Founder and CEO of Packed with Purpose, where business gifts foster meaningful relationships and create deep social impact.
Consumers are making themselves heard loud and clear as they seek out and spend their dollars increasingly with businesses that commit to sustainable and ethical practices. Not only are they choosing products aligned with their personal values, but they are also willing to pay more for them. According to the 2022 Business of Sustainability Index report, 66% of consumers in the United States and 80% of young U.S. adults (ages 18-34) are willing to pay more for sustainable products versus less sustainable competitors. And it’s not just talking—per a recent Mckinsey & Nielsen report, in two-thirds of categories, products that made environmental, social and governance-related claims grew faster than those that didn’t.
That’s why we are all now barraged with an overwhelming amount of ESG messaging across products—from fashion to travel to office supplies. This, in turn, has led to consumer confusion as they parse between the varied environmental and ethical claims to feel confident in their values-based purchases. In fact, despite their desire to support companies that align with their values, 78% of surveyed consumers say they don’t know how to identify environmentally friendly companies. Worse, consumers may not trust claims—and for good reason. Research carried out in Europe found that 42% of green claims were exaggerated, false or deceptive, which points to “greenwashing” on a wide scale.
These dynamics have led to an increase in decision makers at companies leveraging ethical and environmental certifications like B Corp certification, 1% for the Planet, Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade to quickly and quantitatively demonstrate a commitment to these practices as consumers increasingly hold companies accountable for their environmental and societal behavior. Certifications provide the proof point for the claims. For example, a survey on B-Corps showed that 88% view the standards of certification as somewhat or very/extremely rigorous, and 63% reported seeking out the certification when making purchasing decisions. Even if companies are not seeking certification for themselves, decision makers are choosing certified vendors, partners and suppliers to reflect their ethical and environmental values to consumers.
So how can you incorporate ethical and environmental certifications into your business? If social and sustainable practices are already part of your business plan, the next step is adding certifications and sharing those with key stakeholders through your marketing. Here’s how.
Get certified and share it with the world—especially on your packaging.
Depending on your products, services or business model, you could pursue Fair Trade certification, one of the most recognizable certifications on the shelf. The Fair Trade Certified seal on a product “signifies that it was made according to rigorous, fair trade standards that promote sustainable livelihoods, safe working conditions, protection of the environment and strong, transparent supply chains.” You may have seen Fair Trade certification on everything from coffee to clothing to cocoa.
If Fair Trade certification isn’t relevant to your products or services, the 1% for the Planet certification may be a more attainable choice. 1% for the Planet is a certification program for businesses committed to donating 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes. Founded in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, the owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, the concept was simple: Because companies profit from the resources they take from the earth, they should protect those resources. Highlighting your commitment to investing in environmentally positive outcomes through a recognizable certification shared by over 5,000 members can quickly and effectively attract consumer awareness.
Choose partners and vendors that reflect your commitment.
Even if you don’t have a traditional consumer product with marketing packaging, you can highlight your ethical and environmental business values through the vendor choices you make. For example, you can choose Rainforest Alliance Certified hotels like Fairmont or Hyatt, which promote environmental, social and economic sustainability in agriculture and forestry for conference locations or employee travel.
Or minimize your carbon footprint by prioritizing office supplies that hold FSC recycled certification. The FSC is an internationally recognized certification system that ensures responsible forest management and promotes the use of recycled materials in the production of paper and other forest-based products. By using office supplies that are FSC recycled certified, businesses can demonstrate their dedication to reducing deforestation, protecting biodiversity and supporting responsible sourcing practices.
And the next time you send holiday gifts, use a B Corp Certified corporate gift company and choose gift baskets that feature other certified products. Beyond showcasing your company values, you’re giving your recipients what they want: Prospects and clients are increasingly interested in sustainable and eco-friendly gifts, and 63% of employees surveyed want a gift that makes a social impact.
Report on your impact.
It’s a crowded marketing environment and even a crowded market for environmental and social claims, so developing a solid marketing plan to share the impact behind your certification is key. Consider a separate corporate social responsibility report or devote several pages in your annual report to everything from your company’s reduced carbon emissions to the process that goes into certification. If you do get certified, seek out co-branding opportunities with other certified members and increase awareness through cross-audience promotion. Create an entire page on your website related to impact and your company values, and regularly and consistently share content that highlights your commitment to sustainability or ethical practices. Ensure it is central to your marketing strategy, not an afterthought.
As consumers vote for increased sustainability and climate-friendly products with their spending habits, more and more ethical certifications have emerged, including Climate Neutral Certified, LEED certification or the Global Organic Textile Standard. Leveraging certification can break through a cluttered marketplace by providing recognizable and validated accountability to consumers, partners and future hires. In the process, you can drive both positive outcomes for the world and your bottom line.
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