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  • 07.29.09

Should We Pick Our Customers?

  I have been thinking for some time about companies including sustainability credentials in picking who they want as their customers. I know, I know, readers who are sustainability practitioners are thinking now that they would get laughed out of town (or the office) if they went out to the sales force and told them not to do business with certain companies.  But bear with me on this.

 

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I have been thinking for some time about
companies including sustainability credentials in picking who they want as
their customers.

I know, I know, readers who are
sustainability practitioners are thinking now that they would get laughed out
of town (or the office) if they went out to the sales force and told them not
to do business with certain companies.  But bear with me on this.

It is not a concept without precedent. 
Most companies ask about sustainability credentials in RFPs and many go on to
include those credentials as a component of selecting vendors.  With
BT, in our capacity as a vendor, we certainly get asked about it all
the time by potential customers and, as a subject matter expert,  I am often
called upon by potential customers to talk about our
activities.  

Obviously companies feel in a stronger
position to state requirements as a potential customer than as a vendor, but
from a sustainability perspective why shouldn’t it be important both
directions?

Some businesses do make categorical
statements that they won’t serve customers in specified sectors. Particularly
in the media, PR and advertising world, plenty of companies refuse to take
business from specific sectors that they do not favor (usually the traditional
‘sin’ sectors) and especially with regard to consumer advertising.  Newspapers are a good example.  There are many that won’t accept ads from tobacco
companies.

And in an indirect way, companies in other
commercial and manufacturing sectors are doing this too.   By
launching products that appeal to the sustainability marketplace, whether
energy efficient cars and wind turbines or irrigation and cost effective
healthcare products for developing countries, companies are seeking to attract
customers who have an interest in sustainability.

Especially when signing a long term deal I
think it makes sense to know and understand whether that customer has a long
term perspective and will be around and profitable enough to pay its bills in
five or ten years time. Approach to sustainability and corporate responsibility
should be a good indicator of which sectors and which companies within those
sectors have a long term, healthy future ahead of them and therefore are
customers with whom you want to be doing business.

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