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Posted on 2022-07-07

Business Schools Can Shape Climate Leadership: Here’s How

When fighting climate change at a global level, we often look to institutions that have both human power and the ability to influence and educate. Larger groups of people with more attention on them tend to be able to lead the charge, after all. And so it was at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow last year. Many scientists and CEOs were there, along with representatives from NGOs and the government. However, the one group missing was a group that could have a massive positive impact on the climate action agenda: business schools.

Why are business schools late to the party?

The fact that climate change falls outside what you’d typically see in a business school’s academic curriculum is a major factor. Faculty might feel underqualified to talk about such an all-pervasive issue and might default to domains that are challenging but comfortable enough to explore, such as digital transformation. 

It might also be because climate change is still seen as something you could choose to believe in. This makes it harder to tackle as it involves changing many societal perceptions first.

Why are they critical to the narrative?

The core mission of any business school is to evolve and adapt the practice of management, especially in the face of unprecedented change. Climate change is the cause of much of this “unprecedented change.” While business schools aren’t experts in climate science, they do have the expertise to address change and access to technology, innovation, and some of the brightest minds in the world who are being primed for leadership roles. They also have the ability to collaborate with field experts, which creates the ideal environment to shape climate leadership.

Business schools also stress keeping the bigger picture in mind, which works marvelously in favor of climate action. Any organization’s climate footprint isn’t concentrated in one link of the chain. Reducing paper cups in an office doesn’t do much if the organization pollutes rivers somewhere down the chain. The opposite applies: reducing the climate footprint in the supply chain isn’t going to solve all problems if employees assume that stops at work and continue leaving a huge footprint in their personal lives. Working across the value chain to rework processes and reduce climate impact is a skill that business schools are uniquely placed to teach.

Much of the debate on climate action centers around who holds responsibility. Individual action doesn’t amount to much if change isn’t made at a leadership level. Leaders can’t make much change if individuals don’t listen to them. Since leadership and organizational change are at the core of any business school’s curriculum, their graduates can be made capable of influencing climate-friendly decisions and fostering collaboration across the board.

Business school students actively study governance and control, which is a facet of climate action that we can’t ignore. Business school graduates have worked with top leaders for decades to move the needle on shareholder value and incentivization. What if we were to add climate-related topics to the mix, such as speeding up decarbonization and regulating corporate activity to suit the climate agenda? We’d be able to create change more effectively and quickly.

How some B-schools are leading the charge

It isn’t fair to say that all business schools aren’t talking about how they can influence climate action. For example, the Climate Change and Business Program at Columbia Business School, features a 10-year-old curriculum that includes classes like The Business of Climate Change: Investing and Managing in a Changing Environment and New Development in Energy Markets. It focuses on relating theory and practice, which is one of the most important contributions B-school graduates can make to existing discourse.

Another example is the Leeds School of Business, whose Renewable Energy MBA Pathway prepares students to lead the transition to clean energy. Environmental entrepreneurship is a focus area, as are energy policies in the 21st century and sustainable energy in practice. 

Steps B-schools can take to tackle climate change

Business schools can cooperate to create a network of ethical and knowledgeable business executives. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

Re-evaluate the principles of capitalism taught at B-schools

With its emphasis on shareholder interests and profit, modern capitalism appears to be fundamentally in conflict with sustainability. When the narrative at schools also focuses on profit, sustainability becomes a lower-order priority. This is a fallacy because conscious and regenerative capitalism is still a viable route to take. We don’t need to give up growth and innovation to achieve sustainability — the two are more interlinked than we can currently see. This isn’t a departure from tradition. If anything, it’s a return to what many business schools were founded to do: educating the human first, then the business person. 

Integrate sustainability across the curriculum

While most courses on sustainability are well-intentioned, they’re fundamentally flawed because right from the get-go, they’re separated from other classes in the curriculum. This leads students to see sustainability as a separate entity, one that they only need to take up if they’re interested or need more credits. In reality, sustainability needs to be integrated into all courses, including marketing, operations, finance and accounting, as a unifying theme. This is a much more accurate picture of how critical sustainable leadership is while training to graduate from B-schools. 

Collaborate with other B-schools to fight a common enemy

Given that many business schools are keen competitors, this might sound challenging, if not possible. But it’s already happening, in the form of the Business Schools for Climate Leadership (BS4CL). Eight of Europe’s top business schools have formed this unique alliance to assist business leaders in posing essential questions and evaluating their capacity to respond appropriately to this global disaster. Their toolkit explains where there are chances to make a difference and where there are weaknesses that climate change will further reveal. Since they collectively teach over 55,000 students a year and have a collective alumni body of over 400,000 people, this collaboration can positively impact climate action. Colin Mayer of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School added:

“Not all schools have the expertise it takes to design courses, and some are better placed to draw on expertise from outside business school, so there’s a great deal that can be done working across institutions.”

Introduce sustainable case studies into course material

A lot of courses in business schools are taught using real-life case studies. This is a safe but exciting way to introduce climate leadership examples — giving students the opportunity to evaluate real-world successes while also understanding the complex ecosystems within which these companies have to operate. For example, the MBA program at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology features a case study on EcoMatcher as a business. Other universities can create similar sessions and even invite business owners to share their perspectives and introduce future leaders to the potential that waits in the sustainability sector.

Create momentum at the grassroots level

In many business schools, the course options are greatly influenced by students, and donors also have some sway. Grassroots student activism and continuous demand can provide the momentum that “new” concepts such as sustainability in business need to enter the core curriculum. 

The final word

Our work on climate change and leadership needs to become increasingly granular to have some impact, and focusing on climate leadership at business schools is one way to do that. As Colin Mayer said, “Business schools should be at the vanguard of the changes taking place, not at the rearguard.”

Posted on 2022-03-08

Why and How Businesses Can Tackle Climate Change

We live in incredible times, with massive tech and financial developments benefiting businesses greatly. However, with great power comes great responsibility — and in this case, that’s the responsibility for climate change. Until recently, many organizations and industries have gone about everyday processes without thinking about their carbon emissions. However, these emissions will increasingly come at a high financial and social cost.

We might be unsure about exactly how climate change will alter the planet — but the examples we’re seeing all over the world right now don’t look promising. Negative environmental impact will also have a domino effect on business and society. 

Business leaders are well aware of the need to act. The trouble comes when deciding on how to act — and the route that is often chosen ends up forgoing long-term benefits for short-term compliance. 

Why businesses should tackle climate change

Humans are evolved to pay attention to threats that are immediate and proximate. In the words of Ronald Wright, the author of A Short History of Progress, we are “running 21st-century software on 50,000-year-old hardware”.

That also holds true for climate change. Businesses tend to focus on more immediate and visible challenges or benefits and respond to those. Climate change seems like a “slow burn” in contrast or something that’s not even worth looking at. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Climate change will harm economies, decimate communities, and increase resource scarcity in the near future. All that will have a significant impact on business costs and profit margins. Over the next few years, we’ll see increasingly aggressive climate policies and regulations being set into motion — and retrofitting systems to comply with these could rack up some crazy costs. Being climate-forward before all this happens means that your business is already compliant and seeing the benefits by the time these regulations roll out. 

Climate action isn’t something we can sit out any longer — it needs to be baked into the DNA and daily workings of every business in the world. So why not start right away?

