The concept of the “green brand” was something associated with a handful of maverick companies not so long ago. But changing consumer attitudes, along with a realisation of the scale of the environmental and social problems we face, is putting pressure on companies to focus on sustainability as well as profits. With commercial water use far outstripping domestic use, improving and promoting water efficiency is one area where brands can be big drivers for change.
The shift towards green branding
In recent times, there has been a definite shift towards brands adopting more sustainable business practices, or “green branding”. This can be seen in both the number of new start-up businesses that adopt sustainability or a social message as part of their core identity, as well as established companies reviewing and improving their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies. One of the main drivers for this has been a shift in consumer attitudes. Studies show that today’s consumers make their purchasing decisions based on a brand’s environmental and social ethos as well as factors such as satisfaction and value for money. Recent statistics include:
- 66% of consumers saying they are willing to spend more on products from sustainable brands;
- 90% of CEOs and 88% of business students viewing sustainability and social/environmental policies as important to the success of a business;
- 93% of consumers worldwide have a more positive image of companies with a good CSR strategy.
These changes are down in part to the growth of the Millennial market. Millennials place a higher emphasis on green branding, with 81% expecting brands to be socially conscious and 73% preferring to work for socially responsible companies. With $30 trillions of assets due to be transfered to Millennials in the coming decades, their influence and purchasing power is only expected to grow.
What this means for water sustainability
With more and more brands looking to improve their sustainability and CSR practices, there is an opportunity for businesses to look at how they use water and promote better water efficiency. Water conservation often gets overlooked in discussions on sustainability, where the focus tends to be on preservation of land and moving towards renewable forms of energy. But with global water shortages predicted as early as 2040, we are likely to hear more over the next few years about the importance of effectively managing and recycling our water supplies. Commercial use of water is high, accounting for around 90% of global consumption when industry and agriculture are combined, so there is good scope for brands to take a lead, be a force for change and promote themselves as socially responsible.
How brands can adopt “green” water policies
There are a number of strategies brands can adopt to promote better water use. These include:
- Reducing water use on commercial premises – company facility managers and premises managers need to look at ways to reduce commercial water use such as installing more water-efficient utilities, investing in water recycling and wastewater treatment systems and setting targets on reducing water use.
- Reducing water footprint in production methods – one of the biggest burdens on global water supply is the amount of water used in production (for example, it takes around 140 litres of water to grow one cup of coffee and 400,000 litres to build a car). Company production managers need to review production methods and look at ways in which the overall water footprint can be reduced.
- Including water sustainability in the CSR policy – improving global access to clean water and sanitation is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Brands can support this by committing to supporting global change in their CSR strategy.
Becoming more water sustainable as a business is a win-win, with many benefits and no real negatives. As well as contributing towards a more environmentally sustainable planet, brands can gain a competitive advantage by making themselves more appealing not just today’s consumers but also to employees and investors. When the reduced overhead costs of water efficiency are factored in, it can be seen that green branding is something with the potential for great return on investment (ROI). With that in mind, it should be a priority for forward-thinking businesses everywhere.