Enabling your customers to be more sustainable pt1
I’m writing this on the East Coast Mainline, charging across the frozen fields of eastern England as the sun casts various tints of orange across the monochrome landscape. I’m on my way down to the bright lights of London to take part on a webinar about engaging customers on how to use your products and services in a greener way. The event is organised by BusinessGreen.com, sponsored by Accor and also includes Marks & Spencer, so I’m in pretty good company.
If you read this in time, you can still sign up here – I’ll post a summary on Wednesday for all those who missed it!
Just to give some background – customer engagement is one of the three big challenges for green business I identified back in December. Effectively all those green collar jobs everyone
hopes says will emerge from the green economy will be delivering products and services which allow others to go greener. This is the top level of the business case model in my book, the Green Executive. So why is this such a big issue?
Well look at the diagram below (taken from The Green Executive) which shows lifecycle carbon emissions for a variety of generic products – computer, car, food and washing powder – which:
Food is the only common example I could find where the emissions from the use phase (in this case cooking at home) don’t dominate the lifecycle. In the case of food this is because of the huge amount of energy required for fertiliser, pesticides and irrigation. But for the other three, the biggest element of the emissions is in the hands of the user.
The washing powder data above came from Procter & Gamble and was the evidence that drove them to create Ariel Excel Gel which allows washing at 15°C – a massive potential improvement in lifecycle emissions. But that improvement hinges on the consumer being able/wanting to wash at that temperature. First up, my A+ rated washing machine doesn’t have a 15°C setting and secondly, (on the rare occasions I put a wash on) I’m forever turning the dial from 40°C down to 30°C – the fairies turn it back up when I turn my back. Marks & Spencer may have run a massive “Wash at 30°C” campaign on their clothes, but there is a residual feeling amongst many consumers that warmer = cleaner.
So you can (and must) enable greener behaviour, you can (and must) inform the consumer/customer of the benefits, but that’s often not enough to actually change their behaviour. We’ll look at that in part 2.