How to tackle climate change as a business

The go-to for tackling climate change at an organizational level is almost always Corporate Social Responsibility programs. In addition to this, there are other lucrative ways for businesses to participate in climate action for both their and the planet’s gain. 

Invest in natural climate solutions

Natural climate solutions (NCS) center around conservation and restoration of natural resources as well as land management. These solutions aim to improve carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and have a high potential to achieve that.

According to research, nature-based solutions can account for 37% of the reductions in emissions that we need to achieve by 2030. Simultaneously, they are able to boost jobs in countries across the world and protect vulnerable communities and habitats. 

Planting trees is perhaps one of the most effective solutions in this category because trees are natural carbon sinks. By partnering with a transparent tree-planting organization, businesses can contribute to reforestation in areas that sorely need it. 

Add UN SDGs to business goals 

Business goals are traditionally reflective of financial bottom lines. However, tweaking them to reflect the UN’s sustainable goals can help businesses achieve climate action alongside high productivity and profits. It also helps that private firms have all the right ingredients to help further SDGs: people, resources, capital, and—potentially—the right leadership. 

Businesses that work with supply chains are uniquely positioned to adapt, for example, Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. The supply chain must be seen as an extension of the company and the community — which means climate-first policies that apply within the office apply to the longer chain as well. 

The United Nations is instrumental in shaping the interactions of businesses with climate change. Their initiative, Caring for Climate, brings together 400 companies from 60 countries. By signing up for this initiative, businesses can link existing efforts to an UN-led initiative, lean on the power of other companies striving towards similar goals, and shape the climate policy agenda on a global scale. 

Take action from within

Today’s workforce is well aware of where they stand on climate issues. Many individuals are already fighting for climate justice outside of work — and businesses can leverage their knowledge and expertise at an organizational level. Employees hold tremendous power as they are instrumental in influencing innovation, functioning, and resilience as a team. 

Doing this will mean that every job description should link to the business’ climate goals. Accountants, for example, can crunch numbers and align financial resources with climate goals. The cafeteria team can lobby for plant-based or low-meat diets and reduce food waste. Job roles that use up a lot of electricity—which is most desk jobs today—can include carbon offsetting as part of their performance metrics. Both the bottom line and the environment should gain with every employee’s good performance. Every job should be looked at like a climate job.

Spearhead projects that make a difference

While individual-level day-to-day action help, a huge difference can be made by backing a national or global green initiative. For example, the Zurich Insurance Group promotes the Zurich Forest Project, through which they’ve planted a whopping 1 million seedlings of around 120 selected native species in vulnerable areas. 

Supporting major initiatives like these can help organizations fire up their imagination and contribute to global climate action. It also makes a massive difference in local communities — by seeing a huge organization leading the charge, more and more people join the train and do their bit to support them.

This is even more achievable if organizations partner up with local NGOs and communities. Such an exercise builds trust and respect and contributes to a more resilient social ecosystem that can harmoniously adapt to climate change. 

Lobby dollars on pro-climate policies

The saying, “put your money where your mouth is,” is apt for this suggestion. Through lobbying, the corporate community has historically had a significant effect on policy-making. According to studies, the amount of money spent on lobbying is directly tied to how likely legislation is introduced and even passed. Companies are being urged to “fight back against anti-climate interests” and concentrate lobbying expenditures on a more secure climate future. This is especially true for tech companies that have held particular sway over policies created over the past few years but remain mostly silent on climate policy. 

A great example of this effort is the 1 in 5 for 1.5 campaign, which urges FAANG and similar tech companies to spend 1 in 5 lobbying dollars for climate policies that will keep global warming under 1.5ºC as in the Paris Agreement. 

The final word

Today’s employees are looking to work for companies that dare to care: about the climate, the environment, the society. They hold businesses to higher standards than before — which means they’re more likely to work for a company that aligns with their values. 

For all these reasons and more, businesses must take on the challenge of climate change in their day-to-day and long-term functioning!

Posted on 2021-04-28

How to Make Sure Your Sustainability Programs Create Value

Sustainability programs, if carried out correctly, can be powerful agents of change and innovation.

That said, a lot of company-driven sustainability programs look great on paper but don’t fly in real life.  Many are generic and tend to be for show rather than impact. They don’t consider a company’s strong points, only catering to popular notions of sustainability to be seen. Surface-level tactics have grown threadbare and can even develop a sense of boredom and resistance in company teams because they’re monotonous. 

On the other hand, some companies have created plans that not only involve their products and processes but transforms them to be better and more profitable. Unilever, for example, has a Sustainable Living Plan that exhaustively details their goals for the coming years, including one to cut their products’ greenhouse gas impact by half. IKEA’s 2030 vision is to become climate positive by using sustainable materials, serving plant-based foods, adopting renewable energy, and more. 

So how would you take your company from table-stakes recycling drives to a sustainability program that generates value?

Performance management for sustainability programs

Performance management helps to make sure that an organization’s activities and results are helping them reach their goals efficiently. It has many use cases, and sustainability programs can be one of them. Here’s how:

Narrow your focus

Sustainability comes in many shapes and forms, and first-time program planners make the serious mistake of focusing on 10 different areas at once. Not only is this a waste of time and resources, but it also doesn’t generate the results you can expect. Your choice of a focus area (or three) should be connected to your industry impact, achievable with your resources, and tackle what matters most. 

You can start by asking the following questions:

  • What areas are a good fit for my corporate strategy?
  • When I look at my entire value chain, what matters most?
  • How do I ensure that this is the right path? 
  • How do I give my employees equal stakes and power in seeing this program through?
  • What returns do I want to see, and will the path we’re looking at achieve that?

Outline goals that can be measured

Measuring goals is the only way to see if they’ve worked — but that won’t be possible if the goals you set are intangible, abstract, or immeasurable. You can say, for example, that the company’s goal is to reduce the impact of products on the environment. The questions that arise and leave room for mismanagement are: what products? What impact? How much do we want to reduce the impact? By when do we need to?

While quantifiable goals can look like “This company should recycle 5,000 disposable coffee cups in a month”, you will need to have a longer-term focus than that. Long-term goals not only give you the wriggle room to create strategies that work, but they also promote a culture of accountability and create space for short-term achievements that work towards the finish line. 

Make the business case with cost-benefit analyses

Given that sustainability programs are often looked at as a forced-to-do rather than a need-to-do, not many companies conduct a thorough financial analysis beforehand. The financial impact can come in many forms and from surprising angles. Therefore, it’s crucial to have eyes on all possible targets and continuously weigh the costs against each target’s benefits. 

There are two kinds of benefits: the ones that pay off immediately and those that rack up quite the impact in the long term. The first kind is often the ones companies settle for — reduced plastic consumption, for example, or lower electricity bills. While these are good things, the true financial impact comes from the second type, but they’re also the ones that need the most focus and determination over time. This data shouldn’t be kept under wraps but instead shared with employees and stakeholders to drive motivation and increase loyalty. 

Reward those who put in the work 

Sustainability programs are an all-hands-on-deck sort of affair. This means that motivation and appreciation must be constantly given to those who actively make the program work. Depending on the industry you occupy, these could be employees, suppliers, factory workers, partner organizations, or even packaging teams. 

Incentivizing actions help these stakeholders contribute by nurturing a sense of responsibility that comes from the inside. They can look like monetary perks, shares, planting trees in the name of each stakeholder… whatever suits your business model. But the fact of the matter is that they create high standards for supply chains, ensuring that weak links are removed, and the program is adhered to from start to finish. Finally, the cooperation of all stakeholders will be the key to the organization drawing out the full value of the program. 

