Environmental sustainability has increasingly become a selling point among consumers. As a result, companies in countless industries have seen wisdom in “going green.” For many business owners, sustainable practices can help them sleep better while also being economically advantageous.

Sustainable initiatives don’t have to increase costs; in fact, in both the short- and long-term, they can reduce waste, save on energy costs, and drive business.

Consider a few statistics:

  • 42 percent of North American consumers would willingly pay more for products from sustainable sources—a 7 percent increase since 2011 (2013 Nielsen study of 30,000 consumers across 60 countries)
  • Businesses that are high sustainability outperform those that are low sustainability (2011 Harvard Business School study)

If your property is going green, we have a few suggestions regarding how you can leverage your good deeds to benefit your business. And after you read this post, don’t miss our next webinar on all things branding for shopping centers and mixed use properties on July 12.

Be authentic.

We’ve talked about the importance of authenticity in a previous post, and it still holds true with regard to branding and sustainability initiatives. Today’s customers are “smarter” in the sense that they often put a significant amount of research into a product or service before buying it (thanks to the Internet). This means that it’s easy for consumers to spot when a company has only initiated environmentally sound practices in order to cash in (also known as “green-washing.”) Regardless of a company’s actual intent, perceived hypocrisy may actually hurt, rather than increase, business. (Consider the example of BP, who re-branded to Beyond Petroleum in 2000. The advertising campaign worked—until 2010, when the brand image took an enormous beating due to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico spill. The company has since moved away from “Beyond Petroleum.”)

If your company hasn’t much concerned itself with sustainability before, a little honesty and humility can go a long way to build trust with potential customers. Consider engaging with consumers on social media, like Facebook and Twitter. Ask them what kind of green initiatives they would like to see in a shopping center (or other mixed property). It might be greener power sources, more recycling bins, less paper waste, etc.

The key to maintaining credibility is ensuring that your green initiatives are fully implemented before featuring them in advertising campaigns.

Be targeted.

Sustainability initiatives, in order to be credible and positive for your brand image, must be related to the core of your business. A car company that touts its efforts to save the rainforest while manufacturing vehicles with abominable gas mileage will be seen as inauthentic.

Instead, look to how your property can truly make a credible impact—however small. Starbucks, for example, uses recycled coffee cup sleeves. Dell offers a free computer recycling program. And Brooks has made a biodegradable running shoe. Your company might look into using more sustainable energy sources, recycling food waste, and prioritizing environmentally responsible design (such as lessening the environmental impact of transportation by using local construction materials).

It’s also important for your initiatives to be consumer-facing. The more obvious your efforts are to the consumer, the more impact your campaign will have.

Like the sustainability initiatives themselves, it’s important that your marketing efforts be targeted. The average consumer does not read a company press release or the “About” section of the business’s website. Your marketing should reach the consumer where they are, via content and social media marketing as well as advertising in the property itself. (Think about the signs that hotels have reminding guests that they have the option not to have their towels laundered every day, thereby saving water. This sign not only informs the guest but acts as an advertisement of the hotel’s values. Such a strategy can be used in a property when adopting hand dryers, renewable energy sources, recycling bins, etc.)

Be positive.

A lot of the dialogue around the environment and sustainability can be, frankly, depressing. There are a lot of problems, and finding solutions for all of them can seem daunting. As a result, consumers can sometimes feel overwhelmed—to the point that they want to tune out. (Even Sarah McLachlan changes the channel when the sad ASPCA commercials featuring her song come on!)

To combat this, your advertising campaigns should be positive—focusing on the great impact that even small changes can have. Consumers will be more likely to engage and spread the word if they feel that they have the ability to help.

Your property can stand out by going green: it just takes some strategy and smart marketing techniques. If you have questions about sustainability and branding for mixed use property, we’d be happy to answer them. Call one of our experts today.