Beyond Sustainability: Why Green Companies Need to Be Culturally Aware

Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest who is passionate about environmentalism and social justice issues. You can follow her on Twitter @HamiltonJori

Posted on Thursday 1st August 2019
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Sustainable businesses are all the rage these days. Customers prefer sustainable companies and choose to spend their hard-earned dollars there more often. As more and more consumers demand environmental responsibility from the companies they support, businesses around the world have stepped up to meet that demand and do better for both the earth and their customers.

It turns out that following trends and showcasing priorities benefits businesses as well. Consumers today are willing to pay more to support businesses that have similar values to their own. So how might this idea apply outside the realm of environmental sustainability?

There are many things green companies can do aside from recycling and sustainably sourcing their materials to show customers that they are culturally aware, responsible, and ready to fight for what’s right. Being visibly culturally aware gives companies and organizations a chance to reach their target audience in a fresh new way and do something positive for society.

Invest in People

Investing in people is a great way for companies to be culturally aware. It can look a lot of different ways, too. However, understanding and developing cultural awareness is an essential starting point for companies that may be new to the idea.

Cultural awareness demands that you step outside your own perspective and think about the people around you. They may vary in race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and more. They may come from another country, speak another language, and have different customs and habits than your own. Whether you are in a virtual workplace or a traditional office setting, understanding diversity is a key to success.

Diversity is something that should be celebrated, but the first step toward celebrating it is to recognize that diversity exists, that not everyone is like you, and that this fact only makes your business stronger. Investing in people in this way fosters a strong company culture that can help improve your business for years to come.

Investing in people can also mean making sure that all employees at your company have the help and resources they need to be happy and healthy — both physically and mentally. “In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans died by suicide, making it the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S.,” reports Regis College.

Mental health and wellness can be a real problem in the workplace. Recognizing and addressing this could really make your business stand out and be ahead of the curve. Whether you offer free counseling to employees, encourage mental health days, or bring in mental health professionals to discuss the importance of checking in with yourself, you can make a difference in the wellbeing of the people who work for you. This will show customers that you care about people just as much as you care about making a profit.

Take a Stand

Taking a stand about something you believe in or you represent is a great way to show your cultural awareness and make a positive impact on society (and your sales). As a green company, you likely already showcase your environmentalism to your customers, but there are plenty of other hot-button issues out there.

Take the Me Too era, for example. It seems like every week there’s a new scandal in the news, where a high-powered executive at a well-known business is taken down because of sexual abuse allegations. This is so widespread that calling it an epidemic wouldn’t be a stretch.

In an age where (mostly) women’s stories of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault are finally coming to the forefront of national public conversation, it is the responsibility of every business and company to take a clear position and hold people to high standards.

Defining sexual consent is essential to understanding if companies want to combat rampant sexual abuse in the workplace. Extensive training on sexual consent in the workplace can show that your business is paying attention and is culturally aware. It also helps your business be a safer space for everyone with not just men at the top of the food chain. Taking a stand for all employees shows your customers that you have strong moral values and aren’t afraid to take action to stand up for them.

Work on Building Trust

Building trust with your customers can be done when they learn that you are culturally aware and interested in protecting people and not just your profit margin. When someone has a positive customer experience with your brand, they create a strong memory that they might identify with and use to choose your business again in the future.

You might help your customers have a positive experience and help them trust you by responding promptly and helpfully to all queries, offering great customer service, being inclusive and culturally aware, prioritizing protecting consumer data, and being honest and apologetic if you make a mistake.

So even though your green company may have made huge environmental strides, the conversation shouldn’t stop there. There are so many other ways you can show customers that you’re paying attention and sensitive to the national conversation, that you value people, and that you’re not afraid to stand up for what you believe in. It will help your employees, your customers, and also your business.

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