Besides Green, Good is the new Black – and not just for this season. Not only have ecological and ethical values become more important to many people throughout the globe, being green and good has become a way of life and reason behind everyday choices and actions for more and more people.
The question is, why it isn’t so for many businesses? Loads of service and product providers have already realized the benefits of going green and doing good, but some of them just in terms of marketing strategies. In these days, being superficially green or good and not transparent could be considered quite shortsighted or even risky.
As long lasting relationships and true engagement between brands and consumers are not merely built with marketing tactics and campaigns, but by offering people services and products that resonate with their needs and expectations and truly add value, it’s important to go green and good thoroughly. What people expect the companies to deliver and contribute, is more than engaging ads or huge billboards on Times Square. Keeping this in mind, it doesn’t hurt to allocate some funds for supporting more meaningful and sustainable product and service development, which in the long run will probably turn out to be more beneficial for the brand relationships and identity building. Because of education and access to information people are able and also most likely to spot questionable practices and green washing – and the most dangerous part for these companies is that people will not keep their findings to themselves.
Good or actually great news is though, that spreading the word also goes the other way around. And I’m not talking about WOM marketing or viral advertising here, but about successful ways to do business in age of increased use of social medias and influential new communities. So, why exactly being good is less risky and better for business?
1) Simply, because by not conducting or supporting any actions (in design, production, distribution etc.) that can’t bear daylight or will raise somebody’s eyebrows, there are less chances for bad publicity and alienation of consumers – and loads of chances to building strong and lasting consumer relationships and networks that are based on mutual respect.
2) Benefits of being good can also be thought on terms of gaining capital. Doing business that’s primary concern is to gain financial capital is these days more risky than building brands that also possess and attract social and cultural capital. The key thing is to increase all capitals together and understand how their interplay leads to stronger and successful brands and businesses.
-In this case social capital can be translated to consumer networks with nodes that spread the word and also attract and link more nodes aka potential consumers/users to the network. If the focus and goal of a company is to increase financial capital by increasing mainly and only social capital, which is the logic behind viral marketing, the results and networks tend to stay weak and short termed.
– The missing ingredient, for building networks that live longer and attract effectively new nodes, in this equation is the cultural capital (which is usually absent in viral marketing). For fueling the process of effective network expansion and building of stronger consumer relationships (aka social capital), it’s crucial to also posses cultural capital aka to be considered respectable, innovative, good, green etc. and once again, to really add value to people.
In a nutshell and in the context of increased use of social medias and new networks/communities, possession of valuable cultural capital (= being good, adding value) increases possibilities to gain long lasting and expanding social capital (=consumer relationships and networks), which in turn leads to growth of financial capital (=”cah-zing!”).
3) Thirdly, the benefits of goodness can be reasoned using the framework of sustainability. Sustainability has long been synonymic for green. But since complex problems like global warming do not affect just the environment but also the lives of many people and business landscapes of many companies, it’s time to look at the bigger picture. Sustainability could and should be understood more holistically: besides concentrating only on being green aka environmental sustainability companies should also think of how to promote social sustainability and financial sustainability in their actions. It’s not enough to be eco-friendly, you also need to be fair and local.
-Companies that design/innovate/produce services and products inevitably create an ecological footprint of some size, some bigger some smaller. It’s important to try to reduce it as much as possible, but also take the next step and think about the social footprint and make sure you’re not stepping on human rights or worsening some social conditions.
-And when it comes to financial sustainability, it is hard for it in this context to exist without the two other components. To be sustainable financially you need to be sustainable culturally and socially, and to be truly socially and ecologically sustainable you need to be financially sustainable.
So, as a closing note to business owners: it’s great if your company donates money for causes and charities (and remembers to mention it in marketing campaigns), but strategically wiser would be to step a bit further and act as a proactive do-gooder yourself – by not designing/innovating/producing problems, but solutions for tomorrow. This will not only make A) the world a better place, B) You feel good, but most likely this will also C) make you hear the sweet “cah-zing!” more often in the long run.
Good way to start is to get acquainted with Designers Accord, a society that is dedicated to diminishing design industry’s footprint and by reading John Thackara’s In the Bubble book as well as with Nathan Shredoff’s new piece Design is the Problem.