Play the long game, not the short con

Sustainability philosophies will look different for every organization. But that doesn’t change the fact that choosing to drive towards it can open doors to innovation and value that other initiatives can’t match. After all, positive environmental action must take into account that the Earth’s resources are limited. We’d simply be playing for time with smaller actions when there are larger changes that need to be made, and made now. 

Posted on 2021-04-07

Innovation and Growth through Sustainability

Plenty of systems we use today once begun on a very small scale, with only a handful of enthusiasts using them. Cut to a few years later, and these same systems have whipped up a storm in their respective industries. Think back to the World Wide Web, which is perhaps the best example of this catapulting. Today, we can’t imagine the world without the web — indeed, we wouldn’t be able to write to you about it, without it. 

Sustainability is also expected to follow a similar trajectory, and I am inclined to agree. 

Sustainability has been a “nice to have” for many years and was the mark of good citizens and conscious planet advocates. More recently though, many businesses are looking at sustainability as an essential part of their functioning, often dedicating departments and teams to CSR and environment-friendly undertakings.

That’s grown into organizations correctly identifying the positive effects of their commitment on revenue and brand value. Indeed, other organizations have made sustainability the crux of their products and services — building around it instead of accommodating it at a later stage. 

So how can we expect sustainability-led innovation to pan out? 

Sustainability is a rich source of innovation

Many firms survived the dot-com boom of 2000 by innovating in advance and indirectly threatening incumbents. We can similarly expect sustainable enterprises to rise from the ashes of today’s slowdown to change the status quo. 

Sustainability has catapulted on the list of goals driving companies today — and it’s about time, too, considering we’re in a critical decade where every organizational and individual action can make or break our very existence. 

Introducing design constraints

Sustainability has the power to shape our future products and services, and how much (or little) of our key resources they use. These key resources usually are water, energy, carbon, land, and materials. It’s worth noting that all products use these resources directly or indirectly — so to ask the question “how can we design this product or service to use absolutely none of our key resources?” is altogether another level of constraint to fuel innovation and creativity. Again, it goes back to building around sustainability, rather than building sustainability into something.

Lowering costs

A lot of organizations looking to broach sustainability end up shying away because surface-level research maintains that it is expensive. But that’s not the whole picture. Choosing to take an environmentally friendly route, and create planet-friendly products or services, is shown to lower costs. This is because companies reduce the number of inputs they use. They’re also able to reduce their dependency on key resources and aren’t as affected by sudden economic shocks or price volatility. Taking the slightly harder route not only means good clean offerings, but it also means richer top and bottom-lines. 

Creating the next best practices

To paraphrase a cliché, the future is shaped by what we do in the past. To develop the next generation of innovations is to first question the current assumptions behind every service or product. In the context of sustainability, these assumptions could look like:

  • We have the fossil fuels we need to run our factory (but will we have it in 5 years?)
  • Unethical practices fuel many normalized services and products we use today (so what can we do to change that?)
  • Plastic is harmful, but we have no alternatives currently (so what do we do to create them?) 

Granted, some similar questions can feel ridiculous, because we’ve followed these practices for decades. But that’s the spirit of innovation: to ask all the ridiculous questions because somewhere, there’s the seed of an idea that’ll change the game in the next few years. 

There’s also the matter of new ideas emerging at the intersection of industries we previously thought were separate and distinct. Who’d have thought the internet and energy management could collaborate? Yet today, we have the smart grid, which uses digital technology to manage power generation and distribution while reporting lower costs and significantly more efficient use of energy. Could we ever have imagined that the millions of plastic bottles we throw away every year could see new lives as—wait for it—clothing? Patagonia did, way back in 1993. Look at how they’re doing now. 

Tips on taking the first step towards innovation through sustainability

In all honesty, the first step depends on your industry, processes, products, and services. But the pre-steps, as it were, are something literally any company can consider working on. Here are a few tips on that front:

Change happens from the top 

When we’re talking about enterprise-wide initiatives, it is worth noting that higher management’s inclination on fully embracing sustainability can change the game. When top management decides they want to focus on the root cause—and not on the symptoms or perceptions alone—then change often happens rapidly.

Take GE, for example. In 2004, CEO Jeff Immelt set the company to educating themselves about critical environmental issues. Their strategy, ecomagination, strove to power innovation and returns by taking the environmental bull—energy efficiency and harmful impacts—by its horns. Within five years, they saw a whopping $18 billion in revenues from that scheme alone. Today, they’re unmatched leaders in several industries. 

The right team makes a world of difference

Social and environmental responsibility is strongly sought after by new recruits, especially in the younger generations. A company’s position on pressing issues—such as climate change, diversity, and inclusion—can be a critical deciding factor for them. Naturally, it means companies can’t afford to ignore them.

If you intend to take bold steps in the direction of sustainability, or want to uproot old practices for better ones, there’s nothing like the right-minded team to help you along the journey. It goes beyond having teams that do the work and considers their individual stances and commitment to the cause. Conversely, companies that adopt sustainable practices and approaches will find themselves attracting like-minded top talent who don’t need to be inducted into the ideology because they already share it. 

Try long-sighted vision on for size 

The paradox of enjoying the returns of sustainability is that they’re not immediate. This little revelation has a history of deterring organizations, leaving them stuck in the quagmire of unhealthy and unsustainable practices. When you’re creating a sustainable strategy, it’s always recommended to look at and beyond the horizon. This way, companies can spot the low-hanging fruit to hit the ground running — and they’re also on the lookout for future risks and opportunities to avoid and take advantage of, respectively. 

Take a good hard look at your business

Introspection is difficult, and even more so for massive companies. But it’s a critical factor in understanding where your company currently stands on the sustainability spectrum. Only then will you be able to take steps smartly, and in the right direction. 

EcoMatcher is committed to the cause of innovation and growth through sustainability; technology and transparency are always at the forefront of our efforts. We’re equally invested in helping our partners capture low-hanging fruit and creating an environmentally friendly culture. 

Posted on 2021-03-15

Why Tree Gifting is the Next Cool Trend

Gifts hold great sentimental and emotional value, and thus, when gifts are given, careful thought must be invested. The ideal gift is one that not only expresses the sentiments of the giver but also has great significance attached to it. Small wonder, then, that for those in search of a gift that is unique and also sends across a great message, a sapling or tree is ideal. 

Trees hold just as much value for corporates as they do for individuals. When hunting for eco-friendly corporate gifts, gifting a tree is a quick and easy way around it. Individual tree planting or corporate tree planting is an excellent way of raising awareness about saving the environment while maintaining profits and increasing customer loyalty and shareholder value. It makes for a wonderful CSR initiative and can be extended within the company as well, through an ‘adopt a tree’ program to increase employee engagement. 

Here’s why trees are cool:

  • Reduce Packaging Waste and Shipping Costs Across Borders

Traditional gifts are not only overused, but they also contribute tonnes to the world’s already burgeoning packaging waste problem. With international orders, the delivery process becomes that much more unsustainable as transport and air travel can be involved, despite being one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gases in the world today.

Trees, however, are physical but not tangible, per se. They can’t be shipped in boxes or packaged in turtle-strangling bubble wrap. Today’s technological revolution is even allowing the digital gifting of trees—online platforms such as EcoMatcher champion the efforts to cut packaging waste and costs by offering trees digitally. EcoMatcher’s TreeTracker web app allows virtual visits to the gifted tree from anywhere in the world. 

