My 2010 Prediction: Sustainability Communication Will Vastly Improve

My 2010 Prediction: Sustainability Communication Will Vastly Improve

 A few years ago, the trend predictions were that consumers and businesses would start to go “green.” How true it was! Today, “green” has morphed into “sustainability,” and that concept is by no means a short term trend, but a much longer termmovement.  Because of that, many brands (but still not enough) are now 1) starting to integrate sustainability into all their practices and processes, and/or 2) starting to mention their sustainable ways more in their marketing, communications and consumer education efforts.  So, as 2010 begins, I predict that communication about corporate sustainability steps and new practices will vastly improve – because they HAVE to.  Today’s more environmentally and socially aware consumer is looking for evidence of, and hoping to connect on, shared values with today’s brands.

“Yeah, yeah..” you say, “I get it, already, and my brand will get there eventually.”  But, here’s the twist that should motivate a hesitant brand to take the communication of sustainability more seriously right now: women’s ways of buying are a sustainable consumer’s way of buying.  That said, learning to communicate the great stuff your brand is up to on that front should not be a whole new adventure.  Instead, remember to add things to your 2010 marketing to-do list:

- Be guided and inspired by the consumers you serve.  They are likely more eco-aware and socially responsible than you’ve given them credit for, and would love to tell you all about it.

- Learn to speak the same language they do when they talk about sustainable living and buying.  Industry lingo or exciting numbers will not persuade the average consumer about your commitment to helping them live more sustainably, so communicate with  (For instance, do energy star numbers mean the same to consumers as they do to those in the appliance industry, or is there a better way to present such benefits to the average buyer?)

- Don’t ever think of them as one homogeneous blob of “green consumers,” but dial way into what drives them, their values and passions, specifically, to buy what you sell.  A sustainabilitymovement demands such an investment.

- Realize there is no ” hard sell” for sustainable practices and products.  Your company is “in” sustainability for the long haul and so are consumers.  By taking on sustainability, your brand is choosing to take a more human, generations long, look at what you do and why.  A neon sign will not communicate that long haul as well as will the subtler signs like funding community programs, phasing in of ever more environmentally responsible processes, and providing well for employees, among other things (take a gander at Timberland, Seventh Generation or Interface if you need examples of comprehensive, sustainable and socially responsible operations).


So, yes, 2010 will begin with many green consumer predictions and trendspottings.  We all saw that coming.  As a recently Edelman Consumer Study showed: Americans, too, overwhelmingly indicate they are willing to change consumption habits to make the world a better place to live (85%) and are looking to companies and brands to make it easier for them to make a difference (65%).

The question now is how you respond to the emerging values and expectations of this new consumer…and how smart you are about communicating your sustainable practices.  Women, and men, await.

Andrea writes exclusively for her blog, LearnedonWomen, and appears regularly on Vermont Public Radio.