It’s no secret that brands who effectively tell their stories consistently outperform competitors. What brand stories often lack, however, is a greater sense of purpose. Perhaps you started your business with the goal of being the best [insert your industry] company in North Carolina. That’s all well and good — but to your customer, that goal doesn’t mean anything. In order to connect with consumers, your company needs a mission that transcends simply growing your business and making lots of money. Why you do what you do matters to your customers, your employees, and your long-term mental health.
One critically important and increasingly popular mission companies are aligning with is conservation. And no — this isn’t your early 2000s brand of “greenwashing” that involved slapping a leaf sticker on your product’s package and claiming it’s “all natural.” What we’re talking about are innovations in the private sector that offer a glimmer of hope as our political narrative delves deeper into cynical tribalism. From grassroots campaigns like “Refuse the Straw” to industrial-scale innovations like Tesla’s solar roof, sustainability-minded organizations are changing consumer culture. As this culture evolves, so will the market. Genuine early-adopters will be rewarded and insincere bandwagoners will fall behind.
Here are five reasons your brand should help set the tone for the new economy by aligning with conservation:
1. Customers will choose you for reasons other than your price
Competing on price is a race to the bottom. Winning business by claiming to have the best price lures customers who are, in their nature, bargain-hunters. This relationship with your brand will evolve in one of two ways.
- You’ll not actually have the lowest price, but make a sale anyway. The customer will figure out that they can get a lower price elsewhere and ultimately leave you for the cheaper vendor.
- Your prices will be the lowest, but you will live in constant fear of someone having lower prices than you. Once this happens, you will be forced to lower your prices to their level, thus creating a price war, of which neither of you will truly win.
A brand with a strong mission, however, connects with consumers on a deeper level. That’s not to say these folks won’t still be influenced by the price of your offerings, but unless they fall on hard times or you do something to betray them, chances are they will remain loyal, repeat buyers. This is especially true with millennials who represent a growing proportion of all consumer spending.
2. You’ll attract young employees who buy into your mission
Good pay and benefits go a long way towards retaining the loyalty of employees, but at the end of the day, both are effectively bribes to keep them engaged. When your brand’s mission is authentic and clearly defined, employees will come to work with a sense of purpose that extends beyond executing their duties for a paycheck. This is especially important in poor economic times when finances are leaner or in booming economic times when there are ample opportunities for employment elsewhere.
Research shows this trend toward altruistic employment continuing to grow, particularly among the ranks of young people. While there are a multitude of noble purposes to pursue, conservation is one that tends to particularly resonate given the seemingly inevitable future of climate chaos and resource scarcity. Young people today will, in all likelihood, be forced to live in a world where they must cope with these realities. Standing by a proactive mission that focuses on preserving and restoring our natural environment is one way companies can signal to younger workers that they not only care about the world’s future, but theirs as well.
3. You’ll be better prepared to deal with an uncertain future
Prior to the market crashing in 2008, you might recall that US automakers were focused on producing a wide variety of spacious, gas-guzzling SUVs (note the since-discontinued Hummer). As gas prices soared to more than $4 per gallon, demand for behemoth vehicles dropped off in favor of smaller, more efficient cars. The lack of foresight surrounding fuel prices, combined with a massive recession would completely decimate the US auto industry prior to the Federal Government bailout in the early years of the Obama administration. Meanwhile, though still hurting from the recession, traditionally more fuel-efficient automakers (Honda, Toyota) pushed through without need for government intervention.
Today, we see an influx of fuel-efficient cars, from gas-electric hybrids to fully electric, plug-in options. These efficiencies extend beyond tiny vehicles to SUVS and minivans — proving that innovation in efficiency can create ample wiggle room for comfort. These innovations did not happen because gas shot back up to $4 per gallon (quite the contrary — fuel has largely remained below $3 per gallon since 2008). This efficiency is a combination of consumer demand and a need to innovate for when gas DOES eventually hit $4 or $5 or $6 per gallon (or runs out altogether?).
Resource scarcity is already upon us. You can thank fracking for the past decade’s boom of fossil fuel (nevermind what you think of the ecological ramifications of the process). But what about other critical resources?
What about chocolate becoming more scarce as climate change takes hold of growing regions?
What about glass, of all things, becoming more challenging to produce due to increasing sand shortages?
Companies that innovate through efficiency are automatically better-prepared than competitors to deal with a future where key resources are harder to come by. Even if you don’t have a cool $1 Billion to devote to fighting climate change, the foundation of your company’s ethos could set the tone for this sort of growth model for years to come.
4. The door will be open to numerous collaborations
If you’re a relatively small and/or new company, you might find it difficult and expensive to tell the story of why your mission matters at a large scale. Ad campaigns can be prohibitively expensive while relying entirely on in-person networking can be exhausting and ineffective.
A better way of “getting out in the world” is becoming involved with a conservation-focused non-profit. There are a number of ways you can do this, from volunteering your time (or your company’s time) to donating a portion of your proceeds.
Some might view this as opportunistic, but if your missions really do align, and you aren’t overly aggressive with showing the entire world, via social media, how wonderful you are, the relationship should be mutually beneficial.
5. You’ll help change the world for the better
Oh no… here we go with the cheesy Captain Planet send-off… But hear me out:
Without going into great detail, you might imagine why a lot of folks have become cynical about our government’s ability to intervene in climate change and other natural crises.
We can wait around, and eventually vote on (and hopefully elect) new leaders who are sympathetic to the plights of the natural world, OR, we can waste no time preserving the places we love and building a more efficient, cleaner economy through private innovation.
This does not mean the government can’t or shouldn’t have a role in all of this. The problems are simply too urgent to wait out.
Conservation efforts on behalf of giant corporations like Kroger phasing out the use of plastic bags by 2025 can be interpreted as inauthentic pandering, but in reality, eliminating the need for over 6 BILLION plastic grocery bags annually will undoubtedly make a positive impact.
Even if you’re not the Chief Sustainability Officer at a multinational corporation, there is still a lot you can do through your business to build a better, cleaner economy. These efforts, in collaboration with those of like-minded businesses, change the narrative of consumerism and ultimately, the world.
The #Refusethestraw campaign didn’t take hold instantaneously on a national level– but when thousands of business owners embraced the common sense policy of not automatically sticking a plastic straw in every beverage, the industry transformed quickly — and marine life is all the better for it.
Make Conservation Part of Your “Why.”
Entrepreneurs who want to do well while doing good should consider how their product or service can contribute to a healthier, sustained natural environment on planet earth. By doing things better, rather than bigger, you help build the ethics-driven economy our planet needs in order to overcome the numerous challenges that await us in the not so distant future.
If your brand is trying to help save the world, we would love to find out how.