Educating Customers on your Green Initiatives

Posted on 6/3/2014 12:34:21 PM By Bob Braun

In my last several posts, I began a review of the historic versus the newly evolving challenges for the modern formulator and discussed how one can balance the value attributes of a product for a Green world.  I also considered how certain product formulations presented an opportunity for the formulator to use greener chemistry advantageously.  In this post, I look at ways to educate the customer in this very complex Green world where most everyone has hung their hat on some scheme to make the customer feel greener when using their product.

The concept of sustainability is of course even more complex than a simple statement of why a product should be thought of as Green.  Green can be a very arguable concept... And, all the product attributes that contribute to sustainability are very difficult to communicate in a simple concise way.  Therefore the essence of the marketing message can often get lost.  Most manufactures take multiple approaches, depending on the audience they’re trying to target. 

Sealants and adhesives are often sold in somewhat small containers and getting the most essential product attributes across is most important for labeling purposes.  I reviewed several common sealants and adhesives recently and found these bullet points as prominent label statements:

  1. Saves Energy Dollars, Reduces drafts, with ENERGY STAR label
  2. Air sealing and insulating save up to X% of your heating costs
  3. Multi-Purpose adhesive bonds strong, easy water clean-up, safe and non-toxic
  4. Weather proof seal, Lifetime flexibility, Crack proof
  5. Repels water, Saves energy, Blocks rodents & insects
  6. Helps prevent mold and rot
  7. Water proof adhesive
  8. Universal, Easy to use, Grips in 10 seconds

Interestingly, of the products I surveyed, there were no specific claims of “Green.”  There were, however, quite a number of durability claims (betting the customer wanted the product to last a long time), and there were many relating to weather, waterproof, and strength features.  Because these were consumer items, I noted there were no ASTM specifications or others cited prominently.

Next, I surveyed the technical data sheets of very similar products and found the following most prominent statements:

  1. Tested in accordance with UL 723, ASTM C1620, AAMA 812-04, ASTM E90, ASTM E283
  2. LEED information...with the reference to the PDF file
  3. Meets ASTM C920, Type-S, NS Class 25, use NT, M, G, A & O test requirements
  4. And of course statements about weatherproof seal, waterproof and crack proof, lifetime flexibility, etc.

So, one can see that many manufacturers take a two-level approach emphasizing what each product audience expects.  As big as LEED has become to institutional customers, it seems to have little impact for DIY consumers at this time.

Here you willl find many references relating to Green plus the announcement: April 28, 2014 – With more than 75 comments submitted, the docket has now closed on EPA’s proposed Draft Guidelines for Product Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement. Stay tuned for next steps! 

This EPA website was last updated on April 28th and has separate portals for consumers, manufacturers, and institutional users.  You also find sections relating to: what makes a product greener, how to find energy-efficient products, plus many more.  And there is also the Quick Finder section, detailed below.

Quick Finder: Product-related Programs

  • Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) helps the federal government "buy green," and in doing so, uses the federal government's enormous buying power to stimulate market demand for green products and services. Geared first to help federal purchasers, this site can help green vendors, businesses large and small -- and consumers. 
  • EPEAT is a comprehensive global environmental rating system that helps purchasers identify greener computers and other electronics.  Search the registry or find out who participates here.
  • Green Building - The buildings in which we live, work, and play protect us from nature's extremes, yet they also affect our health and environment in countless ways. As the environmental impact of buildings becomes more apparent, a new field called "green building" is gaining momentum.  Green, or sustainable, building is the practice of creating and using healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition. Read more about green building
  • US EPA Retail Industry Portal - The Retail Industry Portal provides access to the many programs and resources available to help prevent and resolve environmental issues at retail establishments. Two types of resources are available:
    • Compliance Resources: Help you meet current regulatory obligations. In addition to Federal regulations, state regulations may also apply to your business activities. Not complying with regulatory obligations can result in enforcement actions. 

    • Sustainability Resources: Help you voluntarily go beyond regulatory obligations to protect the environment.

Reviewing the EPA’s website can help guide you to appropriate choices in educating customers about your Green initiatives.  It provides a consensus point of reference, for the terminology and thinking, that is useful to the audiences that you serve with the products you market and sell.  The site also provides links to many additional organizations that provide guidance in ways to position and promote your products.  ENERGY STAR labeling, for example, has become a popularly understood reference for consumers and institutional users.

In my next post, I will discuss ways of referencing new claims and standards to improve customer communication.

Questions? Comments?

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