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Building a Sustainable Brand Online

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Published: September 5, 2014

Originally, the term ‘sustainability’ was most often used to describe the long-term profit potential of a brand. Today, a sustainable brand is used to characterize a business as having a green, or ecologically correct, operating philosophy. Whether you refer to it as a sustainable, green or ethical business model, a sustainable brand embraces a three-pronged bottom line: planet, people and profits.

A successful sustainable brand must embrace and integrate a combination of environmental, social and economic philosophies across three critical brand elements:

  • The products and services that the company markets.
  • The business standards that the company applies to a brand. These may include processes, business strategies, methods of product delivery, and core values.
  • The individual style or personality of the company. This is often reflected in the voice or tone that the company uses in communicating with the public.

Requirements for Establishing a Sustainable Brand
In addition to integrating its core sustainability philosophies into the brand elements, a company must also:

  • Document all of the underlying values and practice standards that the company will adhere to.
  • Apply its guiding environmental, social and economic sustainability policies in all business and marketing decisions.
  • Market environmentally friendly products that serve to reduce the demand for competing non-sustainable products.
  • Commit to being a more environmentally friendly corporate citizen that its competition.

Don’t Forget the Strategic Partners and Suppliers
Today’s sustainable-oriented marketplace requires companies to take the policies and practices of partners and suppliers into account; a truly sustainable organization is responsible not only for its own product but for all of the underlying components that are used to create that product even if supplied by a third-party vendor.

Tips for Building Your Sustainable Brand Presence
While the techniques of building an online presence for a sustainable brand are pretty much the same ones you would employ with a non-sustainable product, there are a few important considerations that you need to be aware of.

  • Competing against non-sustainable products has certain drawbacks as well as benefits. The most successful market leaders in any given niche or field are usually the innovators. Luckily for you, the best new innovations are usually sustainable. This helps differentiate your brand and can provide a distinct competitive advantage. The downside is that consumers in general won’t pay extra for green.
  • Look at your total branding package through the eyes of the consumer. Pay particular attention to those elements that are the most visible to your customer such as your website, stationery, and product packaging. These are the areas that will provide an immediate impact on brand perception and your profitability.
  • Your sustainability efforts must be tied to your core business. Don’t waste time and resources with something unrelated to your business – consumers could easily end up hating you for it. Installing solar energy panels on your factory might be a great idea, but if that factory continues to pump out noxious fumes, you’re still the bad guy.

Remember that sustainability branding calls for two-way conversations as opposed to one-way communications. Engaging in a real two-way dialogue is a great way to build trust and support for your green initiatives. Social media is the perfect vehicle for this type of communication.