October 28, 2020

The Importance of Communicating the Sustainability of Your Supply Chain

By Sarah O'Grady
Categories

Environmental sustainability isn’t just a smart business practice — it’s a necessary ingredient for success in today’s marketplace. As we detailed in our 2020 Consumer Intel Report, consumers reward environmentally conscious companies with their loyalty. They seek out products that contain sustainable materials, and they expect (and sometimes demand) brands to embody a holistic commitment to the environment.

This is especially true when it comes to young consumers. According to a 2019 First Insight survey, 62% of Gen Z respondents said they’re willing to pay extra for sustainably produced goods. If today’s brands want to remain competitive long term, they must be transparent about their environmental sustainability efforts. They will need to show consumers how they build sustainable supply chains and promote ethical and responsible business practices. Otherwise, they risk losing market share to brands that do.

The pandemic has also shed light on the importance of supply chain transparency. In these uncertain times, consumers want to know the origins of their products. They feel safer and more empowered to purchase brands when they can trace the chain of custody from suppliers to the manufacturing process all the way to their doorsteps.

Supply chain sustainability transparency should never be faked or “greenwashed.” Providing misinformation regarding sustainability information as a public relations ploy is unethical, erodes public trust, and invites consumers to take their spending elsewhere. Instead, show the reality of your sustainability efforts in these three ways:

1. Quantify your impact. All of the good intentions in the world won’t matter if they aren’t resulting in anything tangible. Instead of paying lip service to your sustainability efforts, prove that your practices make a real, positive impact on the environment.

Provide data on specific objectives, potentially making this information publicly accessible. For example, our parent company, Vericast, established and approved Enterprise Sustainability Goals and Objectives that will be used to quantify progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, limiting water use, diverting waste from landfills, reducing energy consumption, and more.

Dig into the details and hold your organization accountable for delivering results. Consumers want to be associated with responsible corporations; creating insightful, data-driven content about your sustainable supply chain helps them identify which companies make an actual difference.

2. Humanize the problem and solution. Real sustainability efforts don’t appear out of thin air. Real people with real passion are behind each of them. Showcase the employees spearheading sustainability efforts in your organization, identify them on your website, and broadcast their ideas. Allow them to explain — in their own words — their thought processes as they develop and implement your company’s sustainability initiatives.

Also, don’t forget about the impact. Share stories about the people and communities who benefit from your sustainability initiatives. The more you humanize your efforts, the easier it will be for consumers to evaluate your brand and feel more connected to its mission.

3. Share your motivations. Don’t be so absorbed in your stories, tactics, and data that you forget to communicate your motivations. Your “why” is just as important as the “what” and “how.” Your big-picture goals should be abundantly clear to consumers, but that requires you to articulate precisely why your company cares about having a sustainable supply chain and why it is dedicated to limiting its environmental impact.

This information is important and interesting to consumers. If you’re able to express it thoughtfully and thoroughly, you’ll speak volumes about your authenticity. Modern consumers are looking for brands that share their values, and they gravitate toward businesses that display a genuine dedication to the well-being of their communities.

Tomorrow’s strongest businesses will be committed to sustainable product design, manufacturing processes, and service delivery. As you compete for consumer attention and communicate your sustainability efforts to your audience, avoid making any lofty promises that you can’t keep. Instead, commit to making a tangible impact over a long-term period.

Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. Environmental and sustainability trust is no different. Set quantifiable goals, practice corporate responsibility, and prioritize transparency. Your efforts and communication have to be genuine and authentic — words are wonderful, but you need to follow up with measurable, visible, and humanized practices.

At Valassis and Vericast, we see ourselves as part of a global economy that has significantly increased its focus on sustainability and corporate responsibility over the past two decades. That is why we believe it’s important to share our enterprise commitment to systematic environmental performance. Take a look at this fact sheet to learn more about our sustainability goals and objectives.

Sarah O’Grady is the senior director of brand for Valassis. As a 15-plus year veteran of content, brand, and social media marketing across CPG, beauty, and technology, she brings an experienced yet experimental point of view to brand-building and customer engagement. Prior to joining Valassis, Sarah served as the head of global social strategy for Lenovo. 

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