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Green Strategy: 3 Key Aspects of Strategic Sustainability for Businesses

By Akhila Sriram on April 19, 2022

When it comes to global climate change and how businesses make an impact on the state of our world, much of the messaging consumers receive targets their individual choices. From reducing the use of plastic straws to recycling any materials they possibly can, consumers must deal with a barrage of tips for limiting their personal carbon footprint. When it comes to making shopping and purchasing decisions, advertising strategies related to sustainability may be a make-or-break aspect of whether a customer goes with one business’s product over another. These factors don’t drive every customer’s decision-making process, but for key groups, these aspects can be dealbreakers and can even be the foundation for long-lasting loyal customer/business relationships. When a business builds strategies targeted toward protecting the earth and its climate, customers who similarly care about sustainability will factor that into their decision-making.

Here are some popular and growing trends for businesses looking to take small or big steps towards being more sustainability-conscious as an organization. These aren’t possible for all businesses to undertake, and the complexity of these decisions will differ by business size and purpose, and implementing these strategies may alienate as many customers as they attract. Understanding customer decisions and the behaviors they lead to is key for businesses looking to change or upgrade their R&D, sales, and marketing strategies.

Making the Supply Chain Greener

With many companies promoting their company-wide carbon offsets for the impact on their supply chain, options for making shipping of all aspects greener have become a hot-button topic. According to the Harvard Business Review, “in recent years a rising number of multinational corporations have pledged to work only with suppliers that adhere to social and environmental standards.” The main obstacles to this happening faster are the infrastructural and workforce issues with shifting huge parts of the supply chain to more sustainable methods. Suppliers, shippers, and manufacturers are all looking to cut costs to be the more attractive option in a sea of competitors, so this shift in standards has been difficult for these businesses to catch up to. By collaboratively committing to global goals for making the supply chain more sustainable, businesses have had an easier time individually reducing their carbon footprint with green strategy. But there’s definitely still room to grow, especially in terms of making sure procurement staff know what to look for in terms of sustainability standards.

Sustainably Sourced Production Materials

Whether it’s making sure packing materials are recycled and recyclable or going all the way to garments being able to be recycled and recyclable, how products are made is changing rapidly. In an interview with McKinsey, H&M Group’s global sustainability steering and development manager, Vanessa Rothschild shared how she’s helping shape sustainability strategy for all aspects of their product-based business and how the outlook of retail and especially garment businesses is evolving. She’s focused on developing what she terms a “circular ecosystem within the fashion industry: circular supply chains, circular products, and circular customer journeys,” so that all aspects of their business are sustainable and cyclical. Shifts like this are happening in tandem with strategic shifts away from less-sustainable aspects of production, like the land, water, chemicals, and energy that go into producing raw materials and how that compounds with further processing costs to finally become products for consumers. By strategically tackling where materials and processing are spending resources, the whole industry can slowly shift to better options for every aspect of the product lifecycle.

Use of Renewable Energy Sources

According to the Green Business Bureau, “As part of their Ten-Point Plan, the U.K. has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050… Similarly, the U.S. has plans for 100% carbon neutrality by 2050 under the Biden-Harris Administration.” Regulations and commitments like these have been rolling out at various national and global levels and with varying timelines and strategies for shifting the global energy consumption away from limited and dwindling energy sources to more long-lasting or renewable sources of energy production.

When it comes to the business impact of these energy commitments, businesses can show a take-charge attitude by mirroring or even taking such national or global energy commitments further, on an organizational basis. Companies like Intel and Kohl’s have taken it upon themselves to shift their organizations towards renewable energy sources. From Intel’s offices to Kohl’s stores shifting to renewable sources of energy, the product itself that customers buy isn’t directly impacted by this green strategy, but employees and customers alike may have a greener perspective on the businesses overall. By not only taking action but showing longer-term commitment towards these goals of carbon neutrality and energy production, companies can show how purpose drives their long-term strategies and how the business as a whole seems to be positioned for the future, in this aspect.

Is Implementing a Green Strategy Actually Effective with Customers?

After sharing all of these case studies of businesses implementing strategies related to sustainability, anyone would wonder, “how can my business do the same?” And the answer to that question is: it’s complicated. Each business has unique needs, products and services, and customer bases that can all be differently affected by implementing initiatives such as those described above. Plastic-free packaging isn’t possible for all businesses, renewable sources of energy may not be accessible for some businesses, and sustainably sourced raw materials may be too expensive for some companies to immediately transition to.

Greater than all of that, starting any of these initiatives may not pay off in ROI from customer excitement or interest as much as businesses or their strategists would hope. Building a purpose-driven strategy is unique to each organization. OSG has had years of experience building strategies based on customer behavior, in all industries, and our lasting wisdom in this space is that each business needs a strategy that works best for them. By working with our sales team to understand your company’s unique needs, we can help your teams build better and stronger strategies for long-term growth, related to your purpose and drive as an organization. Contact us today to learn more about how our technology can help your business grow.