  • Reduce CO2 Emissions and Toxic Greenhouse Gases in the Air

The environmental change due to the destruction of this life force may increase the number of harmful gases in the atmosphere, making the planet increasingly unfit for living. However, by planting more trees, we can ensure a reduction in these harmful gases. Trees are natural cleaners of the atmosphere and environment. They reduce toxic gases and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, letting out breathable oxygen in return. Even a single tree is impactful– one massive tree can produce enough oxygen for four people for a day!

Tree planting has a lot of scope for effectively wiping out 100 years of carbon emissions. Reforestation and climate change action go hand in hand, not least because tree planting is possibly the best climate change solution there is today.

  • Restore Habitats for Wildlife

Just the way we humans depend and dwell on our environment, so does our wildlife. Our wildlife and environment are dependent on each other. The destruction or harm to the environment endangers wildlife and disturbs the ecosystem. One of the more significant threats to wildlife is deforestation. Gifting trees is an excellent way of getting people to help the environment and also educating people about the advantages of trees in our lives. More trees mean protection; protected wildlife means a symbiotic ecosystem. On an organizational level, companies can initiate corporate tree planting for sustainability or introduce sustainable employee engagement initiatives to continue meeting business targets and, holistically, sustainable goals.  

  • Increase Emotional and Mental Health

Many studies present a resoundingly positive case for trees contributing to the mental and emotional health of humans. In fact, one discovered that increasing the number of trees in a city block by 10 can invoke emotional and psychological changes in ways similar to getting $10,000 extra a year or being 7 years younger!

Exposure to nature or spending time in tree-lined areas can considerably bring down the symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety. This co-relates to why those who live in urban settings or away from nature tend to see a spike in symptoms compared to those in tree-covered areas. Gifting a tree only makes measurable happiness more accessible and affordable to those without the means or money to settle in suburban or green spaces. 

The reasons for these observations are many, the most agreed-upon being trees’ ability to purify the air and produce more oxygen. Tree planting also reduces stress, which in turn delivers physical benefits. But the psychological ‘placebo’ effect of trees is perhaps the most intense, yet the most unexplainable. 

Conclusion

And there you have it– reasons, running the gamut from environmental change to increase in happiness, that make tree planting and tree gifting the next cool trend and one that you should definitely be in on as individuals or corporates. Trees make for excellent eco-friendly corporate gifts, employee rewards, and milestone markers in a firm. There’s a positive business element in tree gifting, too, as it can be used to contribute towards CSR initiatives, fulfill sustainable development goals and targets or simply make the world a better place for your employees and clients!

Posted on 2021-03-14

5 Reasons to Include Tree Planting for Employee Rewards

Every day, in our own cities, we see trees cut down more and more, and temperatures rise quickly. Many, if not most, are feeling the manifest impact of the cutting of trees first-hand. It’s just that little bit warmer, a little less breathable, and we can all feel first-hand the effects of climate change from cutting more trees.

Today, more and more conversations are being held about how important it is to adopt more environmentally sustainable business practices; these practices will not only offset the carbon footprint humans have been generating, and but also help more people understand the magnitude of environmental change.

Corporate tree planting encourages both firms and individuals to be part of that initiative, from the bottom up. It’s both a unique gifting idea and a successful employee engagement strategy, making them feel personally involved in the process. 

Being part of an adopt-a-tree or a tree-planting campaign is mentally enriching and a long-term reward for employers and employees. Rather than cliché, standard gift sets, eco-friendly corporate gifts are indeed the way to go in 2021!

Planting a tree is theoretically its own reward, as trees result in cleaner air, a purer atmosphere, lower chances of flooding, and lower temperatures. But the lack of an immediate result might cause many not to consider these factors, and that is where issuing rewards come in. These encourage employees and private citizens to do their bit for themselves and public life with such employee engagement initiatives.  

Strategically planted, trees can noticeably lead to lowered temperatures, creating an environment that is more pleasant and significantly more conducive to productivity. Those lower temperatures lead to your business’s profitability – at the ‘cost’ of rewards or remuneration to encourage those behaviors. Here is why tree planting or adoption drives make for the ideal employee rewards

  1. Save money on unsustainable gifts

Corporate gifting can be a tedious task on the best of days, and standard corporate gifts often are generic, repetitive, and not always useful. Most significantly, however, corporate gifts– particularly due to their packaging– are often unsustainable and create large amounts of unrecyclable waste, likely to end up in a landfill and non-biodegradable. Personalization for corporate gifts can also run costs up to a degree.  Instead, gifting tree adoption or planting a tree in an employee’s name enriches the environment and the employee’s experience in the company. 

2. Fulfil CSR objectives 

Corporate social responsibility ensures that a business stays accountable and responsible, whether it is to itself, the public, or its investors. A significant part of corporate social responsibility is ensuring that a firm operates in ways that are not only beneficial to its economic and organizational goals but also do not actively take away from the environment but rather benefit it. 

Part of those objectives means that the company must be conscious of the kind of impact they have on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental. 

CSR entails that a company fulfills its responsibilities to society by not negatively impacting the environment and society, but instead enhancing them. 

Fulfilling CSR objectives can positively enhance the public image of the company and boost employee – and investor morale, thereby meeting the company’s CSR goals and improving its public image.

3. Contribute to UN SDGs 

The United Nations instituted Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, in 2015. These are goals meant to reach the final aim of sustainable development, on the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’, and aiming for sustainable development worldwide.

Part of those SDGs is to ‘ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns,’ meaning the sustainable use of the world’s limited supply of natural resources, aiming, within 15 years, to substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse. Focusing corporate gifting and rewards on nature, rather than consumption, would achieve a large part of that goal.

It would also achieve other UN SDGs to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. Planting more trees, here done as a reward, would help build self-sustaining cities providing their inhabitants with a high quality of life and living and sustain its residents. Reducing waste– by simply doing away with consumption in the form of corporate gifting– would also ensure sustainable use and production patterns.

Finally, instituting tree planting for rewards would achieve perhaps the most critical SDG of all– climate action. Planting a significant number of trees actively combats the issue while also adding to raising awareness and increasing human and institutional capacity towards climate change solutions.

4. Raise awareness about the firm’s sustainable moves

In pursuing their sustainable causes publicly and lending tangible support to those causes, companies promote those issues among the general public audiences. This brings more attention and awareness to their positive involvement in climate change matters, the greenhouse effect, landslides, the many other issues deforestation can cause– and how tree planting can help mitigate them.

On the stakeholder front, a sustainable strategy is sure to go down well– investors are increasingly putting their money into sustainably driven firms. At the same time, consumers equal that in trust and purchases. By actively instating tree planting as employee rewards, firms are publicly taking a stand in favor of the environment– this in term makes consumers (and employees) more likely to align with them, trust them, and spread the word. 

In a hopeful ripple effect, this could also encourage rival or counterpart firms to take a stand– this is an establishment of thought leadership but, more importantly, allow more influential organizations to uphold this common cause. 

5. Reward employees in a unique manner 

Cash and incentives are the go-to rewards in traditional companies, but slowly, firms are beginning to recognize the importance of unique gifts. It makes the firm seem more personally invested in individual employees’ lives. It’s also positive reinforcement, which means employees are much more likely to perform better and reach their next goal faster. Tree planting is a double-duty unique reward because it not only sits well in organizational reward structures but also makes the receiver feel, indeed be a part of something bigger than the firm itself.  

