Expert's Opinion

Be S.M.A.R.T. When It Comes to Sustainability

By Russ Napolitano, Wallace Church, Inc. | December 20, 2010

Russ Napolitano of Wallace Church offers some guidance on going green.

Sustainability certainly is the buzzword these days, and there is no doubt that we all want to do our part to ensure that we protect the earth’s natural resources for future generations. Whether innovating, creating, marketing or consuming a product or using a particular service, we must be S.M.A.R.T. when it comes to exploring and promoting sustainability strategies.

These strategies will help us leave the earth the way we found it (or even better).
Sustainability is a new way to engage consumers and extend the product lifecycle. Through sustainability promotions, community outreach, blogs, Facebook and Twitter, brands are engaging consumers beyond usage. There is no doubt that sustainability is no longer a trend; it has become a way of life. As a result, we all must be S.M.A.R.T. when it comes to executing and promoting sustainable strategies.
S.M.A.R.T. as outlined in the following acronym, can help all of us be smarter in planning and living by our sustainable strategies.

Sustainability must make cents for you and your consumers
More often than not, initial sustainability strategies will cost more. A change in materials, packaging reduction, product production, printing, shipping, storage, messaging and servicing can all result in increased costs. The goal is to identify sustainable strategies that will help your company and brand reduce resources and also save money in the long run. We often have clients include “achieve sustainability through packaging and/or production” in their marketing objectives. However, this objective appears in conjunction with the requirement to reduce overall costs. Achieving both is a challenge for any expert. While many sustainable methods are becoming more cost effective as demand increases, there are usually increased costs associated with converting to sustainable practices, including packaging. Please think twice before asking your consumers to share these costs. Supporting sustainable practices does not necessarily translate to “willing to pay more.”
Made easy for your consumers
Sustainability cannot place an added burden on to your consumers. While there is a small niche of consumers who will go out of their way to be “green,” the majority does not want to pay more, sacrifice quality or taste or risk the product not delivering on its promise. Most of us want to do our part for the environment, but aren’t willing to compromise our lifestyles for it. Buying products made out of xx% of post consumer waste, taking a reusable shopping bag to the local market, buying “local,” sorting our trash in to the proper recycling bins, driving a hybrid, or taking public transportation is as green as it gets for many “green” consumers.
Aligned with your brand’s attributes
Do not be green for green’s sake. A green or sustainable message must make sense for your brand. In order for a brand to truly be green, it must have a sound corporate sustainability culture that is practiced from the top down. The first question we usually ask our clients when they include sustainability as part of a branding and design initiative is, “What is your corporate culture on sustainability?” The corporation must support and have a clear stance on its sustainability practices before any individual brand can include sustainability as part of its brand strategy or positioning. For example, Pangea and Seventh Generation are brands whose essence embraces sustainability. These brands founders have instilled a corporate mantra that lives and breathes a sustainability message and consumers both engage with and become loyal to these brands based on their overall essence.
Sustainability commands respect. Respect the fact that consumers come in all shades of green. From the deepest green “tree huggers” to the green-tinged consumers, your brand must understand and respect that they all feel that they are equally doing their part. Your product or service must know how to speak to everyone on the green spectrum - unless, of course, you are targeting a consumer who is a specific shade of green.
You must be totally transparent if you want to wave the sustainability banner. Publish sustainability reports that applaud your successes, openly discuss your challenges and educate your community. You can shout when you are successful, but be sure to also speak up when you are not. Trust is an important factor when consumers align themselves with particular brands. We are living during times where consumers expect and demand the truth. Consumers have more respect for brands that speak to them openly and honestly.

About the Author
Russ Napolitano is vice president, strategic development at Wallace Church, Inc., a full service strategic brand identity and packaging design firm. The company has 30 years of expertise in maximizing design’s impact on targeted goals. Wallace Church has added value to brands from every product category, including HBA, Rx/OTC pharmaceuticals, food & beverage, technology, lawn & garden, hardware, sporting/recreational goods, and beer, wine & spirits.

Sustainability is a key driver of all Wallace Church strategic and creative efforts. The company has taken a proactive stance in becoming trained experts on the topic. Virtually every Wallace Church client has active sustainability initiatives, many of which Wallace Church is leading with it product design, manufacturing and operations teams. Wallace Church is committed to working with clients whose brands embrace “better and healthier living for a better and cleaner world.”

Wallace Church partners with various sustainability experts to keep its account, strategy,design and production staff apprised of materials, manufacturing, reuse and recycling and all other aspects of package design sustainability.


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