Can COVID Make Us More Sustainable?

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Sustainability found its spotlight in the first few months of the pandemic, erupting in some muchneeded support, research, and enthusiasm. As lockdown ensued and persisted, consumers found that the items they purchase and utilize impact the environment, sparking a drive to find more sustainable alternatives and resources.   

Communities and corporations coming together to lower the amount of non-sustainable products they use has beneficial impacts. The more consumers participate in switching to sustainable alternatives, the lower emissions will become. Making the small changes in daily lifestyles can birth leaders in the world, helping the rest of us go down a more environmentally conscious path. 

Leading consumers to choose sustainable products and resources starts with pricing and with how well the alternative works in comparison to the accepted. Marketing comes into play here, as sustainable brands need to find a voice among all of the flip-flops of the trending industries and products. Sustainability is a concept that consumers are only likely to partake in when it is deemed better than non-sustainable products. Playing on the pros of these alternatives will allow green companies to create a powerful story that will overcome their competitors. 

Green-washing has become a heated topic among large companies selling brands marketed toward the sustainably conscious. Utilizing a clean pallet and specific wording to gloss over the impure nature of the products and corporations is how big brands pass the surface sustainability test for consumers.  

The palm oil industry is a prime example of a market without watchdogs adhering companies to honest claims. It is on consumers to educate themselves and demand better ingredients. The Associated Press broke a story linking palm oil environmental destruction and labor abuses to the world’s top brands. While most companies are still using palm oil, there is a small but powerful contingent of indie brands eliminating this deadly filler from products. People just need to know what to look for.   

David Bass, the founder of Peet Bros., the brand that puts the planet first by creating 100% palm-free skincare products, said, “We are relieved to see the dangers of palm oil exposed. There are years of research proving that extracting palm oil is harmful to not only the environment but also the workers made to extract it.”  Mr. Bass founded Peet Bros. to help expose the palm oil industry and spread awareness of the dozens of reasons why palm oil is destroying the environment, pushing animals to extinction and violating human rights. The overuse of palm oil is causing deforestation and climate change, and is destroying the homes of endangered species like orangutans; in the past 10 years the orangutan population has been cut in half. Avoiding palm oil is just as important if not more important than avoiding plastic. The rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia are being burned to the ground for it.  

Green-washing covers up the inconsistencies that corporations promote through their products, and it can be hard to differentiate a green-washed company from a pure one. It’s important for consumers and companies to clearly identify ingredients in their products by double-checking formulators and manufacturers.  

Consumers need to be made aware of the tactics that companies use to wash over their products, such as choosing “clean” colors like green, blue, or white and utilizing “fresh” imagery like plants, tea, and water. It is up to consumers to do the research necessary to make sure they are not purchasing these products. Companies and consumers need to band together to collectively dismantle green-washing motives and promote truly pure and sustainable alternatives by seeking answers through responsible trade publications like WholeFoods Magazine, manufacturers, and related associations. 

Communication is key in creating a more sustainable and honest atmosphere within the corporate and consumer sphere. Companies need to reach their consumers through specific phrasing that is true and pure to their products in order to encourage them to shop sustainably and responsibly. The language in green marketing should excite and charm consumers. 

In our new normal, positions are remote, people and children are staying home, and now the essential paychecks only come with essential employment. When consumers choose to make more sustainable options by eating in, utilizing everything that’s already in the home, and trying to keep everyone healthy, they want to know exactly what they are using. 

If companies use different and difficult terms for their products, the communication is not easy to understand – and it should be! Green companies need to clearly communicate what and who they are to market themselves to consumers. If consumers don’t understand what they’re purchasing, they simply won’t purchase it. Sustainable alternatives need to be clear and educate their consumers about the benefits they hold in ways that appeal to them. 

Now is the time to market sustainable alternatives. Millennials are dominating the purchasing world, and they’re environmentally-conscious. We are returning to a state of caring and interest in the natural world. A good story will prompt any consumer to purchase more sustainable products as long as it makes them feel like they are participating in something much greater than themselves.  

Consumers want to hear honest, pure, and clean communication from sustainable, green companies, and if they trust the brand, they will surely spread the message along. People want to hear from trusted sources, friends, media outlets, and more. Solidifying placements in publications and media will help sustainability gain traction and momentum.  

Sharing the concept of sustainability with those who know and those who don’t can only benefit the movement, spreading to brands on the same wavelength. Green companies and consumers can share their sustainability missions.  

6 Ps of  Marketing a Sustainable Product 

  1. Purity Greenwashing is a PR nightmare. Products and services need to be pure and consistent. 
  2. Proof: Don’t make a claim you can’t substantiate. The hardcore green consumer will “out” a green marketing ploy. 
  3. Perception: Green needs a makeover. Your product needs to be efficacious before it is green. Green is a bonus, not a selling point. 
  4. Packaging: Recyclable packaging doesn’t make a product green. In fact, no packaging is as green as it gets. 
  5. Pricing: Green shoppers are willing to pay a premium for better products, but you can’t fool consumers by hiking prices just because the products are green. 
  6. Promotions: Green is a hot topic right now and can be used to create publicizable promotions for your product line. But green alone is not enough. A cause-related marketing campaign will get attention and make a difference. 
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Nancy Trent
Nancy Trent is a writer and speaker, a lifelong health advocate, a globe-trotting trend watcher and the founder and president of Trent & Company, a New York-based marketing communications firm with an office in Los Angeles. Trent & Company, which launched many fitness brands, grew out of Nancy’s personal commitment to helping people live longer and healthier lives. A former journalist for New York magazine, Nancy has written seven books on healthy lifestyles, serves on the editorial boards of several magazines and travels around the world speaking at conferences and trade shows on trends in the marketplace. She is a recognized expert in PR with more than 30 years of experience creating and managing highly successful campaigns. Nancy can be reached at (212) 966-0024 or through e-mail at nancy@trentandcompany.com. You may also visit www.trentandcompany.com.

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