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Nine Truths and a Lie About Authentic Environmental Messages

Posted by IFCO Systems
August 06, 2015

Environmental messaging is abundant for many marketers looking to connect with their target audiences about "green" topics. Talking about the environment and the impact of your products or services on the earth’s resources can prove to be a challenge for many marketers, even in the fresh produce industry. At IFCO, we’re no strangers to this type of messaging – sharing our environmental story is something we do for our customers every day. If you’re a fresh produce marketer, don’t let yourself believe that sharing environmental stories with your customers has to be complicated. Here are nine truths (and one lie) about authentic environmental messaging to help guide your stories throughout the year:

  1. TRUTH: Environmental is personal. To some of your customers, “environmental” means the packaging you use (or don’t use), and to others it means land stewardship and operations, and to others it might mean local, family-run, or organic. By knowing what your customers value when it comes to their environmental footprint, you can better tailor your message to serve their personal needs in the best possible way.
  2. TRUTH: You must have a message for everyone. This doesn’t mean a laundry list of keywords on your package and website. It means a stair step approach to the amount of detail you provide based on the consumers’ interest. Include the basics at POS along with a URL to your main consumer website. On your website, provide the next level of detail, listing all of the ways in which your company approaches sustainability. From there, you might also make more detailed documentation or subscriptions for updates available for the truly interested and diehard. In this way, you avoid overwhelming those at the more minimalist end of the spectrum while still communicating that more information is available if they want it.
  3. TRUTH: “Message” doesn’t have to mean just “words.” In fact, it shouldn’t. Today’s marketplace demands a level of authenticity that goes beyond using the right buzzwords. There’s greater credibility in walking the walk and letting your customers talk the talk for you. That being said, your greatest microphone will come from your customers sharing your message with others because they have seen it from you again and again and experienced its authenticity first hand.
  4. TRUTH: It’s ok to take credit for the choices you make. In most of our businesses, we make choices every day in the search for greater efficiencies in our operations that we don’t necessarily think of as “sustainable” because the environment wasn’t a factor in our decision. But any time you make things faster or cheaper, you’re probably using fewer resources, and should be sure your customers know about these changes.
  5. TRUTH: Consumers understand sustainability intuitively. What the industry calls “efficiency,” your customers know as “thriftiness.” Take reuse, for example. Everyone has at least one person in their family (I’m looking at you, mom…) who’s been reusing since before it was cool. You’ll know them by the plastic party cups lying out to dry on every surface in the kitchen, or the used Ziploc bags drip drying in the bathroom. Whether you’re reusing materials or shipping in reusable crates, you can easily connect your efforts to your customers’ lives.
  6. TRUTH: Food waste is the next big thing in sustainability. Your customers are becoming increasingly aware of food waste because it’s easy for everyone to rally around (who’s going to argue FOR it?) and everyone in the supply chain, including consumers, own some of the blame. It’s time to think about how we communicate both how we work to reduce shrink and preserve quality and also offer recommendations for consumers to lower their waste. This trickles all the way down to consumers at the store level interested in shopping at stores they know reduce food waste and for brands they know do the same.
  7. TRUTH: Consumers are looking to us to help them reduce waste. Offering packaging that extends shelf life is an obvious win for retailers. If that same packaging also helps your shoppers throw less of your product away, you’ll more than make up for less frequent purchases by increasing their trust in your brand. If the value-add trend has taught us anything, it’s that consumers are more than willing to pay a premium for convenience.
  8. TRUTH: Environmental messaging doesn’t have to mention the environment. Why not offer coupons for branded reusable produce bags at POS as a promotion? This is a great example of subtle messaging about reuse and waste reduction, and your consumers will think of you every time they use the bags. You might also leverage your social media campaigns to promote kids’ use of your products for arts and crafts. You don’t even have to create them yourself, there’s a whole world of ideas on Pinterest. By re-tweeting or posting these ideas to your customers, you associate your brand with wholesome, environmentally-friendly use of your products without ever having to state it directly.
  9. TRUTH: You must engage your customers – no matter where you are in the supply chain, your customers are your single richest source of ideas about your products. By engaging your customers in a conversation about how you can help them become greener, you’re not only sourcing ideas your customers have already approved, but you’re sending a strong message about your brand values and deepening your relationship with them.
  10. LIE: Environmental messaging is complicated. If the nine truths outlined here demonstrate anything, it’s that the best environmental messaging is simple and authentic. Like your products, sustainability is integrated throughout your customers’ lives in a very personal way. By showing your customers in subtle ways that you walk the walk and make it easier for them to do so as well, you connect with them on a deep level.


Originally published on The Core Blog on April 22, 2014.


Impact Positive Social Change

Topics: Sustainability