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The Disconnect Between Sustainable Business And Sustainable Marketing

The head of marketing for a large regional restaurant chain recently commented that he was disappointed that more customers weren’t aware of his company’s commitment to sustainable business practices. After all, they’d incorporated green building practices into a number of their locations even going so far as to install rain barrels and their very own wind mill. Whenever possible, they also purchased their ingredients from local suppliers. So where’s the big disconnect?

Walmart Hybrid Assist TruckThe head of marketing for a large regional restaurant chain
recently commented that he was disappointed that more customers weren’t aware
of his company’s commitment to sustainable business practices. After all, they’d
incorporated green building practices into a number of their locations even
going so far as to install rain barrels and their very own wind mill. Whenever
possible, they also purchased their ingredients from local suppliers. So where’s
the big disconnect?

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In this particular case, they forgot to tell anyone. They
didn’t mention sustainability in any of their TV commercials or their print
ads. If it was even on their website, you would’ve been hard pressed to ever find
it. That means their customers (and I’m also guessing their front-line
employees) were pretty much left in the dark. And that also means they missed a
golden opportunity to tell their sustainability story.

And unfortunately, they’re not alone. There are tons of other organizations (small, medium, and large) out there who are doing some really
interesting things to “green” their businesses and, similar to the regional restaurant
chain mentioned above, they’re also falling short when it comes to effectively
communicating their sustainability efforts.

The reasons for the disconnect between sustainable actions
and sustainable marketing are many. Some companies are intentionally understating
their efforts to avoid being accused of “green
washing
.” Others sliced their marketing budgets and the funding that was
put aside to train employees about their efforts in response to the recent
economic downturn. And still others are struggling to clearly and effectively articulate
their sustainable business efforts to their customers and their employees.

Whatever the root cause, as consumers, I think we’d all
agree there’s still lots of work to be done.If your company is genuinely
committed to sustainable business practices, make a concerted effort to tell
your customers what you’re doing and the reason why you’re doing it. If you
have a website, make the information incredibly easy
to find
instead of burying it in the last paragraph of your “about” page. And
finally, whenever possible, be sure to engage your customers and employees in
conversations around sustainability. By doing so, you’ll create alignment
between your actions and your marketing message.

Shawn Graham
collaborates with small- to medium-sized companies to develop impactful social
media and marketing communications content and strategies and seasoned job
seekers to help them find their true north. Find Shawn at ShawnGraham.me.

About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning.

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