The Green Movement: From Marketing to Integration1 Nov, 2015 By: Jordan Darragh
The Green Movement, for purposes of this article, indicates a rise in awareness, implementable actions, a change in marketing - with the integration of sustainability in today’s products and services.
Once a part owner and head of sales for a toner cartridge remanufacturer, in Colorado, I spent years actually ignoring the environmental benefits of remanufactured cartridges because I was, along with our sales force, so focused on convincing customers that our product would perform as good as an OEM product while saving them money, that looking at anything other than company sales wasn’t a real priority. Now, a decade later, nearly every toner remanufacturer has seized upon the opportunity to reinvent their marketing to claim that they have been a part of the ‘green movement’ for as long as they’ve been around. Perhaps some of them entered the industry with the idea that the environment will be a part of their core mission, but many saw an opportunity to disrupt the margins being recognized by the OEMs. My point here is that these type companies and their products are the same - only the marketing message has changed, which is what I want to focus on - the evolution of green marketing to (truly) green integrated solutions, and why it matters.
While speaking at a recent conference at Yale University, which was organized by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Business Development (WBSCSD), with the theme of “Scaling Sustainable Solutions,” it was an opportunity to collaborate with leaders in academia, business, and independent experts in their field. There were professors, CEO’s, analysts and consultants. As expected, the conference began with an emphasis on critical thinking and education, i.e., sharing the mounting data and evidence that our environment (and our planet) is under increasing pressure as a result of industrial and cumulative human impact.
One keynote speaker, Andrew Winston (an independent sustainability consultant for HP and Unilever), put it bluntly when he said that only about 40% of men feel the signs of a heart attack before it occurs. His point is that our environmental problems are severe, and though it seems to be happening slowly, frankly, almost invisibly, severe repercussions lurk quietly beneath the surface. The ongoing data continues to suggest that we’re on a collision course with the rise of carbon emissions and, interestingly, the reserve of future emissions that are locked into projected future balance sheets of oil and gas companies, leaving most of of us in a very vulnerable position. The bottom line is, we have to take action with political regulation (e.g., a carbon tax or cap and trade system) and, we need to stop marketing green ideas but rather, integrate them into the fabric of our products, our services, and our way of life.
The focus on integrating sustainability and environmental solutions became the emphasis of the second half of the Yale conference. What I learned really stuck
First, our global environmental challenge is real. The levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are higher than ever before on record and continue to climb. Yes, we won’t ignore that 3% of scientists had still not ‘fully’ bought into global warming, but now that number is nearly down to 2%. Thus the overwhelming majority of experts in the field have identified and established that this is a real problem based on solid data, research, and science.
The question is...
How are we, throughout the world, going to reverse this trend? We’ve identified multiple issues to address; however, taking action is being implemented by some yet not many national governments (as of yet). Generally, mainstream consumers are taking some action in their everyday life, conscientiously buying goods locally and requesting or preferring earth-friendly green products.
However, the business sector is different. Many companies are “stuck” because they have conflicting motives, i.e., they want to be more sustainable but in doing so they may be at odds with their company’s profitability. Typically, in this case, the first step taken is reducing their own company’s impact around the office, e.g., small things like a recycling program. They may add some hybrid vehicles to their fleet or install a solar array. All of these things are progressive...but they don’t address the heart of the problem, i.e., the environmental consequences of manufacturing their product; its transportation and waste, the CO2 emissions resulting from the energy consumed from manufacturing to decommissioning.
Instead of leaving this puzzle to future generations to solve, we need to begin the process now. We need to make a commitment, open the door and lead the way.
So how do we do that?
It all begins with finding ways to close the gap in marketing by integrating sustainability. This critical step, if executed successfully, represents a pivot in your organization’s business and one that can be enormously opportunistic for its growth and profitability. There is no better example than Tesla Motor Co. They build beautiful cars – both a sedan and a sports car (roadster). But let me ask you, would you buy their sedan for $80,000 or more if it had a combustion engine in it? Or even a hybrid engine? Tesla went all in...100% electric, zero reliance on oil and gas, zero emissions. Yes, it could be argued that the electricity required to charge the car generates CO2, but that issue is being addressed in parallel with the scale of renewable energy sources (wind, solar, hydro, etc.). So why is Tesla in such high demand? And why has their market cap risen to over 30 billion dollars in only about five years? Because they made the pivot. They built a great product that is sustainably integrated.
The market has spoken and, when presented the option to buy a product that provides the same quality solution and experience, sustainability carries value and weight in the buyer’s decision. It is preferred, and given the need to address our global environment, it may just eventually become required.
In the print industry
Let’s bring the focus back home to our world in the print industry and ask ourselves, what can we do to make the pivot? How do we integrate sustainability into our product, our service, our offerings?
As it relates to the office technology industry, I see two sides:
- Manufacturing: OEMs can begin to look at every aspect of their product – plastic, metal, toner, packaging, etc. OEMs need to unlock the same or similar opportunities and path as Tesla. They need to figure out how to make their product, and the practice of using them, 100% sustainable.
- Office Channel: The office channel is bound to re-selling the OEM product but, just as there are two sides to addressing emissions in the automotive industry, the vehicle and its reliance on the grid becoming more renewable ...resellers are uniquely positioned to offer solutions that reduce the environmental impacts of printing. There are two components here: Impact Reduction and Sustainable Consumption.
- Impact can be addressed through solutions such as PrintAudit, PaperCut, and a very cool new product from Xerox: Print Awareness Tool (PAT). PAT gamifies printing, providing incentives to end users, including reducing how much they print. Why not make these tools part of your core offering, your standard solution...your way of doing business.
- Consumption can be more sustainable through solutions such as PrintReleaf, recycled (and organic/bio) toner, and Xerox Color Qube solid ink technology.
Every solution outlined above helps your customers achieve a lower environmental impact, a more sustainable solution, and a lower cost. When you deliver, you have a customer for life who will want to buy future products and services from you.
Both the automotive and print industries have been around for decades, yet opportunities never cease to exist, disrupt, and gain a competitive advantage.
With integrating sustainability into your products and solutions, not just message marketing them as a side offering, can be the kick start to your next growth cycle.
Jordan Darragh founded PrintReleaf and serves as CEO. PrintReleaf empowers businesses to certifiably reduce the environmental impact of using forest products by automatically planting trees across a global network of reforestation projects. Partners include industry-leading organizations in the print and office supplies channel, among others. Prior to founding PrintReleaf, Darragh was a Partner & VP of Sales & Marketing for LaserCycle Imaging for more than a decade where he helped establish the business as one of the largest & most profitable Managed Print Services companies in the Western Region of the country. Visit www.PrintReleaf.com for full company information.