How do you get your customers to buy-in to your sustainability and CSR programme?
First of all, we’re assuming that you already have a sustainability and CSR programme in place. You do, right? If not, check out these 5 oven-ready ways to improve sustainability for beginners.
Previously, we’ve posted on how to engage your suppliers in supply chain sustainability, which is all about cascading your sustainability and CSR intentions and efforts downwards. But the value-chain extends upwards to our customers too, and if we can engage them, then the overall benefit to everyone is enhanced.
“So, what sort of thing are we talking about here? And does it have to be expensive, because if it’s going to put my costs up and make me uncompetitive, it won’t be worth it” you ask.
Rest easy. It can be as simple or complex as you want to make it, and depends to some extent on what type of customers you have (do you sell B2B or B2C?) And starting out doesn’t have to be expensive at all. Here are some things most businesses will be able to do quickly, effortlessly and for not a lot of money in order to start engaging customers and seek buy-in to their sustainability and CSR programme.
#1 Tell them your stories
The first step is as easy as simply telling your customers about the efforts you’re making, what you hope to achieve in the long term, and about your successes so far. You can do this in a wide variety of ways, ranging from updates in your email signature and dedicated posts or pages on your website and social media channels, to newsletters and even the publication of an annual report.
#2 Show them how your efforts help them
Regardless of whether you sell B2B or B2C, customers are increasingly interested in buying from environmentally, socially and ethically responsible businesses – either because of their own personal values or because their customers are demanding it of them. So explain how what you’re doing helps them achieve their own aspirations. If what you’re doing lowers your costs, you can also show them how this keeps prices down.
#3 Inform them about steps they can take
Think of all the different contact opportunities we have with our customers: the exchanges we have by email when we first start working together, quotations and proposals, invoices, goods notes and service reports. Each one provides a chance to inform your customers about the steps they can take to boost their own sustainability and performance. For instance, if you supply goods in cardboard packaging, you could put some information on the carton or packing slip with ideas on how your customer could reuse the boxes once they’re done with. And if you come across a conference or seminar that you think they might benefit from attending, let them know.
#4 Product stewardship
Moving beyond informing and educating your customers, you could also take greater responsibility for your products and services – particularly end-of-life products. So, for instance, if you send goods out on pallets, you could arrange to collect them for reuse or at least employ a local pallet company to do it for you – taking a problem off your customer’s hands and at the same time making sure things are done right.
#5 Partner with them to implement shared solutions
With the easier stuff all done, now’s the time to engage even more with your customers by helping to identify and implement mutually beneficial changes. For example, imagine that you supply your customers with liquid products in 45 gallon drums that need to be recycled or disposed of once your customer has emptied them – you could propose to install bulk storage facilities with them instead, that enable deliveries to be made by road tanker and eliminate all that wasteful packaging. It will also lower the unit cost of the goods, offering potential savings.
The fact is that we all like to get a little something for nothing, and we all value and appreciate it when the companies we do business with occasionally go that bit further to help us. So, if you’re the one going that bit further and adding that extra value, it helps to create deeper ties and longer-lasting bonds between you and your customers – which, in turn, can prompt them to buy more from you, recommend you to others, and consider you more favourably at contract renewal time.
But that’s only part of it. When the entire value-chain is aligned around the same purpose, and engaging in end-to-end sustainability and CSR, the benefits to the environment and society are amplified.
All of which means its better for everyone.
What will you do today to try and get your customers to buy-in to your sustainability and CSR programme?