Last week I had the honor of participating in a panel titled “A New Paradigm: How Companies Can be Agents of Social Change,” at the World Social Marketing Conference. The panel focused on ways companies can create an impact, particularly in the current political and economic climate that has created a sense of uncertainty and frustration for a lot of people in the U.S. and globally.
To set the stage for this conversation, Porter Novelli shared some results from a spring 2017 ConsumerStyles survey on environmental issues:
- 57 percent of people are personally concerned about climate change.
- 80 percent of people say it’s personally important to them that companies reduce their impact on the environment.
- 74 percent say they want companies to support local community events.
- 68 percent are looking for companies to donate to charities.
- 57 percent want companies to take a stand on social issues.
At USGBC, we aren’t surprised to see these issues as important to consumers—we see our community working toward social change every day. The LEED brand has grown because companies, consumers and the environment all benefit from sustainable buildings.
According to a 2015 global survey by Cone Communications, 91 percent of global consumers believe companies should do more than just make a profit. By focusing on the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit—thousands of companies, from Fortune 500-level to small businesses, have embraced LEED as a way to reach their sustainability and business goals.
As a member of the USGBC community, you’re already a social change agent. Here are a few ways you and your company can maximize and amplify your efforts.
There is a powerful storytelling opportunity through simply showcasing the sustainability features of your LEED building or by highlighting your company’s sustainability efforts to the people who occupy, visit or work in these spaces. Educational signage in stores and places of work, in-person engagement and education opportunities or events, website content that highlights your sustainability efforts and media engagement opportunities are all ways to enhance your social marketing efforts.
Porter Novelli’s ConsumerStyles survey also found that 90 percent of global consumers would like to see more responsible products and services offered from companies. This is highest in the countries that are embracing LEED outside of the U.S., India (95 percent), China (94 percent) and Brazil (93 percent).
Even before you get your LEED certification, you should look into environmental product declarations and material ingredient reporting tools, which provide architects and designers with more information on the contents in products and the manufacturing process. EPDs address how products are made, their material ingredients and other tools provide information about who makes them, and this information can transfer to what you share with your consumers.
When you achieve LEED certification for a new project, don’t forget to check out USGBC’s PR guidelines for newly certified LEED projects, which includes sample press releases and messaging for media, social media and other marketing channels to help you accurately promote and celebrate your accomplishment publicly. A LEED plaque when you enter a certified building is another simple way to showcase your achievement to all who enter.
Consider attending the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo for the best green building education and to stay informed on the latest and most innovative sustainable building products. You will also reach key influencers and decision makers interested in your products and services. Greenbuild truly is a global opportunity. In addition to the U.S. show in Boston, Nov. 8–10, Greenbuild will also take place this fall in Shanghai, China, and Mumbai, India. Greenbuilding Brasil will take place Aug. 8–10 in São Paulo.
Can’t make it to Greenbuild? Our Education @USGBC platform recently released Education @USGBC playlists, which take the guesswork out of finding the right course. Playlists range from credential maintenance program packages to general updates on the LEED rating system. New playlists will be released on a quarterly basis throughout 2017.
Porter Novelli found there is anxiety among consumers and also a lack of trust, with only 12 percent of the country said they trusted the information coming from the U.S. government. The private sector has an important role to play in making sure information is transparent and authentic for its employees, consumers and other stakeholders.
Last year, we launched Arc, a new online performance platform that provides shared use of technology, feedback and recognition excellence for the sustainable built environment. Arc allows any project—whether a single building, community or even an entire city—to enter the platform and measure improvements and benchmark against itself and projects around it. LEED-certified buildings can use Arc to improve and benchmark against other certified buildings. Any LEED user has immediate access to Arc and can start entering information today that can be shared with stakeholders in an effort to improve transparency.
Beyond the building, there are many ways companies can and should be taking a stand on environmental issues. USGBC’s member companies continue to vocalize support for the Paris climate agreement, and hundreds have signed on to a letter USGBC issued in opposition to the administration's proposed budget cuts, to urge support for core EPA programs. We are also encouraging members of our community to reach out to their local policymakers and media to vocalize their concerns about these proposed changes.
Over the last five years, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC’s Green Apple Day of Service has become a great community engagement tool for companies and individual volunteers wanting to support social change in the schools in their local communities.Green Apple Day of Service catalyzes days of action to recognize and celebrate the central role that schools plan in educating students for a healthy, green, sustainable future. We are currently recruiting promotional partners to spread the word, as well as corporate partners that are interested in helping schools get supplies and funding for their projects.
Thank you for all you are doing to create a more sustainable world. If you have social impact stories you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments.