Marketing and Promotion

Given the enormous consumer interest in more sustainable brands with a purpose, convenience retailers can tap into a huge opportunity to talk with their customers about their sustainability initiatives.

In-store signage, social media and other digital assets are great tools for communicating what your company is doing, and there are multiple audiences to consider:

Investors and Bankers 
Investors and those interested in acquiring existing businesses in the convenience retail industry want to know how well the management of a company understands the business drivers for sustainability, particularly around environmental, social and governance (ESG) plans and benchmarks.

The investment community’s spotlight on ESG is creating a groundswell for retailers to establish benchmarks. It’s becoming more common for financial institutions to consider ESG factors when making corporate loans and providing borrowers with lower interest rates based on their sustainability profile and attention to climate risks, as well as areas such as executive pay, political affiliations and working conditions. (Listen to a recent Convenience Matters podcast, “Why ESG Is Becoming Important to Retailers.”)

Employees and Prospective Employees
Employees are the company’s biggest advocates, so give them plenty of positive stories to share with their friends, family and customers. Companies that effectively communicate community-driven efforts recognize that promoting their sustainability initiatives can help attract and retain high-quality employees.

Today’s customers, particularly the younger generation, tend to be more loyal to companies with a purpose. Keep in-store messages simple without relying on sustainability jargon or too much data. Online information can provide additional details for those customers seeking it.

Promoting Sustainability Efforts

Companies are frequently doing more to support sustainability initiatives than they realize. When promoting sustainability efforts, consider the following:

Don’t just focus just on environmental initiatives. Employee and community aspects are just as important, such as family leave policies, college tuition reimbursement, scholarships, donations to community groups and employee volunteer activities.

As with any advertising or marketing materials, it is important that all claims are accurate. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has rules around what is legal and illegal  when making any marketing claim, including specific guidelines for sustainability-related marketing claims.

Consumers can also be particularly sensitive to false or misleading environmental claims, known as greenwashing—be sure to avoid the “Seven Sins of Greenwashing.”

When talking about sustainability, present it as part of the store’s broader story and not in isolation. It can be jarring to consumers if a retailer or any brand talks about sustainability without connecting it to the story being shared in other marketing messages.

Messages like “because you want it fast, we’re trying to make ‘going green’ easier” or “to help you save money, we’re reducing our CO2 emissions” are more effective than stand-alone sustainability marketing efforts.

Avoid exaggerating intentions or impacts. No activity or effort is going to “save the planet” or “solve the world’s problems.” Use language that focuses on “doing our part” while acknowledging that “there is more to be done.”

When sharing information about sustainability initiatives, understand that some consumers are going to be skeptical. Make it easy for them to find additional information on the website that provides greater details. Share information about food donation volumes, recycling percentages, energy or water savings, community donations and renewable energy purchases.

When making claims about environmental impacts like reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions or comparative claims like “our environmental savings are equal to XXX trees being planted or XXX cars removed from the road,” explain where the information originated.