By Carol Rossi, Sustainable Danville Area
Worldwide there is growing consumer demand for foods and products that are sustainably produced and marketed. Shoppers’ reasons may vary – from a desire to protect the environment, to improving their personal wellness and their family’s health, or just conserving their dollars in a tough economy – but more people are looking for product labels confirming green practices and production methods and questioning vendors about the source of their goods and their own business activities. According to a marketing research, 83% of consumer purchasing decisions are influenced by a desire to support sustainable efforts*- a percentage savvy business owners can’t afford to ignore in their competition for customer attention.
Touting corporate social and environmental responsibility has become quite the fad of late, meaning mere slogans and lip service will not be enough to differentiate companies in today’s market. Business owners are finding they must be more transparent about the goods and services they offer and how they market them to their customers. Consequently, more firms are letting customers “see behind the curtain” and encouraging them to ask questions, be aware of sustainable issues, and focusing on developing connections and open relationships as people rather than just faceless consumer and vendor.
Those of us interested in sustainable lifestyles can accelerate this business transformation by shopping local, asking questions, and frequenting merchants who promote and practice sustainable methods. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, like; “where did this product come from?”, “how was it prepared?”, “what types of materials does it contain?”, “where is it going when I’m done with it?” and “what are you doing to promote sustainable practices?” Business owners will quickly realize these issues are important to you – their customer – and that they must be prepared with appropriate answers and tangible achievements if they want the relationship to continue.
Granted, most of us are still exploring and learning how to balance the needs of our families with those of the environment. For example, we may need to consider the price of a product and its impact on our budget verses its impact on the environment. But consumers still appreciate connecting with like-minded business owners who are also considering how, where, and when they can make a contribution to our environment and our community well-being. Shoppers and business owners alike have various level of commitment to sustainability because they must sustain their own viability. But having information is the first step in deciding what is important to you and making reasoned, balanced decisions.
Sustainable Danville Area, in association with the Danville Area Chamber of Business, Discover Danville Association, and Shop Danville First, has launched the Danville Area Sustainable Business Council and the 30-Day Challenge to educate and inspire local businesses to adopt sustainable practices.
The program is a local way to recognize the ‘first steps’ businesses are taking toward environmental friendliness and help them adapt transparent business practices. We’ve developed a checklist of basic steps to get a business started and will offer training and incentives to make it easy for them to participate. Throughout March, every sustainable change made by a “pledged” business will be showcased at four highly visible websites (Discover Danville Association, Shop Danville First, Sustainable Danville Area and the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce). To make it easy for shoppers to recognize businesses that are making their businesses more sustainable, we’ll award a window seal to those businesses that complete the initial set of “best practices” that demonstrate their commitment.
The program is a stepping stone to certification as a Bay Area Green Business. The Bay Area Green Business Program distinguishes small businesses that shrink their carbon footprint by conserving energy and water resources, minimizing waste and preventing pollution. Business practices are verified by independent auditors and successful completion is recognized by the award of the Bay Area Green Business certification. The Town of Danville recently received their certification. You can find other Bay Area Green Businesses by using the directory on their website: http://www.greenbiz.ca.gov/ShopGreen.html.
Is your business already sustainable? If so, get recognized for your efforts and share your successes with the community to earn free promotion and attract new customers. Or if you are a consumer interested in telling your favorite local place about the program, please visit www.sustainabledanville.com for more information.
Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:http://yourmonthlypaper.com/pdfs/DT/2011/DT.2011.Mar.full.pdf