RESOURCES: Selling Intangible Green Benefits That Cannot Be Seen

Dispatch from SSC Intern Emilia Pramova

Although green is the only way to go, especially during the current crisis, businesses have found it hard to sell abstract environmental benefits (especially if they cost more at the selling point) both internally and externally, while they try to juggle with what customers want and what is good for the bottom line. Beneficial environmental performance is often accomplished behind the scenes (i.e. energy efficiency measures are not always evident on the finished product) and such intangible benefits represent significant environmental upgrades. Upgrades that often make a bigger difference than reduced packaging or other claims publicized through labels or ads.

So how can businesses successfully market these benefits? Greenbiz gives 4 keys to selling the true value of green products.

1. Help Customers Connect the Dots

Overcome the perception that greener things cost more through a "total cost approach" by emphasizing the total cost of ownership. Customers should understand that there is more value in a $50 gallon of environmentally friendly, concentrated cleaning solution compared to a conventional solution – for example the quantitative savings like energy efficiency, water conservation, reducing energy use, reduced injury rates (i.e. if the cleaning solution is less likely to cause respiratory illness this increases worker productivity and operational efficiency and decreases health costs).

2. Encourage Change by Showing Success Stories

Industry pioneers and mission-driven companies show how reduction of GHGs also leads to reduction in costs.

3. llustrate that Green is a Spectrum

There is a green cost continuum – some products may cost more up front but they might last longer, save costs in the long run and deliver value from customer engagement. Also, an accumulation of small green steps do help a company shrink its overall environmental footprint, and are genuine signs of progress. Additionally, greener purchases make employees happier and help achieve environmental goals.

For example, Stonyfield won a manufacturer of the year award for the sustainability of their supply chain. It has a positive impact on the environment, creates more revenue and more customer loyalty.

4. Talk to the Right Person

The CEOs or CSOs of a company can see the big picture and make the connection with long-term savings and environmental benefits.

Although it can be generally difficult to sell "soft" or intangible values such as increased brand loyalty or employee satisfaction, the good news is that sustainability managers and CEOs are often able to connect the dots and are much more receptive to the concept. Reaching out to those employees – who may be in the managerial suit or may just be devoted to the environment – can make all the difference in selling the intangible benefits of products.

People make buying decisions first and foremost based on economics. But by engaging sustainability officers in discussions with purchasing departments, it is easier to articulate that buying value added products, like recycled paper, represents the broader values of a company. Also another important value that a comprehensive sustainability platform can bring for a company is making the workplace a desirable place.

Access the entire Greenbiz article by clicking here.