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  • Caterina Sullivan

Does Sustainability Require Customer Education?

We constantly hear the narrative of business as 'unusual' in order to create an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future.

But what does this mean? And are customers ready for this transition?

COVID-19 has pushed us to think differently and approach work environments in unusual ways. The pandemic has demonstrated we have the ability to adapt when we are forced to do so.

Unfortunately, many don't see the climate emergency as pressing as the pandemic; however, climate action is an urgent requirement to ensure we are mitigating the dangerous effects of climate change.

Business as unusual is the decision to push what we understand about how we work and operate in a society to our limits to see what innovative practices we can adopt in our own lives.

The hard truth is that our customers are not quite ready for this.

The good news is that as business owners and operators, we can help our customers and clients get ready for this transition.

The most important part of implementing a business as unusual approach is ensuring your customers understand why your organisation is doing this and how it benefits them.

A great example of this is the transition many people are taking from using shampoo in a bottle to shampoo bars. At the outset, shampoo bars are more expensive and can be intimidating for people to use. However, once researching the product further, consumers will find that shampoo bars are, in fact, more cost effective as they last longer than the average bottle of shampoo. There is definitely a learning curve as to how to use the bars but once the consumer has the hang of it, it's very straightforward.

The key to this is understanding that consumers in the modern world don't always have time to do their own research into products. That is why is it up to organisations selling sustainable products or using sustainability as a branding tool to ensure education is easily accessible for consumers. In the case of shampoo bars, short videos on social media or in e-newsletters are a great way to highlight some of the benefits of not only the product but the entire transition process to consumers.

It's also necessary to remember that these transitions require a commitment from your customers. Sometimes this commitment means that they are unable to see the process through without the right support in place. A weekly or fortnightly check-in email (whether automated or sent personally) is a great way for customers to feel supported on their journey. For example, transitioning to a home composting set-up can be a challenging task. It can take a few tries to get it right. If people are really busy, it is not unlikely for them to quit after the first attempt or two. In this instance, if a customer has bought your product, you can encourage them to register it and with this registration, they will receive emails on how to ensure they stay on track to switch to this more sustainable option. By doing this, you are creating an environment where the customer feels cared for and supported during a time of change.

When it comes to internal policy, there is no reason you cannot bring your customers and clients on the journey with you. While the transition may not affect them directly, it's important to communicate these changes, why they're important and how your stakeholders can benefit from them in a big picture sense and in the long-term. For example, a gender equality program within your workplace may not affect your clients directly, but this benefits women, especially young women, and their children and grandchildren in the future as well as creating a more cohesive, more equitable and more profitable society for all.

Communicating all this can be an extra burden on your organisation. That is where we come in. Contact Strategic Sustainability Consultants today to chat with us about how we can support your customers in understanding your need to become more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

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