For businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint, communications can be a real stumbling block. The problem? Despite the rise in email use for key communications, studies show that 80% of Americans prefer reading on paper rather than on a screen, and the majority also prefer the tactile experience attached to paper communications. Couple that with doubts about the green claims of paperless communications and businesses need to rethink how they connect with customers and what sustainable practices they choose to emphasize.
Paper or Pixels?
When businesses develop a communications strategy, it’s important that they take into account effectiveness as well as sustainability, which is why it’s worth reconsidering the increasing shift towards email. Instead, retaining limited paper mailings such as postcards for promotions, birthdays, and announcements. Sustainability-aware customers know that these emails are far from the worst environmental sin compared to bulkier, more wasteful mailings and in-house paper use, and recipients are more likely to engage with the content on paper than the same information in email form.
Broad Product Changes
Instead of focusing on reducing paper use entirely, one way businesses can enhance their sustainability credentials is by emphasizing green paper use. Rather than consuming paper indiscriminately, companies may consider working with investor relations specialists to develop sustainable practices that have a bigger ecological and economic impact. Chosen practices should focus on both the overall impact and public perception of your company’s practices, which is why going paper-free isn’t a top priority.
Rather than going paper-free, businesses should consider some of the following policies: switching to recycled paper products, minimizing food waste at events, and reducing electricity use and water waste from appliances.
Switching to recycled paper products may seem like a small move compared to going paperless, but because going paperless is so trendy – every bank and utility offers the option – most consumers pay little attention to this claim. In fact, the push to go paperless can actually lead businesses to invest in more electronic devices designed around planned obsolescence, resulting in more waste overall.
Food waste is also an important issue all businesses can address, not just those in the restaurant industry, and this becomes obvious once you start paying attention. Take a look around at the end of your next catered event or meeting – how much food is left over? If you’re like most businesses, the answer is a lot. In the United States, 40% of food is wasted throughout the supply chain, and service leftovers are a leading reason.
Instead of ordering platters of food, consider taking orders in advance from individuals scheduled to attend meetings or providing containers to pack up leftovers. Another option is to partner with a local shelter or food kitchen to donate leftover food after events.
Finally, reducing energy and water waste should be a top priority for your business, certainly higher than going paperless. Common sense changes, like changing to LED lighting and low-flow plumbing, will keep your costs down and give you a public relations edge. If you can combine reduced energy use with solar energy production for net zero use, that’s even better.
Operating a sustainable business isn’t a one size fits all process – you need to discern your greatest sources of waste, as well as what solutions fit best with your business’s public image. From a marketing perspective, sustainability initiatives should do more than just protect the environment; they should give you an edge over the competition by announcing your commitment to customers and your shared environment.
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