Conclusion

Just as people are waking up to the stark, ever-growing realities of climate change and its impact, more people should also be made aware of their participatory role in combatting climate change. It is often said that the “best way to learn is to do” and indeed, there is perhaps a no better way to get started on a journey towards offsetting that carbon footprint than to encourage people to plant more trees themselves, rather than wait for third parties to step up.

It may sound simplistic, but the manifest, wide-spread effects of planting trees are anything but. Planting trees is one of the easiest and most sustainable ways to affect the environment positively, and instituting that as a reward is sure to mobilize the workforce towards the planet’s greater good. EcoMatcher offers companies incredible easy ways to use tree planting for rewards. 

Posted on 2021-03-13

What Tree Planting Does For Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is often mistaken for employee happiness or satisfaction. While these two components are vital to your organization’s overall health, they do not refer to employee engagement– if anything, they are by-products.

Employee engagement points to the emotional investment and commitment of your employees to your company and its goals.

An organization that focuses on employee engagement has employees that care about their work and the organization. They look upon their roles as active contributions to the company’s overall business and health.

It is easy to see why companies strive for high levels of employee engagement. It means that employees are more invested in their roles, they take ownership of their efforts, and the team rallies around the organization during crunch-time.

According to Industrial and Organizational Psychology by Macey and Schneider, organizations can gain a competitive advantage through employee engagement. They found that, out of 65 firms in various sectors, the top 25% of most engaged firms experienced greater returns on assets and profitability. They also had more than double the shareholder value of firms in the bottom 25%. [1]

How to boost employee engagement

According to a paper published in the Academy of Management Journal by Kahn in 1990, employee engagement is built by three conditions – psychological meaningfulness, psychological safety, and psychological availability.

Psychological meaningfulness is achieved when people feel worthwhile, valuable, and that they matter. Psychological safety is associated with establishing stable environments where clear boundaries of good conduct and encouragement for self-expression exist. Psychological availability, in turn, draws from the emotional and psychological resources that employees can bring to their work performances.

Now that we have established what is required to boost engagement, the next step is how to do it. One of the critical factors towards satisfying the first condition of psychological meaningfulness is to create a sense of ownership amongst employees.

Workplaces as part of a larger whole

It is essential to think of a workplace not as a silo but as a part of a broader ecosystem. Employee satisfaction and happiness largely ties to how seriously the firm takes the industry, indeed the larger world. Employees are more likely to be proud of their accomplishments if they’re impacting the larger world rather than if they feel as though their contributions don’t go beyond their office walls.

One of the newest and most promising ways you can foster engagement is by taking it out of the work atmosphere and into the real world, by planting trees. This goes beyond off-sites and team-building activities– it places the literal future of the world in each employee’s hands. In today’s world of climate change and global warming, employees are looking for organizations that reflect their concerns over the planet’s future. Tree planting not only fosters ownership but also signals to employees that your company’s principles are aligned with their own.

How tree planting aids engagement

The cornerstone of any employee engagement activity is the goal and motivation behind it. Tree planting and reforestation efforts are currently at the forefront of the collective conscience due to the extensive green damage caused by deforestation. It is an issue at the very heart of the corporate world with numerous people taking an interest not only in the companies that pollute but a keen and critical image is often given to company heads who do not contribute to the environment in one way or another. As an employee engagement activity, tree planting is one of the most effective motivators for a sustainable work model that emphasizes employee awareness and activism.

This also has numerous benefits for the CSR of the company and is a great PR story. Using tree planting as an employee engagement activity also offers employees the opportunity to gain the opportunity to present the company and themselves in an environmentally sustainable way that also emphasizes team building. Planting and caring for a tree also have mental health benefits in the workplace, as employees feel more interconnected and, at the same time, are given a chance to disconnect. Engaging in tree planting will undoubtedly boost moods, as being out in nature is one of the easiest cures for ailments in the workplace.

The bottom line

Several companies whose business model is centered on helping other organizations step into the realm of tree planting. With a company like EcoMatcher, you can plant an entire forest in your name and gift every employee a tree of the forest. Each employee will be able to track their tree virtually anytime they wish and see where their tree is in the company’s forest. They can track the tree’s growth and learn about how it contributes to the health of the planet.

Organizations are at a crossroads where they must balance their bottom lines with the fate of the planet. Fortunately, there are several ways in which these two concerns can be addressed equally, at the same time. While these processes and initiatives might be different or new to industries, they remain effective with long-term benefits for all parties concerned. As we begin to gear our new world order principles, we must rise to the challenge with innovation and skill!

Posted on 2021-03-12

5 Reasons to Include Tree Planting in Corporate Gifting

Are you looking for an excellent gift for your customers and employees? Corporate businesses should seriously consider the idea of gifting trees as a brand strategy. Here are five reasons why tree planting can prove beneficial to your company, no matter its size.

  • Save Money

Planting and digitally gifting trees are a low-cost endeavor. For the price per tree of less than one cappuccino at Starbucks, you can create a unique relationship with your employees, investors, and customers. The money is sent to a foundation specialized in tree planting and is used to plant and look after the tree. You do not have to make any structural changes to your existing organization, and you can still benefit from the rewards of a robust CSR initiative.

With EcoMatcher, a certified B corporation, you are given the opportunity to track every tree you invest in and access all the tree data, including its location, its farmer, and CO2 sequestration. All of this information can be used to create a knowledge packet for when you gift the tree in question.

  • Meet CSR goals

All corporations have to fulfill their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Corporate tree planting is a great way to accomplish said responsibility. Through CSR, companies make themselves accountable to the larger society. These activities are meant to create a positive impact on society and require well-thought-out procedures.

With the impact of climate change on top of most people’s minds, planting trees will directly resonate with the public and create goodwill for your company. Since the public is already aware of the role of trees in climate conservation, you will not have to spend extra on educating them.

  • Contribute to UN Sustainability Development Goals

The United Nations made a charter of goals that promotes sustainable development in all spheres of life. It is a blueprint so that everyone can enjoy a sustainable future. These goals are meant to be reached by 2030 and intersect through every aspect of society. The goals include eliminating poverty and hunger, promoting good health and education for all, providing clean water and sanitation and access to clean energy, climate action, and reduced inequalities.

With tree planting, you can contribute effectively towards the goal of Climate Action. Along with the Paris Agreement, the UN aims to restrict global warming by 1.5 degrees while effectively curbing CO2 emissions. Trees are a natural resource to combat an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.

As an active contributor to attaining the UN sustainability goals, your brand will be associated with serious climate conservation. This kind of soft power is valuable when it comes to acquiring and retaining customers.

  • Raise Awareness about Sustainable Practices

You can spread awareness amongst your investors about your initiatives towards preserving the environment. Once you gift a tree to an investor, you can send them updates on the development and growth of their tree and forest. Your investors are reminded regularly of your commitment to curbing climate change, and this unique relationship will help your business.

  • Improve Brand Image

More and more people are becoming aware of the risks of climate change. They want to associate themselves and their money with businesses that actively reduce their footprint on the environment. Tree planting and your marketing surrounding this initiative can go a long way in creating a positive image of your brand in your customers’ consciousness.

A unique CSR idea will help your brand solidify its presence in the market. Tree planting shows that you care deeply about the environment and recognize that it is also crucial to your customer base.

