Corporate sustainability has long moved beyond its basic, outdated perception as a nice-to-have yet unessential “going green” approach. With environmental concerns regularly making the headlines, adopting meaningful sustainability credentials that involve the three pillars—economic, environmental, and social—has become an urgent requirement for companies. Ideally, a corporate approach should integrate these three pillars to be “equally balanced with long term profitability, maximum environmental care, reducing environmental impact, and increasing social responsibilities.”
The rise of customer experience (CX) in recent years as a powerful and unique sales proposition presents an opportunity for companies to align it with their sustainability efforts.
Corporate sustainability alone is enhancing the customer experience
A survey by CGS reports that over two-thirds of customers consider a company’s sustainability credentials when making a purchase and are willing to pay more as a result. More companies are increasingly aware of this development. For instance, Taylor Guitars devotes more resources to an eco-conscious approach to how they source their wood materials. Companies like Hemper are also on the rise, who base their products entirely on environmentally, socially, and economically responsible ideals. Simply offering a sustainable product goes a long way toward making the purchase experience positive. Ultimately, it helps make customers feel good about what they are buying.
Ignoring it is contributing to a negative customer experience
Not only does integrating sustainable practices at all levels make business sense, but failing to do so may also constitute negligence of a company’s interests. After all, 68% of Generation Z respondents to the aforementioned CGS survey highly value sustainability and are more likely to stay loyal to a sustainable brand. Moreover, there are apps, websites, and organizations whose missions are to highlight sustainable and unsustainable companies.
One such app is Good On You, which grades clothing companies on their sustainability credentials and advises its subscribers on which companies to avoid and which to buy from. These trends point to another, nascent, development: the customer experience is likely to generate increasingly negative sentiment should a company and/or their products fall below expected responsibility standards as sustainability continues its upward trajectory.
All stages of the customer experience can align with sustainability
Companies can tap into the growing demand for sustainable products and services in several ways. By implementing sustainability measures across the business, the customer experience will inevitably reflect such change.
Electricity consumption, work equipment, worker wellbeing, the office real estate a company occupies, and internal operations all impact sustainability. Businesses can take a deep-dive analysis at all levels, departments, and processes to see where they may have unsustainable practices with regard to profit, people, and planet.
Analyze the supply chain
There have been many stories of sweatshop practices and poorly paid employees, usually abroad, for both household name brands and smaller, lesser-known companies. To truly be sustainable, a company’s suppliers must also be.
Implement sustainable measures
Companies can put sustainability front and center of what they offer, from materials, technologies, and processes used in providing a product or service to employee and societal wellbeing.
For instance, Costco is able to pay its store employees an average of “$22 an hour with generous benefits because it has made specific operating design choices,” according to Harvard Business Review. This exemplifies how a company has made core operational decisions with its people, and the ability to pay them a living wage front of mind.
The CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, has also espoused the business benefits of raising employee wages: “It’s good for our company, helping us attract and retain talented people in a competitive environment. While businesses, including ours, are understandably cautious when it comes to expenses, there are good expenses.”
Regarding environmental impact, companies can take measures such as tree planting, to offset their carbon footprint. To do so, many organizations have partnered with NGOs like One Tree Planted.
Keep customers in the loop
Customers want to hear about the measures companies are taking to be more sustainable. By discussing what’s involved, a business can strengthen the customer relationship by speaking to them genuinely on sustainability goals, the challenges involved, and how they are working to meet them.
As an example, shoe brand Nisolo has spoken about how owning their own factories positions them to be sustainable by cutting out the ‘middleman.’ Nisolo’s CEO Patrick Woodyard notes, “We can 100% verify and be held accountable for the social and environmental practices throughout our supply chain.”
By interlocking sustainability with CX, organizations have an opportunity to make great strides by satisfying two customer demands in one fell swoop: a positive purchasing experience and the desire to buy from organizations that align with their principles.