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A Sustainable Design Blog

Sustainability Will Set You Apart

Organic is taking over the world!! Yay! Celebrate! And customers are now expecting more from you!! Oh no! Panic! Actually, you probably don’t have to panic, but you may need to spend as much time focusing on the sustainability of your company as you do your product, because that is starting to become a distinguishing factor among buyers.

Quality Assurance International just published their Organic Forecast for 2023, and the future is looking bright! Since 2002, sales of organic have increased 266%, which is glorious, but it also means that there are more products on the market with that little green USDA Organic symbol (like you didn’t notice), which means you have to do more than just be organic.

Combine this market increase with the global insistence on transparency and you can understand QAI’s prediction that consumers want your company to be as socially and environmentally responsible as the farming practices you support.

Increased focus on companies’ impact on biodiversity, water and soil conservation will translate to additional sustainability metrics in organic practices. As the spirit of organic is to grow in harmony with nature, each farm and company’s environmental impact will be under more scrutiny.

Your customers are an educated bunch and they know hypocrisy when they see it. Analyze customer-facing brand elements (like packaging, sponsorships, and your website) first for a quick impact. Organic products packaged in impossible-to-recycle materials or wasteful over-packaging will show a company to be insincere in their sustainable efforts.

Next, figure out what you’re company is doing that a customer might not know about. If a tree falls in the woods it may make a sound and if you built a LEED certified factory it may be good for the environment, but without anyone knowing, it makes no difference to your bottom line.

And of course, plan to do more to demonstrate your company's sustainability commitment. All aspects of your business provide an opportunity for you to improve, from your energy sourcing to where you buy your printer paper. It can be daunting and time consuming to do a sustainability report on your own company, so it's often worth it to hire a consultant for such matters. Now you know why there are so many corporate social responsibility officers popping up in fortune 500 companies! 

If you want loyalty, you need to report your company’s sustainable efforts outside of just an organic product. Employee volunteering, using certified fair labor factories, a switch to eco-centric packaging, are all things that build customer loyalty. Shout about it! This isn’t bragging, it’s reporting. It’s telling customers that your values line up with theirs and that your company is serious about it’s commitment to the triple bottom line of sustainability: economy, environment, and ethics. If I’m buying your product, I want to know what my money is supporting.

Jennifer Stewart is the Office Manager and wanna-be organizational psychologist at Modern Species. For more posts from her, click here.

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