If you are organizing a sale, you could offer creative corporate gifts to customers who spend over a particular amount. You could also use tree gifting as part of a loyalty rewards system. This unique idea of planting a tree will resonate with a customer base that is more aware of climate change hazards.

Another great benefit of tree planting as your CSR initiative is that it allows you to conduct your business as usual. Since the trees are grown and maintained off-site by a third party, you do not have to have a dedicated team or space within your organization.

Conclusion

CSR initiatives like tree planting can go a long way in increasing goodwill towards your brand and help create a unique voice in an overcrowded market. It can be what differentiates you from other brands while also giving customers a reason to bring their business to you. These initiatives also attract the younger generation entering the workforce and align themselves with a company that has important sustainable development goals and targets.

EcoMatcher helps companies set up tree planting as a part of their business. We help provide overarching initiatives at multiple levels to decrease or offset the negative impact businesses might have on the environment. Some of our initiatives include gifting trees to your customers, setting up a tree for each employee in your company’s forest, and using trees as reward and loyalty programs.

Posted on 2020-10-07

Creating Brand Love in Business Customers

Consumer behavior trends continue to change. As a bystander, it is interesting to watch new customer preferences unfold. It is more daunting than enjoyable for companies because a new change equals an overhauled strategy that can set them up for success or pull shutters down. 

Emotion-driven decisions and tangible connections, however, have been steady facets through these shifts. The relationship formed between a business and a consumer – such as what Starbucks and Apple have – can tide over several crises. This ‘brand love’ turns ordinary people into the company’s biggest advocates, positioning products and services as something consumers don’t just want but emotionally connect with. 

What has love got to do with it?

Most marketing KPIs don’t associate ‘love’ with brand marketing and growth. However, positive emotions have been found to encourage the most reach and engagement, and love is by far the strongest.

Brand love is a mixture of joy and trust1 and leads customers to trust your brand as they would a friend. These consumers are more likely to pay higher prices and choose your products or services over all else. Moreover, they recommend your brand to others– which in itself has the potential to drive up to half of all sales2.

92% of people trust recommendations from family and friends over virtually any other form of advertising3. This statistic is telling, given that hundreds of brands spend millions on paid marketing, yet nothing is as effective as good old word-of-mouth. 

How to create brand love and loyalty in business customers

Companies have several methods to choose from to develop and maintain brand love, depending on their brand purpose, focus, and messaging. These include CSR, nostalgia marketing, employee advocacy, and aspiration-driven messaging4.

There are foolproof ways of creating brand love in business customers regardless of the method chosen in the end:

  • Engaging with customers as individuals

Customers can no longer be clubbed into target audience buckets and treated as homogenous entities– they’re individuals. Today’s customers are increasingly selective about what brands share their lives and capture their attention. To create and maintain brand love in such a cut-throat environment, customer engagement needs to transcend beyond basic customer feedback forms and meet customers where they are – online. 

There are more social media and other platforms available to build genuine rapport with customers than ever before. Consider what customers would like to see to distinguish your brand from the crowd. The answer to this is usually honest discussions, engaging conversations, and a connection with the humans behind the brand. Live streams, Q&A sessions, and open-floor talks help engage with individual customers and show them that your brand is so much more than the product or service it comprises. 

  • Prioritizing sustainable and transparent products, services, and processes

Generation Z has been crowned the world’s most conscious buyers, and that is indicative of the overwhelming shift in consumer thinking that ‘the brand we love, loves the planet and the people.’ This is also a departure from the millennial generation – while these consumers had a greener focus, GenZ also includes social issues in their list of expectations from brands. There is no shortage of research that shows how a majority of customers purchase products from brands that:

  1. Advocate for a cause they care about;
  2. Adopt transparent processes in a show of trust and solidarity;
  3. Aren’t greenwashing customers to drive sales; 
  4. Give back to society and the planet.

Several organizations have already pivoted to match customer expectations beyond greenwashing statements and for-show vision and mission statements. For example, Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, has donated more than USD 5 million in support of refugee initiatives and continues to hire refugees across operations5. Many others have partnered with certified B Corporations such as tree-planting company EcoMatcher to increase their positive impact on society, people, communities, and, last but not least, the environment. Ways to achieve this include gifting or rewarding trees with every purchase, shifting to recycled or zero-waste packaging, and giving profits back to society.

  • Implementing the 4 Es

Even in the face of a barrage of information and advertising, consumers are steadfast in allowing emotions to guide purchase decisions. A great way to expand brand loyalty beyond transactions is to implement the 4 Es for emotional connect6.  

Empathize: It is especially true today that with awareness comes vulnerability, but customers want brands who don’t capitalize but empathize. Customers are more likely to feel love and loyalty for brands that acknowledge social, environmental, and economic realities. 

Educate: Brands, by their very nature, possess authority and influence – and customers want to see that being put to good use. Brands who choose to use their power to educate and take a stand on burning issues are more likely to spark fierce loyalty in customers who feel strongly about said issues. It is also just as important to be educated as it is to educate– brands that cede the floor to customers for important conversations and feedback are more likely to garner attention and approval.

Engage: Community connect brings people together under a uniform brand umbrella. This breeds high social engagement, stronger reviews, and better word-of-mouth. Engaging with customers, and helping them engage with each other, goes a long way in sparking brand love.

Evolve: Times are a-changing, and better products and supply chains are the need of the hour. Customers expect better, faster, and more evolved products because of the overarching understanding that what got us ‘here’ won’t get us ‘there.’

  • Creating more effective loyalty programs

Loyalty programs have long been lauded as effective ways to increase competitive advantage and brand loyalty. However, old programs might do more harm than good, especially if they’re perceived to go against societal changes or consumer expectations.

As a result, every loyalty program needs a refresh or a complete overhaul once in a while to keep brands relevant and brand love going. Points, discounts, and free shipping are table-stakes at this point– the best loyalty programs today are straightforward, experiential, empathetic, and world-aware. Most importantly, they deliver value quickly. They earn brownie points if they give back to society and the environment, given that explicitly demonstrations of social consciousness are more likely to bring customers back, again and again. 

Moving beyond table-stakes

Many facets of a brand used to spark brand loyalty are now considered table-stakes, and consumers continue to set the bar higher.

However, brand love is born out of taking customers as they are– human individuals with diverse emotions who know what they need and who they want it from. 

Posted on 2020-09-23

Moving Beyond Box – Checking to Achieve Real ESG Impact

To mobilize large-scale environmental and social change, companies must understand the importance of ESG beyond simple box-checking. The overarching argument is that everyone has a duty to behave prosocially – this is only amplified manifold at the corporate level, where there is so much more at stake. A high ESG score shines favorably on companies on the lookout for potential investors and can translate into better shareholder trust and higher (and steadier) valuations 1. Despite the clear-cut benefits of a solid ESG strategy, however, companies continue to stick to box-checking and slapping band-aids over critical issues.

There’s a raging misconception in the world of corporate executives that small actions towards sustainability are enough. When they don’t add up to significant results, frustration ensues. In many cases, narrow-minded investors react negatively because they can’t see tangible results on the graph. It’s no wonder that sustainability at the corporate level continues to take a backseat. 

As vicious cycles go, this is a clear example. Companies fall back on standardized ESG checklists, which in turn propagate a culture that forgoes impactful long-term solutions in favor of quick fixes.

