Why environmental transparency is important for your brand

According to the Global Footprint Network, the Earth’s overshoot day for 2015 – the point at which humanity went into ecological debt, having ‘overshot’ the year’s supply of natural resources – was a Thursday in August, six days earlier than the overshoot in 2014. Pretty startling stuff considering the focus we’re putting on environmental best practice, both in the workplace and in our homes.

We all know that environmental concerns are a huge issue. We’re absorbing information from governments, NGOs, lobbyists, scientists – it’s important. Equally important is the role of business in providing transparency. We all want to know

  • what we’re buying
  • where it came from
  • what happens to it when it reaches the end of its life
  • …and what happens to all that packaging?

Traditional supply chains are linear: materials come in, are processed, and move out. With no real end-to-end transparency, such linear models do not lend themselves to organisations reducing and recycling waste. A move to a circular model – what we call a supply cycle – focuses on resource management: designing waste out, reusing stuff where practical. When materials reach the end of their life, we turn them into something useful, to be moved through the supply cycle again and again and again.

Circling the issue

Transparency is required to achieve a circular model – but once you’ve got a supply cycle in place, it gives you a model of environmental best practice. Considering that we’re consuming an estimated three times the amount of resources that we actually need, what brands do and are seen to do is very important. The realisation is growing that it’s companies, not governments, who will solve the world’s biggest problems. So if you’re performing to environmental best practice, go shout it from the rooftops!

Any businesses that take environmental issues seriously and offer transparency in their marketing will add value to their brands. A great brand is trusted by its customers, believed by its employees , and adds value to what it sells. Environmental transparency generates that trust.

What’s good for the environment is good for your brand, good for your customers, and good for your customers’ customers. So why not celebrate it?

Transparency is essential for good PR

Have you heard the one about the major British retailer, whose ethical campaign was branded by Citigroup in 2011 as the most successful in their history, and created a significant lead on their competitors by persuading shoppers it was the most ethically responsible place to shop? Or the one about a global top-ten consumer goods company whose stated aims are to halve its environmental impact, help more than a billion customers improve their health, and double its turnover by 2020?

Actually, there are no punchlines – these are no jokes. These are companies who have put a stake in the ground by going public with their environmental goals, putting themselves under a scrutiny that can only be satisfied by complete transparency. They are both committed to zero waste to landfill, and are making such communications central to communications strategies. Serious stuff. And it’s working.

Putting sustainable waste management at the centre of your environmental goals

If you want your sustainability to enhance brand reputation , you need to think about your waste management. But if you’re thinking about it when you’re producing waste, you’ve left it too late. Issues of potential waste should be considered at all points of a supply cycle, from purchasing through to production and design.

Find yourself a waste management consultant who matches your ethos and goals. You need a partner who will not simply provide you with a collection service: you want so much more than that. Why compromise, when you could have

  • benchmarking
  • best practice
  • using data to make informed decisions
  • project management
  • environmental benefits
  • reduced costs

So next time you chose a partner, the first question shouldn’t be ‘how much?’, but ‘how much value can you bring to my brand?’.

And, of course, an upside of a heavily legislated industry sector is the amount of information available. Information is key to transparency, and crucial for promoting your brand. Share your statistics, enter awards that celebrate the good work that you’re doing – use your sustainability goals to promote your brand.

That’s the power of environmental transparency: businesses, customers and employees will all buy in to your integrity as a brand when you share your statistics and your goals. And when you become a force for good, you’ll encourage others to behave the same way.

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