Sodexo's Better Tomorrow Blog: Green Marketing, from B to B

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Sodexo's Better Tomorrow Blog: Green Marketing, from B to B

By Guest Blogger, Joel Makower
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Sodexo Blog: Joel Makower says that while consumers have largely shunned greener products, companies have taken lead http://3bl.me/aah7cd

Summary

First, let’s start with the inconvenient truth. It isn’t easy being green, Kermit the Frog’s 40-year-old (!) song lyric notwithstanding. Being a greener company, just like being a greener individual or family, requires change, and change doesn’t come easy, even when change has a compelling outcome. (Watching your weight, anyone?) Indeed, when it comes to change, we love the noun, hate the verb.

Monday, June 7, 2010 - 10:00am

CONTENT: Blog

First, let’s start with the inconvenient truth. It isn’t easy being green, Kermit the Frog’s 40-year-old (!) song lyric notwithstanding. Being a greener company, just like being a greener individual or family, requires change, and change doesn’t come easy, even when change has a compelling outcome. (Watching your weight, anyone?)

Indeed, when it comes to change, we love the noun, hate the verb.

That’s equally true when it comes to all things green. After all, while almost no one would dispute the need for clean air and water and a healthy planet, we don’t always see firsthand the tangible results of our actions. You can recycle all you want, understanding the benefits this has in saving energy, conserving resources, and reducing emissions to the air, ground, and water, but those benefits are often taken on faith.

That’s why the notion of “green consumers” — those who “vote” for the environment every time they open their wallets — has been elusive. While Americans, Europeans, Asians, and others have been extolling their willingness to buy green for more than a decade to pollsters and market researchers, their — make that our — shopping carts look pretty much like they always have. With so many things competing for our time and money, “saving the earth” can take a back seat to simply “saving the day.”

But here is where consumers and businesses part company. While consumers have largely shunned greener products, companies have taken the lead, buying increasing amounts of computers, office supplies, food and foodservice, cleaning supplies, vehicles, energy, and many other things with environmentally friendly attributes. In fact, one could say that businesses are the ultimate green consumers.

Why is this? For starters, companies enjoy economies of scale not available to individual households. This means that even small changes done at a large scale can have a huge impact. One example: McDonald’s eliminated the embossed Golden Arches from their napkins a few years ago, making the napkins 24 percent thinner, meaning you could fit 24 percent more napkins in a box. That reduced shipping needs by the equivalent of about 100 tractor-trailers a year. Just for napkins!

Consumers, on the other hand, often don’t see any direct benefit from buying green products, beyond the peace of mind that they’re exposing their family, their community, and their planet to fewer problems.

Which is not to say that companies will buy anything that’s green. Far from it. In fact, business buyers can be even more discerning than their household counterparts, since their jobs often depend upon it. Their internal customers — the various departments and divisions for whom they make purchases — don’t like surprises, so purchasing folks are careful sorts.

Where green products succeed in the B-to-B world is when “green” equals “better.” Of course, “better” has lots of definitions: cheaper to buy or operate, higher performance, healthier, more durable, and many other things. Which is to say, for products to succeed, they need to be not just greener, but offer additional benefits over their conventional counterparts. This isn’t always the case with consumers, who are much more loyal to brands, shopping convenience, and personal taste. For them, even “better” may not be enough.

What will it take for your company to increase its purchases of greener products and services?

Joel Makower is Executive Editor of GreenBiz.com and author of the annual State of Green Business report, both produced by Greener World Media, of which he is co-founder and chairman. Joel is a well-respected voice on business, the environment, and the bottom line for more than 20 years, he is also author of more than a dozen books.

Sodexo in North America
Sodexo, Inc. (www.sodexoUSA.com), a member of Sodexo Group, is a leading provider of Comprehensive Service Solutions serving more than ten million customers daily in corporations, health care, long term care, retirement, schools, higher education, government and remote sites. Headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., Sodexo, Inc. operates in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, with $7.7 billion (USD) in annual revenue and 120,000 employees. The Sodexo Foundation (www.SodexoFoundation.org) is an independent charitable organization that, since its founding in 1999, has made more than $12.7 million in grants to fight hunger in America. Visit the corporate blog at www.sodexoUSA.com/blog.

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Keywords: Sodexo | Sustainability | a better tomorrow | green consumers | green marketing | joel makower

CONTENT: Blog

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