Below is an article I recently submitted for publication to the Association of Fundraising Professional’s newsletter about green marketing for not-for-profits. Nevertheless, the lessons discussed are applicable to for-profit businesses as well.
Nearly every day, when we open a newspaper or magazine or turn on the news, we see and hear something about the importance of being “green.” There are many reasons for this, most notably the acceptance of global warming as fact. Global warming has gone from a term used in the scientific community to a national issue on the minds of tens of millions of Americans. 2007 was the year when most citizens began to take notice and take action, and they are increasingly demanding that the places where they work, companies from which they buy products, and organizations to which they donate make significant and sustained efforts to address environmental issues. These efforts must cut across all facets of an organization, from energy conservation, to recycling initiatives, to waste and water use reduction.
One of the most active conversations that we constantly have with our clients in the not-for-profit world, particularly those in development and communications, is how they can show their donors, prospects, and constituents that they are acting in an environmentally-conscious way. In addition to implementing some of the operational business practices mentioned above, we highlight their collateral as a valuable tool in this effort. Quite often, their mailings and other marketing pieces are the principal vehicle through which they communicate with their key stakeholders and thus provide tremendous opportunities to connect in focused ways.
Each new project is an opportunity to deliver a values-laden message at a time when environmentally-sound practices are one of the hottest topics on the political, social and business landscapes. In fact, according to recent national polling data, the environment was a top-five issue with Americans, behind the economy, Iraq, and healthcare. For that reason, in addition to using marketing and fundraising projects simply as a means to discuss a specific topic (i.e. an event, annual appeal, etc), it is important to think bigger and bolder. Therefore, we make strategic recommendations on how to produce these pieces in environmentally-friendly ways, which strengthen the relationship between the organization and the donor. This is a critical part of the mission of fundraising professionals, and we are working closely with not-for-profit clients all over New England to make that goal a reality.
Research demonstrates the importance of the environment to prospective donors. According to a 2007 Gallup poll, 83% of respondents said that they believed the environmental record of an organization is an important factor when deciding to buy one of its products. According to an environmental survey published by Cone LLC, a cause branding firm headquartered in Boston, 93% of Americans “believe companies have a responsibility to help preserve the environment” while 91% of Americans said they “have a more positive image of a company when it is environmentally responsible.” There is no question that this data applies to not-for-profits as well.
Not only does incorporating sustainable business practices into your organization make good business sense, it is also the right thing to do. Manufacturing of all kinds, including the creation of collateral, requires large amounts of electricity, traditionally produced by fossil fuel-powered generators. The combustion of fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Therefore, one of most effective ways to address the environment with your marketing communications is to produce your materials with renewable energy, specifically wind power. Any number of third-party reports highlight that wind power resonates very well with end consumers – who make up your respective donor bases.
Therefore, we made the strategic investment in early 2007 to power our envelope production facilities with 100% certified wind power, using Green-e certified renewable energy credits. We offered envelopes made with wind power at no extra cost, and the program took our industry by storm. Some of our initial customers included: American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Boston University, Common Cause, Federation of American Scientists, League of Conservation Voters, National Park Foundation, Partners Healthcare, Project Bread, Tufts University and WBUR. Over the past year, we have worked with approximately 75 clients to produce more than 120 million envelopes with wind power, which has saved more than 33,000 gallons of oil!
In addition to the wind-power envelope initiative, Grossman Marketing Group now offsets 100% of our energy use in all of our facilities, so can help our clients make all of their printed collateral with certified wind power, at no extra cost. In addition to renewable energy, we have come up with some very simple tips to “green” our clients’ collateral projects, always with the bottom line in mind.
We recommend that once clients make the decision to make their collateral more environmentally-friendly, they clearly articulate this to their constituents. We work with our clients to translate the environmental savings into very simple and easy-to-understand terms so your donors can fully grasp the positive contributions you are making to the environment. You should never hesitate to explain the work that you are doing – whether it is on the back of an envelope, or in a section of your annual report or newsletter. Clear communication and transparency are absolutely critical, as they will allow you to use your environmentally-conscious approach as a way to differentiate your organization from your competition and establish a competitive advantage.