Your Net Zero journey can go a long way in helping you engage with your customers, while differentiating your products and services from your competitors.
That was the theme of the second of EM3 Growth Hub’s Net Zero Opportunities webinar, presented by Chris Fry and Clare Ollerenshaw from strategy and sustainability consultancy Accelar.
Net Zero Opportunities: Future Proofing Your Business to Remain Competitive looked at how the Net Zero journey can help businesses engage with their markets – their clients, customers and suppliers – and how they can stand out in a crowded and competitive market.
A good example of a business achieving this is Farnborough-based Kebur Garden Materials, who 18 months ago contacted the EM3 Growth Hub and worked closely with Chris, who is also an EM3 Growth Hub Associate, to develop a five-year sustainability plan.
Prior to this, the family fun business had already made positive sustainability changes such as selling Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) resourced timber, had stopped selling peat and had switched to 100% renewable electricity.
During the webinar, Kebur Business Partner Jo Holtom, said: “We knew market research was showing customers are increasingly looking at sustainability as a purchase criteria or consideration, and we wanted to say more about what we were doing as a business.”
“It’s generated some meaningful conversions,” said Jo. “And it also allows us to look at the impact of decisions we might make, helping us to project what kind of changes we can make in the future.”
“Overall, I feel measuring and managing our impact has been really beneficial to improving our understanding of our business costs, and opportunities to make savings through the energy efficiency measures that we’ve implemented.
“It’s also improving our reputation because we’re doing things that might resonate with some of our customers.”
Jo went on to talk about Kebur using Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), for its products.
“We started asking manufacturers for EPDs – the idea is that we want to help inform customers with their buying decisions and also influence suppliers to find reductions and more sustainable products.”
When it comes to engagement and change, the start of the conversation starts with the suppliers, explained Jo.
“Commercial viability is always going to be a consideration when we are deciding what we’re going to sell,” said Jo, who noted that her colleagues are now talking to suppliers about Net Zero products and sharing ideas, and even taking risks on new Net Zero products to see if there is consumer demand.
An example of this is with a low carbon cement alternative Kebur sells called CemFree Optima. “It’s opened quite a few doors where we’re seen to be making the right steps as a supplier,” said Jo.
Russ Avery, from Farnham-based sustainable marketing company Avery & Brown also took part in the webinar.
He discussed the importance of businesses communicating their sustainability and ethical credentials effectively and authentically, but crucially sharing their communicating their impacts as well.
“Using your sustainability initiatives is a great way to stand out these days showing how your business is unique in its dedication to environmental and social responsibility, said Russ.
He also discussed enhancing investor relations, recruitment and retaining engaged staff who care about sustainability.
“There are lots of stats out there to back up the fact that Millennials and now Gen Z feel deeply passionate about working for truly purpose driven companies,” said Russ.
Fostering community engagement and knowledge sharing with like-minded businesses are also effective ways of amplifying the impact your business is making according to Russ, who shared Avery Brown’s Impact Reporting Checklist.
He warned about greenwashing and misleading sustainability branding and marketing.
“Greenwashing is when you make completely false or unsubstantiated claims about the environmental and sustainability credentials of your product or service by making vague claims without evidence or data,” explained Russ.
Conversely, he also warned about green hushing where businesses are afraid of being called out.
“Just be honest about where you are or where you aren’t on your journey, and what haven’t you managed to achieve but you are looking to address. Your customers and stakeholders will really appreciate that honest approach.”
Watch the full webinar by clicking on the YouTube image below.
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