More and more companies are learning they can reduce their environmental and social impacts by minimizing the impacts of their products. Major companies like General Electric Co. and IBM are making sustainability a platform for growth and funding significant advertising campaigns, while CEOs are talking about the good that their products are bringing due to their sustainability improvements.
The most important thing these campaigns must do is to clearly communicate the benefits of these eco-improved products. Based on my experience in product design and marketing at Johnson & Johnson there are three keys to proper green communications.
1. Have a credible product story: At J&J, we do this through our Earthwards® greener product development process, a four-step process that enables product developers to easily understand how to make products more sustainable. (I will be talking more about this at NAEM’s upcoming EHS Management Forum in Naples.)
2. Meet your customers’ product demands: Understanding what’s important to your customers helps inform greener product design. For example, our hospital customers are interested in reducing waste and energy, so any product improvements that address this issue should be emphasized.
3. Appropriately communicate the product’s greener attributes: We are very careful to communicate the greener attributes of products. The Earthwards® process helps because we know that any claims we make come through a rigorous process. One of the best ways to insulate your product from “greenwashing” is to use credible third party verification of your claims. This reduces the possibility of making a mistake. Also, research indicates that customers tend to gravitate towards products that have third party verification.
In your experience with green product development and marketing, what are some of the strategies you’ve used to explain the value proposition to your customers? How have these products fared in the marketplace? Have they helped you gain competitive advantage?
Al Iannuzzi is a Senior Director in the Worldwide Environment, Health & Safety department at Johnson & Johnson, and author of the new book, “Greener Products: the Making & Marketing of Sustainable Brands” (CRC Press 2011). He will share more insights from his experience at NAEM’s EHS Management Forum on Oct. 17-19 in Naples, Fla.