June is the peak of Britain’s gardening season, according to the Horticultural Trade Association’s (HTA) latest figures, which show the month is most popular for garden shopping. With the sharp increase in demand for organic products that we have witnessed in recent years, the gardening trade is a great example of how increasingly, green can equal profitability, and this rings true for SMEs.
Public perception of sustainability-led products and services is changing, from consumer choices which are considered fanciful to aspirational options; just look at new registrations of plug in cars, which rose to 50,000 in the UK at the start of the year and the projected growth in the domestic market for building insulation. In the B2B sphere, we are also seeing how evidence of a conscious attitude towards sustainability pays dividends. Here are five ways in which your business can take advantage of the trend:
1. Incorporate sustainability into your marketing message
If you've recently adopted sustainable policies such as, changing your manufacturing process to use recycled plastic, or made the decision to recycle the materials used for your exhibition stand, rather than send them for land fill, you should be telling people about it through your marketing. Customers want to know that what they are buying is having less of a negative effect on the environment than a competing product or service.
2. Seek out synergistic clients
In B2B circles, many companies would prioritise a supplier that can show evidence of sustainability led company policies, especially if they are environmentally aware themselves. Building a chain of synergistic clients and suppliers forms a co-operative group of green minded organisations that are able to reinforce and widen the scope of each other's sustainability policies by association.
3. Look out for green bargains
One of the most common misconceptions in making your business greener is that it will cost you more money - quite often, the opposite is true. If you are a round the clock business, using energy efficient lightning not only makes financial sense, it can also provide you with a saving when it comes to your energy bills, keeping your work space well lit for a lower cost. Meanwhile, other sustainable initiatives might not save you money, but they need not cost your business a penny - take recycling waste for instance.
4. Ensure your pricing remains competitive
We are often reminded of the fact that sustainable products and services must avoid alienating customers in order to be profitable. Take the FMCG industry, for instance. Organic and green products are typically priced higher than the alternatives. While it may be part of your sustainability strategy to increase your prices to compensate for any increased production costs, you should aim to keep pricing as competitive as possible. Customers have proven they are willing to meet the cost of sustainable produce - the Soil Association found that Brits spent £1.4 million more a week on organic food in 2015, despite an overall drop in food prices - but the larger number of organic products on the market means it is essential to set pricing realistically.
5. Make sustainable HR work for you
If your work process allows it, launching human resources initiatives such as flexible working can reduce overheads in the office, while benefiting the environment from less cars on the road. Telecommuting gives those that appreciate the convenience of being able to work from home the option to do so. Also consider initiatives such as cycling schemes, which allow your company to chip in with reducing carbon emissions, while also having a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of your work force.
Green business practices are fast becoming more like the rule rather than the exception to it, but the switch to sustainability needn’t mean the bottom line suffers as a result. In business as in life, the chances are we will enjoy more rewards from an activity which is positive, and does more good than harm.