Sustainability awareness is getting bigger now, and we see more business owners trying to have green business(es).
For example, The Walt Disney Company banned plastic straws from all its theme parks. Just recently, Marriott announced they were phasing out single-use plastics from all of their owned and franchised hotel properties.
There will be new waves of entrepreneurs who want start businesses with sustainability as a basis. Well, there are things that you can learn from people who came before.
By focusing on product first and foremost, entrepreneurs will be able to convince consumers of an attendant sustainability-value proposition.
Second, entrepreneurs should partner with sustainability-focused organizations that provide crucial third-party credibility.
Make a product that people like
Before, consumers needed to sacrifice established behaviors, benefits and luxuries in the name of sustainability. While they have good intentions, usually that doesn’t last long.
Giving up some things, in reality, is very hard. Business focuses on maximizing consumption, but behavioral change is often slow-going and frustrating. That may have been the reason why sustainable businesses in the past didn’t do well.
Thankfully, over the past few years, entrepreneurs have turned a significant corner. We can see a lot of new products that at least meet, and in some instances exceed, the standards of traditional and less-sustainable consumers.
Some good examples include meat replacement products like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Lesser known examples like Perennial intend to provide a replacement for dairy products aimed at seniors.
Entrepreneurs are even turning to packaging innovation. For example, Ever & Ever, a new water product from Vita Coco, uses aluminum can that is infinitely recyclable.
This way, there will be more sustainable and eco-friendlier alternatives to single-use plastic bottles. Remember, there are up to one million sold every second around the world.
Get sustainability leaders as partners
One thing that you shouldn’t do is lie to your consumers. You can lie to other people but not the buyers of your product.
Consumers are smart. Yes, some can still be ignorant and carefree, but you can’t fool them. They are now expecting data behind any sustainability claim and won’t settle for vague claims anymore. This includes greenwashing.
Easiest thing for entrepreneurs can do? Partner with leading organizations, nonprofits and advocacy groups. That can substantiate the environmental and sustainability benefits of their product.
Claiming to be sustainable just won’t do. You have to prove it and make a commitment to doing so. Until the end, as long as your company operates.
What kind of commitment you may ask? It could involve significant supply chain audits, certifications and other mechanisms. All of those can be a way to prove that you and your organization is really eco-conscious.
Who to partner with
I think if you don’t live in the USA or any other western developed countries, it may not be easy. However, you gotta try anyways. Start locally and if you can’t find it, then reach out to the much bigger organizations.
That’s said, there are numerous organizations to partner with, depending on sector or focus. If you are focused on general sustainability, you can work with names like CurrentState and conduct an audit.
If you are working with advocacy organizations, 350.org is a good place to start. A good example of a co-op program is sustainable-fish certification from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.
On the marketing side, you can work with organizations like The Lonely Whale Foundation. Museum of Plastic provides sustainable organizations the opportunity to drive valuable earned media. At the same time, they consciously raise awareness of the challenges of single-use plastics.
Sustainability-focused enterprises keep growing bigger. More entrepreneurs and investors pour resources into the space. There is much we can learn from these ones established these types of business before.
There is no doubt that the opportunity to thrive is bigger than ever before.
Running your sustainable business after the pandemic
Although, starting and running any kind of business may be a challenge today.
Of course there’s always opportunity to thrive after this pandemic. But it’ll only happen if we spend today solving tomorrow’s problems. Look out into the future, and create the solutions that will resonate in the months and years to come.
Learn the importance of trust
Every business must distinguish itself. Distinguishing yours from others have always happened in many ways. For instance, factors like quality, price, and convenience.
However, when someone chose the second-best option, because their favorite place got so messy because of the pandemic, there’s your chance.
Consumers can push all those old qualities aside and trust bubbled up to the top instead. That’s a massive shift. Before the pandemic, trust was barely spoken about. Not anymore.
This means entrepreneurs can stand out from competitors in new ways. You can meet people’s new expectations by focusing on different elements of your business.
For example, your customer may have never cared about your operations before, but now they will. So what should you do? Well, you can try to be transparent, so people trust you and your operations.
There are many ways to do it. For example, internet-connected cameras in the kitchen. The world can see the kitchen and trust what come out of it.
Know how powerful changing minds are
It’s time to ask yourself some simple, difficult questions. You can try “Am I selling a product that solves a problem that’s unique to today?” or “Do people value me more or less today?”
Your consumers are asking similar questions. They also wonder and look for anything that understands their needs. Customers may not know what to think about their loved service/products now. People may have loved them before, but all bets are off now.
If you’ve got a business and you’re seeing a decrease, you want those customers to come back. But you can’t do that just by asking. You need to change how they think about you. To do that, you first need to understand how they think, and then react to it.
Don’t be afraid to be open
In the past, entrepreneurs hid their financial troubles. Because, if customers knew we were struggling, we feared they might not come back.
But, but, but, COVID-19 has flipped that around. Consumers know that we’re all struggling and we’re all in this together. If you’re a valuable business, nobody wants you to disappear. They want to support you
It’s time to market from a position of weakness, and let that become your strength. It may sound opportunistic, but it’s true.
Don’t be scared to share your challenges. Then, show how they led you to great new solutions. Let your best team members step up.
Covid-19 is an unpleasant thing, that’s true. But, it’s a time when small companies can become big. On the other hand, big companies can really blow it.