Making a case for value-driven ESG programs

While ESG checklists are positive, albeit tiny, steps, they’re not at all reflective of the impact at-scale organizations can have if they approached sustainability as part and parcel of their company culture. To that end, Harvard Business School’s George Serafeim outlined a five-pronged action plan2 to move beyond box-checking and reap tangible value, both financial and non-financial, from their ESG program. 

  1. Creating prioritized ESG strategies

The individual components of ESG – Environment, Social, and Governance – don’t exist in silos and often overlap. That said, it is easier to zone in on related issues by taking E and S separately and fixing to obtain G as a whole. For example, a technology firm might benefit from working towards social issues such as accessibility, inclusion, and women in STEM. On the other hand, a travel company might seek to pursue environmental topics such as carbon emissions and deforestation. The bottom line is that the more relatable and impactful your choice of issue is on your company and industry, the more likely it is to be taken seriously and lead towards tangible profits. 

It is just as important to forgo minor cosmetic changes in favor of complex, albeit more rewarding structural changes. Working toward ESG goals and superior performance isn’t a one-person show – it’s something the entire organization has to mobilize towards. This doesn’t include just the performance and internal structure, but also the company’s product offerings, messaging, and future goals. IKEA’s ESG strategy, for example, takes on environmental degradation by completely overhauling their product design vision and processes, instead of merely introducing one or two sustainable materials and calling it a day. This is the key difference between surface-level and structural changes– the latter more often than not requires a much-needed do-over of existing systems. 

  1. Instituting overarching accountability mechanisms

Most executives today recognize (if not action) that ESG needs to inform their strategies at a corporate and organizational level. Implementation of any sort needs accountability mechanisms – however, the sad truth is that current boards are being led by myopic views and put “outdated emphasis on short-term value maximization”2. A large part of the roles of such shortsighted boards is implementing compliance-driven tasks– again, checking boxes. But the ideal accountability mechanism is one that penetrates through all levels actively and systematically. 

Accountability mechanisms also enforce ESG metrics in executive compensation such that higher management is continuously motivated to act sustainably and encourage a more in-depth operationalization of ESG factors from both the top-down and the bottom-up3. Such mechanisms serve to ensure that ESG becomes, more than a few high-level metrics on paper, an intrinsic motivator in company culture. 

  1. Driving change from the ground-up

An ESG strategy that stays in the top two levels of a company’s management is most likely not going to be successful. Even worse is half-baked instances of creating conformity across the organization – skepticism in one team snowballs into a laidback attitude throughout the organization.

In the words of BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, “a company cannot achieve long-term profits without embracing purpose”4. Purpose, in this case, doesn’t translate to clever company slogans. It relates to each employee’s perception of their impact on beneficiaries, whether that is society, the environment, or the industry. There is more power in rallying employees around a clear sense of purpose, such that each individual behaves prosocially by nature (or at least, by habit) and not by force. Companies that diffuse a strong sense of self-governance and purpose from the mailroom to the boardroom are more likely to outperform competitors.

This purpose doesn’t fly under the radar of investors – on the contrary, clearly depicted information about purpose has been linked to significantly higher trade volumes and stock prices. 

  1. Ensuring sustained success

Sustained success involves moving beyond compliance to active operational efficiency and, finally, to innovation in ESG. Companies can’t quite let go of the handle at the very beginning, however. They can do so once all ESG-driven mechanisms have been stably diffused into existing board committees. The result is simple– ensuring that ESG becomes entrenched in every board committee’s daily responsibilities.

Folks might argue in favor of a centralized sustainability committee, and that is indeed a good place to start. However, the final goal for sustained ESG success should be to decentralize efforts and place the responsibilities on existing boards’ shoulders. This way, ESG becomes a tangible goal, a company-wide effort, and an influencing factor for every department, from human resources to accounting. 

  1.  Searching for the right investors

Corporate performance evaluations must go beyond standard markers and identify a company’s impact on the environment and the people. This impact-weighted accounting is a new take on traditional measures and far more holistic, especially where ESG is concerned.

The right investors – those who pay close attention to these metrics and rightly so– must be involved in direct communication and the mutual establishment of trust. Investors are looking for transparency, high ESG scores, and excellent corporate governance, which puts prepared companies at a distinct competitive advantage. The right investors understand the nuances of ESG and welcome efforts to get ahead in the game. 

The final word

Tangible financial evidence of successful ESG actions comes from having a differentiated and long-term strategy, not just a to-do list. The ideal ESG program goes beyond operational effectiveness to lay out a roadmap by first identifying the playing field. ESG issues are not equal, at least as far as industry-entrenched companies are concerned. As a result, a differentiated (and consequentially successful) ESG strategy can only emerge after a company identifies core relatable issues that both matter to and have a direct impact on the industry. 

In the case of ESG, doing nothing is more of an “eroding line” than a straight line5, and any and all foresight and preparation can lead to better investments, reputation, and environmental and social impact. 

Posted on 2020-02-06

Why Making Your CSR Transparent Matters

Purpose-driven collective efforts are an effective and integral aspect of societal reform. In order to encourage enterprises to take part or be the catalyst to large changes, governments across the globe incentivize companies to take up CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility activities. 

However, CSR isn’t merely about one-off campaigns or donation drives. Some of the biggest names in the world have aligned their agenda towards sustainable business strategies that tackle some of the world’s largest environmental and social challenges. 

  • General Electric’s Ecomagination program is termed as a renewable business strategy that aims to generate $20 billion in revenue through clean products only.
  • Timberland has vowed to plant more than 50 million trees in 5 years and is already halfway through its goal.

CSR strategies for businesses have so far been viewed as largely being dependent on the level of monetary reserves that the company is privy to. In this regard, many board members and stakeholders are often under the misconception that CSR takes up company resources including money and precious employee time. 

This is mostly a misconception considering the fact that apart from direct advantages such as tax breaks, CSR can offer several indirect yet impactful advantages to businesses. Effective CSR strategies can improve market value by 4 to 6%.

CSR as a marketing tool

There has been massive evidence-backed research that points to the level of interest millennials and Generation Z are placing on the impacts of climate change. Here are some statistics that talk the talk of CSR:

  • Companies that integrate climate change in their planning see an 18% higher return on equity.
  • More than 40% of millennial consumers actively seek out organizations that are into sustainable practices in their consumerism. 
  • 55% of consumers are willing to pay extra for products or services from companies that have good grades on their CSR report card. 
  • 75% of Millennials would take a pay cut to simply work in a responsible company.
  • CSR is responsible for more than 40% of a company’s reputation.
  • Employees, who fall into the category of “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from CSR, cost their companies $319 billion to $398 billion annually.

Pro-social initiatives and environment-conscious efforts are received very well on social media, and adding a second level of share-worthy stories can never go wrong for any company – large or small; old or new. Even for B2B companies, actively participating in CSR through e.g. EcoMatcher’s eco-friendly corporate gifts and engaging with clientele through social media adds extra brownie points on the Customer Engagement stats. 

However, it should be noted that effective communication of CSR stories is extremely important in this day and age. In every aspect, CSR and social media feed off of each other and are in a symbiotic relationship. Consumers are quick to point out inauthentic content and take the time to look beyond the claim and go all out to search for facts. The game of calling someone out has more potential for virality on the internet.

In the consumer’s eyes, this apparent issue of trust is more than reasonable. While Volkswagen was advertising its claim on eco-friendly cars all over social media, the media outlets breached a front-runner story on how the company deliberately tweaked its cars to surpass the emissions test. 

