Ignore Sustainability at Your Own Cost

April 6, 2016

Historically, companies have often undervalued the role sustainability could play in improving their supply chains and creating efficiencies to drive bottom-line profitability.

However, the tide is changing. Dozens of inspiring examples of sustainability innovations leading business decisions and influencing consumer purchasing habits were shared at the recent GreenBiz conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Take, for example, one of Nike’s latest product innovations: the Flyknit shoe. This product has been “flying” off the shelves since 2012 for its imaginative product design and bold colors. Undoubtedly, it is one of their most popular offerings since the now ubiquitous Air Jordan brand “jumped” off of shelves in the ‘80s. What consumers don’t know, is that the innovation behind the technology has allowed them to cut labor costs, production time, and even has the potential to bring shoe manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. What’s more, the amount of waste from each pair weighs only as much as a sheet of paper and produces 66% less waste than their Air Pegasus shoe. This is a perfect example of when design, innovation and sustainability come together to produce a superior product that is driving bottom line demand for a huge retailer.

Here are three tips inspired by the conference to ensure your brand is enhancing its sustainability efforts at the right moment to maximize profitability and customer satisfaction:

Build bridges with cross-functional business units.
All too often, colleagues in procurement or product design may not know that they are sitting on a proverbial goldmine of sustainability potential. Maintaining consistent lines of communication with complementary teams will ensure sustainability stays top of mind throughout all benchmarks during a product’s development.

Secure buy-in from the top.
If the boss tells you to do something, odds are, you will make it happen. Same rings true for sustainability—you must become an advocate for sustainability within the leadership circle (even if you’re not a part of it) to ensure that the folks at the top are championing sustainability and encouraging others to do the same.

Create a sustainability brand narrative.
Even in the earliest stages of development, make sure the communications are in place to successfully weave sustainability into your brand narrative. It’s important as marketers and communicators to understand company drivers and consumer triggers. Ask yourself: When and where should we pull the levers of sustainability to galvanize consumer demand.

Interested in more information on GreenBiz or learning more about some of the latest sustainability case studies? Reach out to me here.

Katie Michel is a Vice President for Ketchum’s Purpose practice. An energetic and detail-oriented project leader, she has deep institutional sustainability and corporate social responsibility knowledge, having spent the last 10+ years managing and executing high-profile sustainability communications strategies. Follow Katie on Twitter, @krmichel.