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Building a Green Niche from the Inside Out

Building a Green Niche

As agencies position their skill sets and services to gain some level of differentiation from competitors, one avenue to consider is the greening of American business. A former Second Wind member traveled that avenue, using the positioning Sustainability Matters™.

The green initiative began with an internal survey. Among staff who completed the sustainability survey, 88.5 percent stated that they felt it was “important for our agency to be green and operate in a sustainable manner.” But when asked if the agency was “an environmentally friendly company,” the results were sobering: only 39 percent of employees agreed with the statement. Thirty-six percent were “neutral,” and a full quarter of agency staff disagreed.

The agency dug deeper, studying existing employee green behaviors. They asked who recycled at home versus at the office; what kinds of energy conservation they practiced; whether and how they acted to conserve water; and what they contributed to emissions due to their choice of commuter transportation.

In addition, the agency talked to clients about sustainability in their decision-making processes. Were clients more likely to buy goods and services from environmentally responsible firms? Seventy-one percent said “yes.” At the same time, clients stated that their own sustainability efforts were not a differentiator for their own customers. And 71 percent stated they were unaware of the agency’s green programs or work with sustainable products and programs.

Setting Greener Goals

With data in hand, the agency established several goals for their environmental efforts:

  • To institute and internally promote recycling of everyday trash (paper, cardboard, tin and aluminum cans, glass and plastic).
  • To reduce waste in every agency department (accounting/billing, media, creative and client communications) through cutting back on or reusing paper, selecting Energy Star-rated printers and equipment, carpooling to meetings, and choosing more environmentally-friendly products and materials.
  • To strive to work with vendors and suppliers who promote and practice sustainable business operations.
  • To increase awareness of the agency’s work with green and sustainability programs and products among clients.
  • To promote sustainability to clients and prospects, and educate these groups by integrating sustainability planning into all campaigns and programs.
     

The agency rolled out their internal green program with in-house posters, agency-branded recycling containers, and plans to gradually phase in additional recycling and sustainability actions, including reducing the use of unsustainable plastics and non-forest-certified paper products. The firm also instituted a series of in-house info sessions on green topics and introduced “Knozone” Action Day alerts to promote employee participation in green activities. Ongoing update meetings keep staff informed about agency progress toward green goals, and continue to “up the ante” with additional sustainability initiatives to keep employees motivated and active.

A Greener Future

Going forward, the agency plans to:

  • Continue to promote reduction of waste, recycling and reuse within the agency and to agency vendors, partners and clients.
  • Look for ways to reduce employee and agency transportation emissions.
  • Increase agency participation in community cleanups and other public activities to “push” the agency’s green status out to the general public.

 

Read more about green marketing.

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