In the era of transparency, as it is called, Millennials are far more loyal to companies who can show traces, origins, proofs and the entire lifecycle of the stated claim. Simply posting a picture of a tree with a company logo placard around it is considered old school now. 

Aspirational consumers, as is the term, look forward to having a certain grip over positive storytelling rather than sharing blatant claims on social platforms. Recognizing the need to tackle this challenge of drawing the fine line between good and bad CSR story-telling, EcoMatcher provides a simple yet effective solution. EcoMatcher allows for complete transparency over your company’s CSR story. Each plant a tree activity on the EcoMatcher platform is quickly traceable through a simple mobile phone app that allows for virtual visits to the tree anytime, any day, so that the cloud of doubt never befalls on your organization. EcoMatcher takes complete care of all CSR activities and has partnered with communities across the globe to ensure successful implementation of every initiative.

The path ahead 

Tree planting is one of the easiest and most sustainable climate change solutions. Starting with a small offset on company carbon footprint, tree planting allows companies to engage in both social and environmental activities with very little investment.

EcoMatcher engages with small farmer communities across the tropical belt to engage in the global outreach towards a greener environment. The company allows businesses to outsource CSR in such a way that it inherently drives business growth. A mission for sustainability that engages more than just the employees or clients of an organization is imperative in telling impactful CSR stories on social media. With EcoMatcher’s complete transparency model, the customer, the employee, as well as the client, are in the complete know-how of every tree planted, including the farmer who nourishes the tree every day. Partnering with smallholder farmers, EcoMatcher goes a step beyond the ordinary towards a better tomorrow for all. 

Posted on 2020-01-08

Creating A Sustainable Brand

It is clear that we no longer have the luxury of ignoring sustainable practices and climate change solutions. Trends show that consumers no longer have the patience for brands that are not focused on ethical business practices. Even governments around the world, albeit slowly, are recognizing the importance of responsible business practices that, at the very least, do not harm the environment. The UK has recently declared an emergency over the effects of climate change, and is putting pressure on businesses to create models that are entirely sustainable with a low to zero carbon footprint.

Unfortunately, most brands see environmental sustainability as not much beyond an opportunity to market to and retain the younger consumer audience. As a value-add feature, it comes as no surprise to anyone that these measures are mere tokens. Clothing giant H&M, under much public pressure, has started several sustainable initiatives. They offer to recycle any old garment for which customers get a discount coupon at the store, and they have a new eco-friendly line of clothing. But the real trouble often lies with the actual business models of certain brands where they use non-biodegradable materials to create clothes or other relevant products that are manufactured in countries with poor environmental laws.

Millennials and Gen Zs now have the tools and information to spread the word about a brand’s sustainability, and they have the knack to pick on whether a brand is intrinsically sustainable or if they are using it as just a buzz word. Building a brand that is sustainable on all levels is now a requirement if you want to create an appositive image with the public.

How to build a sustainable brand

Building a sustainable brand requires a different approach than regular businesses. Planning is the only way to ensure a smooth transition. If you are starting from scratch, the planning process is vitally important to have effective measures in place.

What you offer

An important guiding light in your future business proceedings is understanding and acknowledging why your brand is aligned towards sustainable practices. Knowing how your brand fits into the space of sustainability and what your brand offers is imperative to creating a coherent ideology. Once you have figured out exactly why your brand is sustainable, you can use this knowledge as leverage when appealing to investors and customers.

Working with customers

Keep a keen ear to the ground and listen to what your customers are thinking about. Addressing their concerns is a smart way to induce brand loyalty and increase engagement. For example, a coffee shop might find that customers care about ethically sourced coffee beans. Striving for this goal should be shared with the customers. For this step, it is important to know whom you are selling to. Once you have identified your target audience, head over to the spaces they occupy to find what they are concerned with.

Identify key areas

Find a few areas that are key to your business and create strategies to make these fully sustainable. Going with the same example, the coffee shop owner can identify procurement and waste disposal as important areas that will benefit most from being sustainable. A step further would be to make all the shops under the brand designed to have a zero-carbon footprint.

Content strategy

Use your creative energies to come up with authentic marketing strategies that will communicate your mission statement and environmental sustainability projects in the best way with your audience. Your target audience will have their own way of consuming content, and you must reach out to them on those platforms.

Measure results

Have the right analytics in place to see how your strategy is working. Pay attention to the data and fine-tune your practices as the strategy moves along. Make room in your planning to allow for results and its influence. Even simple changes like using a different image can make a big impact on the results. 

Why do you need a sustainable brand identity?

Listed below are a couple of reasons that help establish the need for a sustainable brand identity. 

Growing market

The younger generation is willing to pay a premium price for a sustainable option or alternative. According to Nielsen, the demand for ethical services and products has grown by a whopping 40 billion pounds in the past decade. Choosing to go sustainable opens up certain sections of the market that you might have previously overlooked.

The writing on the wall

Any brand that ignores meaningful sustainability is looking at a future that will be shunned by the extremely aware Millennials and GenZs. With hyper-capitalism fatigue setting in, the consumer is looking for brands and businesses that are worth their money. For these individuals, sustainable practices that do not harm the environment is a worthy cause. 

Growing economies

There is a common misconception that sustainability is the concern of established economies. Consumers in growing economies like China and India are demanding more sustainable products and are seen to pick the sustainable option when given a choice. If you are serious about expanding your business into emerging economies, then a switch to sustainability is a must.

Some dos and don’ts

Here are some of the dos and don’ts of creating a sustainable brand strategy.

Dos:

  • Integrate sustainability with your brand: If you are serious about making your brand sustainable rather than have it as a value add-on, then environmentally sustainable work practices need to permeate your business and culture at every step. A purpose-driven mission statement gives your employees and customers something to rally around.
  • Educate: Do not fall into the trap of championing your efforts constantly. There is only so much marketing and self-promotion that your audience can take. Instead, pepper your content with educational information about sustainability. The cause has many layers and nuances and a clear voice reaching out to consumers will stand out.
  • Make your own targets: Instead of following another business’s path to sustainability, it is important that you focus on creating and meeting your development goals. You know your business and company best and hence are in the best position to map out a path that works efficiently for your brand. Be sure to check if you are meeting your sustainable goals regularly.
  • Pick the right partners: While you might be certain that your company has sustainable environmental practices in place that are followed, you can undermine all your hard work by picking partners who are not sustainable. Do your research and make sure that you partner with green suppliers.

Don’ts:

  • Greenwash: Do not oversell your green initiatives and do not create a false narrative around them. 
  • Undersell: Celebrate your sustainable practices and achievements with your customers. It is better to appear as a green advocate than as a brand that does not care about sustainability.
  • Alienate your customers: Involve your customers in your green initiatives. If you have a sustainable model to dispose of certain types of waste, then invite your customers to partake by bringing in some of theirs.
  • Go into debt: Take your sustainable journey slowly and with simple steps. The aim of sustainable development cannot eclipse your business.

Conclusion

Creating a sustainable practice is the need of the day. With the impacts of climate change becoming more drastic, a green brand is beneficial to both the environment and the brand. There are many companies that offer sustainable products and services. EcoMatcher offers brands the ability to integrate tree planting into their business practices. Going green can be easy and rewarding if the right steps are taken at the right time to reduce the impacts of environmental change.