(Excerpt from Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World by Jay Conrad Levinson and Shel Horowitz)
When you look at all the advantages of running a green company, it’s hard to understand why every company in the world hasn’t shifted:
Worldwide, consumer consciousness on these issues is growing by orders of magnitude. The green market is growing faster than just about anything else; Green America reported that even during the 2008–2011 recession, the green building sector grew an astonishing 1700 percent, while the overall sector shrank by 17 percent; during approximately the same time, the organic food sector was up 238 percent, compared to just 33 percent growth in total food sales.
Google searches for “climate change date:1990”, climate change date:2004”, and “climate change date:2014” show the trend. Google found 1,810,000 results for articles published in 1990, 7,570,00 for 2004, and 58,200,000 for 2014—a 769 percent increase in those ten years.
Green products and services often command a premium price, and thus can be more profitable. A McKinsey study in 2012 found that close to 70 percent of consumers would pay a slight (5 percent) premium for a green product that performed just as well. Here’s something amazing: a worldwide study by Neilsen that surveyed over 29,000 people in 58 countries found a greater willingness to pay higher prices for green products in India (75 percent), Thailand, and the Philippines (both above 66 percent) than in countries we think of as both more socially aware and having more disposable income.
Of course, green products are better for the environment: they use fewer resources, less energy, more organic and natural materials—and thus create less pollution, have a smaller carbon footprint, and are easier to dispose of.
Against conventional wisdom, green products can actually be cheaper to produce—if properly designed (see the profiles of Amory Lovins and John Todd in chapter 20). Business leaders including Swiss banking giant HSBC, the Bank of England, and Germany’s largest utility, E.ON recognize the need to get our economy off fossil fuels.
As far back as 2008, Plenty Magazine named “10 ideas that will change our world”—and six of those ten (turning waste into new inputs, green affordable housing, green media, green jobs, carbon labeling, and pay-as-you-go energy retrofits) are directly and explicitly rooted in green thinking. The other four all have a green component.
Even the often-pessimistic Bill McKibben, author of the groundbreaking The End of Nature (widely recognized as the first book on climate change written for a mainstream, nonscientist audience, published way back in 1988) and founder of the climate-advocacy mass movement 350.org, sees that citizen action has turned the tide on public awareness of climate change.
Areas of living that we used to take for granted are now being re-examined under a green microscope. Suddenly, green is an issue in every single industry. We even found an article on choosing a green pediatrician. The doctor-author writes, “As you did when choosing an ob/gyn, you want to find a pediatrician who is top-notch medically. How much better if he or she is also on the journey to an environmentally sustainable perspective on pediatrics!”
The more effectively a company can demonstrate commitment to environmental values, the easier it will be to convince those consumers to channel their business to that company. For instance…
- The hotel industry’s change in towel washing policies—with essentially no consumer resistance because this cost-cutting move was successfully marketed as a green initiative
- Moves among publishers to slash print inventories, shift many titles to on-demand printing, and eliminate the practice of allowing bookstores to return unsold books, citing both environmental and economic reasons
Conveniently enough, many green initiatives not only make a company more attractive to consumers, but actually cut existing costs. And these will survive corporate restructuring. If they actually both save money and make money, they won’t be on the chopping block when the company faces hard times or a new management team. As Joel Makower puts it in his book, Strategies for the Green Economy…
Companies that don’t leverage their environmental achievements and commitment in a way that produces business value often find that green is the first thing to go when times get tough—when there’s a change in leadership, when shareholders raise questions, or when your company otherwise finds that being seen as an environmental leader is no longer convenient. On the other hand, if you can say, “Our sustainability initiatives have reduced costs and boosted revenue by creating new markets, adding new products, and deepening loyalty with customers,” this creates a long-term justification for a sustainability strategy and for environmental issues broadly.
Reframing this discussion in line with the abundance mindset we discussed earlier, Melissa Chungfat advises companies to “move away from the language of sacrifice. Find ways to talk about how your product or service is easier, healthier, more convenient or lower maintenance. Be positive and solutions-focused.” She also suggests pointing out actual achievements, rather than sometimes-vague commitments.