Professional snow contractors are familiar with the mounting pressure to become more environmentally friendly in operations. As the industry works to avoid government regulation by voluntarily reducing salt usage, it is too late for equipment that now conforms to strict emission standards. At the same time, more and more requests for proposals are asking how snow and ice programs can conform to existing LEED or other sustainable practices already in place at premier properties. There is no doubt that serious change is coming in the form of environmental best practices.
But, as with all external changes, companies must decide: Does this change force change at the expense of sales and profitability, or is there an opportunity to capitalize on the shifting environment? Savvy snow contractors have already taken steps to reduce their environmental impact; the best contractors are using it to gain clients. Here’s the inside marketing strategy to make the most of the new green market. Tell a story
Marketing can often seem like something only big companies do, an activity that requires a huge budget, or something that requires years of training to get right. The reality is that marketing is necessary for every company and, whether realized, is already happening to some extent. The impressions that a company broadcasts through every piece of equipment, each interaction with a customer, and any outward action all form part of the brand image. Marketing can be as simple as consciously managing what image is sent.
So how can a snow contractor successfully market itself as an environmentally friendly company? Simply telling the story of how and why the green initiatives exist is a great place to start. The story should be captivating, clear and concise. By focusing on the big issues and painting a clear picture, the message will stick far better than using vague descriptions.
For example, when describing why salt reduction is important, explaining how “salt can kill grass and plants if too much is used” is too vague. A more captivating message is that “just a single teaspoon of salt will permanently pollute a 5-gallon bucket of water.” It’s easy to visualize both a teaspoon and a 5-gallon bucket. The comparison in size makes the message clear how disruptive over-application of salt can be. Now think about all the single teaspoons of salt saved over the course of a winter by using better equipment and more effective deicers. The right story will sell the importance of green programs
on its own.
Make sure it’s true
With any marketing, it is important to maintain truth in advertising. When it comes to green marketing, however, the facts become even more important. The target markets for green marketing are companies that already have green programs in place and recognize their value. They are the ones who will buy services based on environmentally friendly practices. This market is also much more highly educated than most consumers and tends to research extensively because they are so conscientious of how their actions affect the environment. Honesty in green marketing is paramount.
There have been so many companies that have tried to jump on the green marketing bandwagon without actually practicing green initiatives that a term has cropped up that represents the practice of misleading green marketing. “Greenwashing” is taken so seriously by environmentally conscious consumers that not only do they not support companies that falsely advertise the extent of their green program, but they also actively work to ensure these companies receive as little support as possible. There are multiple websites dedicated to outing companies who greenwash. For example, www.GreenwashingIndex.com rates advertisements on a scale from “Authentic” to “Bogus.” Greenwashing is not only unethical, it can be disrespectful to a company or industry as a whole.
Walk the walk
Green marketing requires more than just a good story; there have to be real deliverables on what is promised. Snow contractors who successfully market green programs live them out in their business. Environmentally friendly practices need to be a part of a company’s culture and require complete buy-in from all stakeholders.
The market is shifting quickly and there will be winners and losers as a result. As the sustainable movement continues to expand to building exterior maintenance and snow contractors are called upon to provide environmentally sensitive programs, those who work now to develop and market green initiatives will separate themselves from the competition. Fortunately, it’s not too late for companies to choose how they respond to the market.
Snow and ice management techniques part of LEED program
U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Reference Guide for LEED EBOM (Existing Building-Operations and Maintenance) 2009 provides the intent of Sustainable Site credit 2 - Building Exterior and Hardscape Management Plan is “to encourage environmentally sensitive building exterior and hardscape management practices,” including “snow and ice removal.”
(Left) Impact with sand. (Right) Impact without sand.
An example of how to achieve this is to reduce the amount of environmentally disruptive deicing chemicals to hardscape areas. By eliminating sand, which the EPA classifies as a pollutant in the Clean Water Act, and calibrating spreaders to optimally apply material, a considerable year-over-year reduction (by weight) of deicing product can be shown. New versions of the LEED requirements take effect in June 2015. To learn more visit www.usgbc.org