Business opinion: Eco-branding

Our SMEs are on the record for failing due to lack of capital/finances. Why not ride on the “Eco” way of doing business as it is economical (a low hanging fruit). 

BY FARAI CHIGORA As once said by Warren Buffett “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently”. Brands should talk sustainability. One that connects the current with future generation in harmony with nature through smart business. I have seen many applying the term “Eco” as mere wording to window-dress their brands. No! We should go beyond aware that there is great mileage in the whole equity of the business when we go green as a practice.

Of course, through the inaugural PEOPLE model during inception into this fast growing phenomenon, we tried to unpack this critical element for improved global brand visibility and attractiveness. Here we go further by taking eco-branding seriously as a concept that connects the short and long-term strategy of our businesses with a marketing communication that is nature-centred. In other discussions many have asked if the “Eco” refers to ecology or economic. I say it refers to both. Natural capital is everything nature provides us for free. When we build simple business structures that are aesthetic to nature or when we use solar systems, organic and recyclable materials it’s almost for free. Our SMEs are on the record for failing due to lack of capital/finances. Why not ride on the “Eco” way of doing business as it is economical (a low hanging fruit).

Sometimes we under/overdo in our brand craftsmanship and showcasing yet simplicity would have rewarded us better. In this edition we look into eco-branding of our home-grown SMEs, as a way to go and find existence in the newly green sensitive world. The concept is widely known in the area of environmental and natural studies. Yes branding can also convey the same and it is not too late to start. This is through projection of a voice(s) that talks a promise of sustainability and responsive to nature in the way we do business. In some previous editions we talked about brand elements and how they help in improving brand visibility, now we take another step to connect these elements with environmental friendliness.

To start, with many terms have been used with reference of being environmentally conscious such as eco-friendly, sustainable practice, in harmony with nature and going green. Here we then narrow and specify this to the field of brand management. Where brands should partake a leading role in convincing the markets that the business is taking this matter seriously. Eco-branding is a way that companies use to market and communicate their environmental goals/targets together with the overall business strategy to their customers (both current and prospective) and other companies. In this era of doing business, it is important to note that partnerships to do business with other companies and customers is now based on the way you treat the environment as an SME. We truly know that customers do not buy a product/service but a brand. Now the global modern customers have pushed us to another level where they are no longer buying brands only, but those that are further certified/accredited to be eco-friendly (concept of eco-labelling). Customers are now buying from those who have invested in clean/smart ways of operating through clear systems and standard operating procedures. In this case, the SME supply/value chain should talk environmental consciousness at each stage until final consumption in a way that the brand should not lie but talks what is in the processes. If not done carefully, this can be a catalyst to extinction in this age of smart business. Yet our SMEs are not thinking about the deforestation, noise and air pollution resulting from their operations. They refer to these as simply social costs that does not affect their bottom-line. As Richie Spice once said: “the world is a cycle” such that now the customer has the power to assess your brand in this responsive perspective to make an instant decision not to buy (remember the power of e-word of mouth). Just to correct our SMEs failure to live green limits growth and an opportunity to be global.

There is need to find and innovate better ways in our operations through a wider search, especially from those best of our industry. MacDonald’s and Nike have even reduced the ink they use in designing their logos by more than 25% towards eco-branding. You can do the same. Also to be guided in the practice there is to engage and get accreditation by international Green Certifying Bodies specifically for your type of industry. These will train you on the best practices, guides, standards and procedures that will make the brand known as eco-friendly/green than any other.

Lastly since this is a transition stage for most of our home-grown SMEs there is need to come up with a detailed guide on what to add on in the operations/processes to match with the brand (not losing that brand uniqueness we have developed so far). This goes on to the brand colours, motto, ambassadorship, images and any other elements. In this regard SMEs should find ways/strategies that allow them to be able to inform and promote their initiative for environment protection. It is easy when the brand is riding on an accreditation as aforementioned that is globally known so that in the offered product/service that accreditor will be endorsed as part of the product/service packaging and brand labelling. This strengthens an easy and quick brand visibility/recognition. Even to be accompanying in some advertisements (both visual and aural) made by the SME.  All that the brand should be talking is its support and responsiveness to environmental issues. This might sound out of our reach or a game for the elite, but we can do that too in this age. Since time does not wait for anyone, let’s start now and enjoy the fruits.

  • Dr Farai Chigora is a businessman and academic. He is the head of business science at the Africa University’s College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance. His doctoral research focused on business administration (Destination marketing and branding major, Ukzn, SA). He is into agribusiness and consults for many companies in Zimbabwe and Africa. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted for feedback and business at [email protected], WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.

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