Why Corporations Need to Take Sustainability Seriously.
Written by Hailee Settlemoir
Sustainability has become a recent movement in consumerism over the past few years, and companies have started taking notice. However, it is hard for corporations to see this movement as more than a trend. Can we expect them to make systematic changes that will cater to this new movement of sustainability? Where we currently stand, companies are making flowery social mission and sustainability statements, but many do not implement any systematic changes.
Sustainability, to put it clearly, is being used as a buzzword by oversized marketing departments, and to avoid public outcry. People depend on companies to cater to their needs as consumers all while expecting them to align with their values. This is important when thinking about sustainability, as target markets are beginning to shift, this includes expanding beyond physical needs but also considering consumers’ moral needs. As this shift takes place, large companies will have to make the choice of considering sustainability as a facet of their business model. Their target markets are demanding this change and if these large companies want to survive this shift, they must keep their target markets coming back for goods or services. Besides adapting sustainability in the operations aspect of these corporations, consumers are also seeking products that are organic, environmentally friendly, and/or fresh. According to IBM, over 70% of people are seeking specific attributes when choosing a brand to buy from, and 57% of consumers were willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce negative environmental impact.
Unfortunately, I do not see companies being willing to change how their operations work to lessen their negative environmental impact. These changes would be too financially costly, and with these companies seeing sustainability as merely a trend, I have noticed a lot of “Greenwashing”. Greenwashing is the practice of a company or organization lying about its environmental impact. They mislead consumers who may not be aware in order to maintain profits. For example, Volkswagen cheats on their on emissions tests, or some companies claim a product is plastic free when it is not. Another example of this is Amazon not counting certain products for their emissions, which we discussed a few weeks ago here. This is SO dangerous, not only because it has negative effects on the environment, but because once a company is outed for greenwashing, it is hard for them to gain back their brand loyalty and trust.
So, companies: take a word from me. It is not worth losing your brand loyalty and repeat customers just to save a few bucks. Once you are marked as a “green washer”, it is so hard to come back from that, especially if you are a smaller business. Sustainability is not a consumer trend; it is essential for the health of our planet. Consumers are not only looking for this in the products they buy, but it is a huge contributing factor to which brands they choose. Skip the shortcuts, and put in the time to make sustainable changes to your company.