Sustainability: The Larger Conversation
Article Date: October 11, 2022
A Tutorial for Building Products Manufacturers
In a recent Business Wire study, sustainability rated as an important criterion for 60 percent of consumers on a global scale when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Customers want to feel like they have a stake in the planet’s future based on the choices they make.
What does this mean for your building materials brand, where sustainability seems to occupy a portion of every conversation in the building and construction industry? Stakeholders of every kind – architects, specifiers, contractors, and building owners – are constantly being scrutinized for the products they select for their projects. How will a solution assist in achieving certain sustainability goals or certifications? How can it conserve energy? How is it made, and when considering that manufacturing process, does it represent a sustainable solution?
For building products companies, sustainable marketing is no longer just a trend focusing on environmentally friendly ideas and products. Companies that seek to bolster their credentials must also focus on improving the social aspects around them for a better quality of life. Humanizing issues can help your brand evolve its personality, one that resonates with your target audience.
Focusing on environmental, social, and economic development are key factors to making sustainability a part of your marketing plan.
Commonly, green marketing is used interchangeably with sustainable marketing. Reducing packaging, water usage, or your company’s carbon footprint are all ways to trim costs and become more eco–friendly. This is where the threshold lies for a lot of people, and sustainability is often measured on environmental factors.
While manufacturing products made from recyclable materials is a great start to your brand’s sustainability plan, this should be just a stepping stone to unlocking a larger sustainability story. How can you leverage long–term sustainability in other areas?
The key here is to find out what environmental efforts are important to your brand, how your company can make a positive impact, and then implementing that change for long–term growth.
When it comes to building products manufacturers, a lot of these efforts come from the products they make, starting right in their own facilities with operations and the manufacturing process. Switching to LED lights in your facilities, using energy–efficient appliances, or using smart thermostats all serve as tangible examples of your brand’s commitment to reducing the company’s carbon footprint and promoting energy efficiency. A company that opts for solar panels on the roof of its distribution or manufacturing centers demonstrates a willingness to be a better corporate citizen by opting for a more sustainable energy source for its operations.
Products labeled as sustainable must meet a certain threshold. The entry point: The products are made from recycled material. Beyond that entry point of recyclability, how can your brand dig deeper? How is your building materials brand representing sustainability throughout the supply chain? A building product brand’s customers might ask other questions. Are the raw materials used to make the product locally sourced, thereby cutting down on transportation of the materials? Are they designed with less material to reduce waste in the manufacturing process? Is the product itself energy efficient in how it works? Can it contribute to LEED certification, or does it drive a higher R–factor for a commercial structure?
According to the American Institute of Architects, 79% of architects want to specify more sustainable building products in their projects. Architects can turn to a product disclosure document to evaluate sustainability criteria and its environmental impact throughout the product’s lifecycle.
Setting the Social Standard
While eco–friendly criteria are commonly used to measure one’s sustainable practices, people often forget about the social aspects that surround an environment. The focus then turns to the people that keep your business thriving—its employees and consumers.
Investing in social responsibility is just one way you can develop loyal customers that will sustain your brand. Your customers and prospects are becoming more conscious of what products they buy, where they are made, and how companies make products. Evaluating your relationships and engagement level with your company’s stakeholders should be integrated into your marketing plan.
Are you providing a safe and healthy work environment for your employees? Are you considering the environment that surrounds your facility? What are you doing to contribute to that community to make it more sustainable? Perhaps your company selects a local charity to support, one that is committed to cleaning up local streams and creeks. Or maybe your company makes a commitment to plant 10 trees at parks in your community every year in collaboration with the local government. These concrete, tangible examples of community engagement for permanent improvement raise your company’s sustainability quotient.
Through every building project, the goal is to improve the environmental quality for occupants. Any sustainable building project takes into consideration the needs of stakeholders, end users, employees, and the community surrounding it.
When selecting products for buildings, buyers are becoming more concerned about quality, ethics, safety, and environmental impacts.
When your company’s efforts to be sustainable penetrate beyond the four walls of your factory and are discernible in the region where you operate, you can begin to set your brand apart.
Cost Vs. Value
In the building materials industry, evaluating and choosing the right products comes down to an analysis of cost versus long–term value. Is a long–term solution creating value to a customer without generating a much higher cost?
Some think building projects that are built with sustainable building products immediately generate cost savings. Thanks to material science advancements, certain building product solutions can contribute to sustainability by being easier to transport and easier to install, lowering the project’s carbon footprint. More importantly, these products often represent a sustainable solution by ensuring that the resulting structure performs in a more efficient way over the life of the building through lower maintenance and decreased living costs.
Buildings today are built to last for the foreseeable future. Energy–efficient windows and doors, metal roofing and cladding, and weather–resistant materials all increase a building’s longevity with little maintenance, lowering the total cost of ownership.
While costs are kept lower, quality of life for the surrounding community is also enhanced. Utilizing less waste management and carbon emission systems has a discernible positive impact on the environment while improving economic health.
As modern technology continues to expand, green buildings will continue to generate an economic growth for material suppliers and building owners as they serve current and future generations.
Telling Your Sustainability Story
If your brand hopes to be successful in positioning itself as a company committed to sustainability, your efforts need to become an integral part of your brand narrative.
As you begin to identify and adopt sustainability practices – in the development of your products, in your operations, and in your community engagement – you need to ensure that prospects and customers are aware of your efforts.
Part of achieving success with a sustainability plan is creating tangible data points that can be measured. What specific benchmarks can you provide to demonstrate your commitment to sustainability?
For example, if you set a goal to reduce your carbon emissions in your facility over the next six months, sharing a report of how much fuel or oil you used this year in comparison to the previous years will serve as proof points for consumers. While such data communicates clear results, providing transparency into the larger picture also helps your audience to relate to your brand on a more personal level.
Ensure your website tells your sustainability story in a definitive and easily searchable way for visitors. Perhaps there is a specific section that focuses on sustainability, and this section then ties all the specific efforts together to tell a broader story. The section goes beyond referencing products and talks about the energy efficiency you are promoting in your manufacturing practices. Refer to any certifications or independent verification by third–party organizations that enhance your credibility when it comes to sustainability. And tout your community engagement efforts, strategically tying them to the sustainability of the region where you operate and where your employees make their homes.
In your sales presentations, move beyond product declarations and energy efficiency. Begin telling the broader story of your sustainability efforts with proof points that demonstrate your systemic commitment to being sustainable.
In your owned and earned media efforts, cultivate and share stories of your sustainability efforts in a meaningful and impactful way. Maintain a rhythm and cadence to these efforts so your prospects and customers begin to form new opinions about the brand based on your authentic sustainability quotient. Ensure your blog, your email marketing, and your nurture campaigns are infused with your sustainability message so that it becomes an endemic part of your brand.
Integrating environmental, social, and economic criteria into your marketing plan will drive stronger relationships with your stakeholders. Prospects and customers of your building materials brand want to have a hand in making better choices that impact the environment in a positive way.
The question you must ask of yourself: How committed is your company to truly embracing sustainability as an enterprise–wide initiative, one that becomes an authentic component of your brand and something you can market with certainty?
BLD Marketing is a results-based, digitally-focused, full-service strategic marketing firm exclusively serving the commercial and residential building materials category.