By Harry Morrison, General Manager for The Carbon Trust Standard Company.
Corporate environmental responsibility has been brought sharply into focus in recent weeks, but the demand for greater rigour in assessing the impact of environmental marketing programmes has been building for some time.
The difficult economic climate has meant that CEOs and financial directors are looking for more tangible proof of the business impact of environmental initiatives. At the same time, a general sense of disappointment at a lack of resolution at the Copenhagen Climate Summit has led to scepticism about green topics, and greater regulatory impetus from initiatives such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment, have all meant that marketing professionals are re-evaluating their strategy for managing environmental issues.
As with any marketing strategy, the critical point is starting with the right data to begin with. If you have an objective measure of your environmental impact, it helps decide which green practices to pursue; which initiatives should be considered first and provides credible proof to counter any perceptions of ‘green-wash.’
Savvy consumers are sceptical of ‘softer’ initiatives which lack quantifiable evidence that a company is backing their green claims with tangible action. Instead they look for robust action supported by evidence. The Carbon Trust Standard in particular has proved popular because it has a rigorous, independently assessed methodology, which looks at carbon impacts across every aspect of an organisation’s operations.
Achieving the Carbon Trust Standard can help businesses build sound sustainability strategies by helping them calculate their carbon footprint, quantify their exposure, and measure and benchmark their progress in reducing carbon emissions over time. It is also designed to reward organisations that are taking genuine action.
As we move towards a low carbon economy, business leaders who have sound carbon management strategies in place stand to prosper both now and in the future. They stand to sell more products, forge better business relationships, attract more committed workers and even clinch more investment deals.
Additionally, for brand and marketing managers, this kind of qualification adds credibility because there is proof that the company has acted on, and will continue to act on its commitments.
Over 275 public and private sector organisations have been through the Carbon Trust Standard certification process and this includes many high profile brands including O2, Marks & Spencer, Aviva, HSBC and Microsoft. Collectively, companies who have achieved the Carbon Trust Standard certification have saved £62 million on their energy bills and over 2 million tonnes of CO2 by reducing their emissions.
From a product point of view, organisations can turn to The Carbon Trust’s Carbon Reduction Label, which has been developed to help businesses understand the carbon footprint of individual products and services throughout their lifecycle, and reassure consumers that action is being taken to reduce the carbon footprints of the products they buy.
Measurement is based on a rigorous standard, the PAS 2050 - a Publicly Available Specification that has been developed by BSI British Standards, the Carbon Trust, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and other stakeholders worldwide.
Tesco uses the Carbon Reduction Label on many of own label products as do major brands ranging from Walkers crisps and Kingsmill bread to the Dyson Airblade, Morphy Richards irons and Cemex cement.
Organisations use the Carbon Trust Standard certification and the Carbon Reduction Label to prioritise and support a wide range of marketing activities - from overall brand reputation; through to point-of-sale promotion; internal communications and external recruitment and as a differentiator in business development and customer marketing.
For example, First Direct emphasises the value of the Standard in reinforcing its overall brand values. Chris Pilling, the Chief Executive and a former brand and marketing manager comments that “First Direct is a young, vibrant company and many of our employees feel that it is very important to be working for an environmentally responsible company.”
Kyocera Mita highlights how achieving a respected and measurable Standard has supported the company’s business development. Tracey Rawling Church, Director of Brand and Reputation explains that, “increasingly, the Standard is recognised by customers as evidence of a credible commitment to reducing emissions, so it definitely helps us in tender situations.”
Marshalls, the UK’s leading manufacturer of natural stone and innovative concrete hard landscaping and walling products has labelled over 2,000 products using the Carbon Trust Footprint.
The company has used this as a foundation for a holistic environmental marketing strategy which has included involvement in the Prince’s May Day Network and various industry awards; as part of its communications to customers, employees and the local community and as a differentiator to promote product innovation.
Regardless of the marketing strategy and tactics a company employs, the critical point is ensuring it is credible, consistent with the company’s values and is backed up by genuine, tangible action. Authoritative, independent measurement gives this activity credibility whichever target audience you are looking to reach.
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