Do customers care if you are going “green?”

green_field.jpg  At last week’s monthly ACG meeting here in San Diego, the presentation title “Greening the Bottom Line” was delivered by Irene Stillings, Executive Director of the California Center for Sustainable Energy.  The disucssion focused on what companies are doing to make their facilities more energy efficient and the cost savings that they experience.  Along with her presentation, Ms. Stillings moderated a panel discussion with representatives for Johnson & Johnson, Qualcomm, and X-nth.

The message from Ms. Stillings is that there is a cost of indifference to going green, and to help companies get over their indifference, her organization offers both financial and educational support.  There are some really wonderful things these organizations are doing to lessen their impact and to be good corporate citizens in their communities.  I asked how they are sharing all this great stuff with their customers.  The only answer, which I expected, came from the Johnson & Johnson guy.  He said they have a Sustainability Report that is available that discusses the performance of their programs in this area.

So I wondered if that is all they are doing, do customers care if companies are going green?  Some will and some won’t.  All things being equal, some customers will purchase products from greener companies.  While others will go out of their way to purchase products from greener companies.   I was really happy to know what Qualcomm is doing since they have one of the biggest footprints of office space in San Diego.  But I couldn’t see them advertising that to those who buy their cell phone chips.

For some companies it will make sense to tell their customers what they are doing to go green.  For others the benefit may not be clear yet.  I think the biggest impact on customers for all these companies is through their employees.  Going “green” is here to stay, and employees of these companies should feel proud to work at companies that take it seriously.  That employee pride and satisfaction will spill over to customers.  Because to have satisfied customers you first need satisfied employees.  Yes, the cost of indifference is significant, and in more ways than most of us realize.

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