4 Strategies to Involve Customers in Your Business Sustainability Efforts

Paige Smith

Getting customers on board with your business’s sustainability practices can help you increase your impact and reach your goals easier—but it’s crucial to take the right approach. 

Keep reading to learn more about why customer support for sustainability matters and how to secure it.

Why should you involve customers in your sustainability efforts?

Of course, you can practice sustainability quietly, but there are significant benefits to bringing your customers into the fold. Consider these upsides: 

  • Strengthen your environmental impact: With customer buy-in and participation, you have the potential to make an even bigger impact on the issues you care about, from climate change awareness to waste reduction. 
  • Cater to customer preferences: Consumers care about sustainability. According to 2023 research from Bain & Company, 64% of the consumers surveyed report a high level of concern about the environment, and half of them said sustainability is one of their top four criteria when purchasing products and services. When you include customers in your sustainability work, you give them another great reason to choose your business over others. 
  • Build (or maintain) a reputation for transparency: By openly sharing your sustainability plans and progress with customers, you can actively shape the narrative around your brand and foster trust with customers.
  • Drive sales: Following through with your sustainability initiatives can help you drum up new business and turn one-time customers into regulars. 
  • Get valuable feedback: Customers can provide feedback on your sustainability ideas and implementation, giving you guidance on how to make the most effective improvements.  
  • Build a community around your business: People like feeling included. By bringing customers into your sustainability work, you’re building a diverse community of people working toward a common goal.  

Learn more about the benefits of becoming a sustainable business

When should you talk to your customers about sustainability? 

Customer support for sustainability is critical to your business’s bottom line, but it’s important not to jump the gun. If you talk about sustainability too early on—without having a solid sustainability plan and some results to back it up—you risk virtue signaling to your customers and making claims you can’t substantiate.

To get customer buy-in in an ethical way, you should be able to show some evidence of your business’s sustainability effort and progress first. That goes for everything from explaining sustainable sourcing methods on your website to giving away a percentage of customer proceeds to an environmental cause. 

Here are some situations where it makes sense to talk to customers about sustainability:

  • Switching up your sourcing 
  • Developing or launching a more eco-friendly product
  • Donating to a nonprofit 
  • Partnering with an environmental organization 
  • Changing your business model or adjusting your prices

Check out our step-by-step guide to writing a sustainability plan

How to get customers involved in your sustainability goals

Follow these four steps for the best results: 

1. Communicate early and often 

If you want to engage your customers in sustainability work, it’s important to explain what you’re trying to achieve and why. Customers want to understand the reasoning behind your decision-making, whether you’re raising prices to cover the cost of local raw materials or switching to a recyclable package to cut down on waste. 

Whatever sustainability actions you’re taking, be sure to share how much progress you’ve made, what you still want to accomplish, and what role customers can play in helping you get there. 

Here are some best practices of effective sustainability communication:

Focus your message

You’ll be more successful at drawing customers in if you distill your message down to a clear point. Instead of promoting every single sustainable practice you have, highlight the one that will appeal most to your customers’ values and lifestyle. 

Be transparent

Transparency means offering up information before it’s asked for. Take the initiative to explain where you’re at with your sustainability goals, and let customers know about anything that affects them directly, like a change to your offerings or prices.   

Keep customers in the loop

Share regular updates on your sustainability work via email and social media to keep customers excited. Just make sure you only highlight sales numbers, donation amounts, and business milestones you can confirm 100%.  

Highlight success stories and share behind-the-scenes information

Giving customers a glimpse into your sustainability wins and day-to-day work makes them feel included in the process. Play around with different formats; spotlight one of your customers using your products or services to make a difference in their community, for example, or post a video answering common workplace sustainability questions. 

Provide educational resources

There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation around sustainability. If you’re asking customers to care about environmental issues, it’s a good idea to give them tools to expand their knowledge of sustainability. That can be as simple as sharing product tutorials on your website or including a note on your packages that explains how to recycle them properly. 

If you want to go even further, consider creating a “sustainability information” page on your website that explains how you source local materials or lists ways for customers to get more involved in environmental causes on their own. 

Promote your sustainability efforts

Experiment with sharing your sustainability messaging across different platforms and in different formats. If you’re donating a portion of sale proceeds to an environmental organization, for example, make sure you say that in your promo emails, social posts, and website banners. 

If you prioritize local suppliers when creating your products, add copy to your email newsletters or website that says something like, “When you support our business, you’re supporting sustainable practices,” along with a call-to-action button inviting them to learn more.  

2. Give customers an incentive to spend

Give your customers more motivation to participate in your sustainability initiatives by rewarding them where it matters: their wallets. The easiest place to start is with a promotional campaign. Whether you’re donating a percentage of sales to an environmental nonprofit or promoting your own eco-friendly products, incentivize customers to spend more by offering them an exclusive discount. 

Another option is to create a green loyalty program, where you give customers points for completing surveys, donating a dollar at checkout, forgoing paper shopping bags, or otherwise supporting you in your business sustainability practices. According to PDI Technologies’ 2023 Business of Sustainability Index, 74% of consumers said they’d be likely to sign up for a company’s rewards or loyalty app if it helped reduce their carbon footprint. 

3. Encourage customers to participate in a variety of sustainability initiatives 

Make it easy for your customers to contribute to your sustainability goals by giving them lots of different opportunities. Depending on your business model and offerings, you could:

  • Create a return and refill program: If you sell recyclable or reusable products, encourage customers to return their old products or empty containers so you can recycle them properly. Give customers an easy drop-off location or complementary shipping option, so they’re motivated to follow through.  
  • Prompt customers for donations: At the point of sale, ask customers if they’d like to donate a dollar to a nonprofit aligned with your sustainability goals or round up their total to support a local environmental group. 
  • Match customer donations: If your business is giving to a particular environmental cause, encourage customers to contribute their own money by matching donations up to a certain amount. Just be sure you explain how much you’ll match and when, so you’re not over-promising anything. 
  • Promote partnerships: Team up with another business doing sustainable work to offer product bundles, discounts, or free gifts with every purchase. Partnering for a cross-promotion is an opportunity to drive customer sales while doubling your positive impact. 
  • Host an eco-conscious event for customers to attend: Plan an event to promote a particular sustainability initiative or raise money for an environmental organization. Make sure the event aligns with your business goals and rewards customers for their support. 
  • Run a social media contest: Ask customers to vote on the color or design of your latest eco-friendly product, or host a product giveaway for the customer who gives the most referrals. 

4. Solicit customer feedback

Asking for customer feedback on your sustainability efforts shows customers you value their opinions and patronage. Plus, giving customers a voice in sustainability-related decisions can encourage them to participate in other ways.

On a practical level, though, gathering customer feedback helps you improve your sustainability programs, offerings, and customer service—making your entire business better. You can gain insight into what your customers want, which environmental issues they care most about, and how they prefer you to share news and updates. 

Here are some options: 

  • Send email surveys
  • Invite feedback and engagement on social media
  • Respond to online reviews
  • Talk to employees in customer-facing roles for intel

Just make sure you actually incorporate your customer feedback. Once you gather enough data, set an internal timeline for making changes and roll out a communication and marketing plan to clue in your customers. 

Keeping customers happy

Customers are a key part of your success as a sustainable operation. Do what you can to keep them involved and excited—not just about your business offerings but about the larger impact you can have together.

Paige Smith Paige is a content marketing writer specializing in business, finance, and tech. She regularly writes for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies and small business lenders. See more of her work here:
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