Why on earth should people support sustainable businesses?

Harrington’s (Photo credit: teachernz)

A few years ago I went to talk to John Harrington, the owner of a fine local brewery called Harrington’s, about his marketing. When I arrived I was told he was “upstairs in the smoko room”, where I found him dressed in work clothes doing the dishes. The first thing he said as “why would I want to get involved with marketing?” That’s usually the first thing people ask, so I was prepared and ready with “so you can sell more beer and make more money”. I sat back and waited for the usual response of “OK, that sounds good, let’s talk”, but instead John just looked puzzled, then he said something I have never forgotten. “Why would I want to do that? A man can only eat and drink so much, and I do too much of both as it is”.

I needed a better answer which meant I needed to understand what was important to John. We sat down at the smoko room table and chatted about the history of his business, the new brewery and the beer that has his name on it. Incidentally, if you haven’t tried a Harrington’s beer you’re missing something because they are mighty tasty, and make the products of the multinationals about as appealing as a lukewarm glass of dishwater. John agreed that it was sad that so many people drank dull beer when a great beer was available, and that it was criminal that the profits from every dollar spent on a certain brand that isn’t brewed in Mangatainoka any more ended up in Singapore. Slowly John started to see why marketing was a good idea and would give him what he wanted –  people enjoying good beer and supporting NZ businesses.

The moral of this story is that that everyone wants something, and because it’s often not what you would expect, getting to know your customer is the key.

If you run a sustainable business, do you know what the people in your market want? And are you marketing what they want or what you think they want? A lot of people, especially SME owners, fall into the trap of thinking that what they want is what everyone else wants. This is a trap that catches a lot of green businesses because they are more likely to be driven by their personal values and many of them are basing their marketing message on the idea that supporting them is good for the environment. That may well be true, but is it enough to get the average Kiwi to change from a familiar and trusted brand to your brand? Is it enough to make them change what they’re doing? International research has consistently shown that consumers, even many self-professed greenies, are unlikely to change their behaviour solely on perceived environmental benefits.

If we assume that all else is equal (price, quality, availability etc) between your product and the non sustainable alternatives, what exactly are the benefits of dealing with sustainable businesses? I’ve put together a table listing just a few of the benefits of sustainable businesses. I suggest you have a look at them and do some brainstorming to find more that apply to you. Feel free to run ideas past me, and let me know what you discover.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s