The ECO:nomics conference, hosted March 5 by the Wall Street Journal, yielded some best practices for businesses hoping to reduce their energy use and carbon footprint, as well as some tips in “green” marketing.
Participants broke up into groups to discuss what works and what does not. Here’s a look at the results.
– Companies should focus on improving their own energy efficiency, while emphasizing benefits to local communities. Look for “low-hanging fruit” for quicker ROI.
– Companies should give customers reasons to adopt environmentally responsible behaviors.
– When it comes to “green” marketing, provide information about a product’s environmental benefits close to the point of purchase. Make the message personal by explaining how a consumer’s purchase has direct environmental results.
– When providing information to stakeholders, avoid a “hard sell” on environmental benefits. Instead, engage stakeholders in a dialogue.
– In “green” marketing, explain benefits to the environment as part of a bigger value proposition.
– Consider how waste can be an opportunity, not a cost or liability.
– Get a double whammy by undertaking a project that will boost productivity at the same time as cutting emissions.
– When working with nongovernmental organizations, there must be a shared understanding of the goals and constraints of a partnership, with both sides understanding and respecting the “rules of engagement.”
– To get a project off the ground, consider new forms of financing, both public and private. For instance, it is possible to add solar panels at no upfront cost using a power purchase agreement (PPA).
What doesn’t work
– Participants suggested that the government should not be put in a position “to pick winners and losers” for any technology or business process. Instead, the government should help develop technology-neutral standards.
– Companies cannot use uncertainty over government action on climate change as an excuse to stop innovating.
– Firms cannot simply talk about being green. Sustainability must become part of a company’s DNA.
– Avoid politicizing sustainability. Instead, explain the economics behind adopting energy efficiency and reducing environmental impacts.
– When working with nongovernmental organizations, do not strike a deal that has no substance. Be sure to carefully consider the people and resource needs of a partnership.
– For best results when financing energy efficiency or other environmental projects, the market requires “more certainty” in government policy.