Credibility is worth its weight in gold. If you lose it, it is not easy to get it back. For example when it comes to sustainability. It is highly relevant – for customers and the public alike. Which is why communication errors can be detrimental. In this case, certificates can prove your genuine commitment.
Sustainability aspects are becoming more and more important
Social responsibility and the struggle with climate change are key issues in society that are playing an ever-greater role in many areas of life. This can also be said for business, where sustainability today is highly relevant and one of the most important factors within a business strategy. A fact that can be seen in the interest of numerous branches in three letters: ESG. Which stand for environmental, social and governance.
To sufficiently cater to the demands for sustainability, internal processes as well as relations with business partners and B2B customers must be adjusted. Which costs time and money. And this is the reason why companies often question if an investment in ESG projects pays off, and if so, how this investment can be communicated to the public in a credible way. Findings from two surveys provide some answers.
The benefits of sustainable B2B trade: a boost in image and in business
The global ESG Radar 2023 from Infosys shows that ESG-based expenditure leads to higher company profits. The IT company surveyed 2,500 persons in leadership positions from 12 branches. A total of 90 per cent of the participants revealed that ESG investments resulted in moderately or significantly higher returns. In 66 per cent of the cases, this boost was seen within the first three years. The surveyed went on to show that an increase of 10 per cent in ESG expenditure led to a rise in company profits by 1 percentage point.
The survey’s authors give decision-makers the following advice:
- Sustainability should be seen as a driver of value and not as a cause of added costs.
- Customers are important, but the sustainability strategy’s focus should initially be on employees.
- The implementation is more effective when it is steered by managers.
- ESG requirements and data have to be considered along the entire added-value chain.
From a marketing point of view, the findings from the IT service provider adesso are particularly interesting. Entitled “Quo Vadis Digital Commerce: What customers need and what financial service providers are doing about it”, the survey is a compilation of interviews with 1,000 end consumers about their purchasing behaviour. An additional 300 bank and insurance company employees likewise participated and provided insights into their strategy for improving the customer experience. The results are certainly significant for many branches.
The findings show that the topic of sustainability is highly relevant to many consumers. For instance, 60 per cent of those surveyed would pay a higher price for sustainable financial and insurance products. On top of this, companies within the branch can improve their image: 43 per cent of participants consider sustainability-centric providers to be likeable. To achieve this effect, companies need a good communication of sustainability which showcases their progress to the wider public.
Certificates and similar: how you can communicate sustainability in a more credible way
B2C and B2B customers alike reward socially fair as well as resource and eco-friendly business practices. But many companies only claim they are committed to these – and are thus greenwashing. This means they are boasting about being more sustainable than they actually are. And it’s the reason why many consumers have become sceptical, no longer blindly trusting “green” stories of success.
To prove the credibility their sustainability efforts, companies can apply for certificates or labels. These are awarded by specialised ESG rating providers – granted the company passes an extensive examination of whether their operations meet the criteria for the sustainability certificate. There are certificates for sustainably manufactured products as well as for companies with completely sustainable operations.
For the latter, the following areas are examined:
- Management systems
- Energy management
- Labour standards
- Climate protection
Some examples of well-known sustainability certificates and labels:
- EU organic logo
- Fairtrade International
- FSC logo
- Blue Angel Ecolabel
- EU energy label
- EU Ecolabel
- Green Button
At the same time, there are systems which can reveal the weak points of a company’s processes when it comes to sustainability. These systems are:
Specialised in the communication of sustainability are, for instance:
Companies can earn various different certificates and thus credibly prove their commitment when it comes to sustainability. However, they must also spread the word of their success in a way specific to the target group. If they don’t, their efforts will go unnoticed by their B2B customers and by the public.