By Jennifer Perillo
Jan. 28, 2010
“Be not simply good - be good for something,” are the words of author and Naturalist, Henry David Thoreau. It seems almost ironic that customers and companies alike are making a stronger shift toward becoming sustainable due in part to our use of natural resources, escalating the harsh affects of global warming. These conditions have greatly affected corporate structures allowing smaller companies to become swallowed up by the corporate Goliath’s in today’s combustible marketplace. Now, more than ever before, companies compete for market share and are looking to be viable sustainable solutions for their customers.
The unnatural economic landscape paved by humans leaves many companies no option but to “diversify or die.” Still, in light of today’s economic upheaval, there are a few companies that continue to remain a sustainable solution and follow through on Thoreau’s consciousness, creating a positive impact on the environment by providing environmentally-friendly solutions without the added cost.
For manufacturing companies, it can be a difficult job to provide customers with everything they are looking for in a product without short-changing them when it comes to good service, product education and delivery. The price of entry is to provide environmentally-friendly products at competitive prices that are good quality across all product categories.
Instability in the social and economic environment often leads companies - large and small - to re-evaluate their business strategies to make sure that they are doing all they can to guarantee success for themselves and their customers. It is an absolute necessity to become a sustainable company. Why? Because a new generation of thinkers has brought to our attention the significant economic implications associated with not being sustainable and turned it into a global initiative through such entities like the Bruntland Commission and the Kyoto Protocol.
Sustainability will not be going away anytime in the near future, instead it will become an even larger global and corporate initiative, which will inevitably be followed by even more legislative control, ultimately changing the corporate foundation for many companies. Life Cycle Assessments and carbon footprints are some of the measurements being used by companies to identify and evaluate the environmental impact of their particular product or service, as well as the amount of CO2 emitted by corporations.
In order to separate yourself from the competition, it is necessary to offer not only superior service, but to become adaptable to the new landscape around you. For companies, simply buying right and selling the bundle will only account for a part of the whole; you now need all of the elements in order to even be considered competition. In order to be successful in selling sustainability, corporations must first engage their suppliers with compelling propositions. The message that you use has to be enough of a factor for a customer to either keep business with a particular supplier or switch to another brand.
Sustainability selling requires not just good quality product at a good price, but it has to have options in all product categories. Finally, proving yourself as a segment champion or specialist will also be fundamental. Selling sustainability and the green proposition to many C-level executives does come with many challenges. Although, many C-level executives want to sell sustainability they might not know where to start. There are many factors to consider such as employee acceptance, negative impact on facility appearance and the large cost often associated with making facilities compliant.
A multi-faceted consultative approach is necessary, but it must have a focus on education. In order to be persuasive one will need to address different variables such as: economic and environmental factors, short-and long-term benefits, employee well-being and public relations opportunities. The plan should not just appeal to upper level management, but all those involved in the decision making process including external parties. It has to appeal to financial stakeholders, customers, operations, product users and environmental groups.
Although we have done much through our own hands to eradicate our natural resources and turn our world into an unnatural one, there are still companies, who live by their roots, and are dedicated to making a positive impact on the environment and help others do the same by creating environmentally-friendly and sustainable, good quality products at affordable prices. In light of today’s perilous economic and environmental situation, sustainability has become a common theme for many companies and will become a greater concern in years to come.
Sustainability is no longer an option for success - it is the key. Corporations are tasked to emulate the words of Thoreau - “be good for something,” and though it may not turn the ultimate profit in the short-term, it may turn a few heads and sustain us for the next evolution of change.
Jennifer Perillo is executive marketing manager for Atlas Paper Mills in Miami. Atlas Paper Mills was truly “born green,” and is the only 100 percent Green Seal - certified-manufacturer of recycled tissue and towel products in Florida. Since its inception in 1981, Atlas has never cut down a single stand of virgin timber to create its environmentally friendly tissue and towel product solutions, and has donated 25,000 trees to the Friends of Florida State Forest. Perillo may be reached at [email protected].