boom in solar globally, we’ve also experienced profound discouragement and challenges ranging from the lack of funding for cleantech innovation to of course, our current president’s position on just about every topic related to the environment. I was so appreciative of Al Gore’s honesty and candor about how hard it’s been. If nothing else, it made me feel like part of a club of fighters and survivors who are prevailing in spite of daunting odds.
  2. Everyone who is fighting for a cleaner, more just and sustainable world will be on the right side of history. This point was one of the most poignant and passionate parts of the movie. Al Gore is someone I think of professor-like, but not necessarily a Martin Luther King-esque inspiring speaker. However, as he so passionately and eloquently likened the climate movement to the fight for civil rights, women’s rights, and marriage equality, I almost jumped out of my seat and cheered.
  3. One line that really stood out, particularly in light of this week’s events, was when he said that we not only have a climate crisis but a democracy crisis. From his TED Talk, he says, “As important as it is to change the light bulbs, it is more important to change the laws. And when we change our behavior in our daily lives, we sometimes leave out the citizenship part and the democracy part. In order to be optimistic about this, we have to become incredibly active as citizens in our democracy. In order to solve the climate crisis, we have to solve the democracy crisis.”

This week has been one enormous reminder that our generation has an absolutely critical mission to restore trust in democracy and in our ability as a nation to come together to solve really big problems. We need to join together as businesses, as cities, as towns, as neighbors and friends to insist and ensure the equitable and fair treatment of all people regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, and ethnicity. We can ‘ and will — solve the climate crisis in part by asking everyone to push their business, their town, their school and their state for a transition to cleaner sources of power. The UN Sustainable Development Goals have also given us frameworks and targets for the other goals that ensure a better and more equitable world for everyone.

We’re excited by the commitments that towns, cities, states, and businesses have made to move forward towards achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. To do our part in accelerating this movement, WeSpire has launched 18 campaign that align with the UN SDGs to support building awareness and inspire people to take action. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help, support or guidance. We’re always willing to lend a hand to companies trying to tackle these important issues.

Get me to the Green. Green Actions for Everyone.

For some, making sustainable choices comes naturally, but for many, it takes a bit more effort and lots of discipline. This Earth Month we’ve compiled a list of environmentally friendly habits you can work to form, ranging from simple to complex. No matter where you are in your green journey there are actions you can take.

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10 Last Minute Earth Day Ideas

Earth Day is rapidly approaching, and the excitement is growing here at WeSpire! We’re helping our awesome customers create the most impactful Earth Day programs possible, and had a few ideas to share. Continue reading