5 Strategies to Design Engaging Experiences with Sustainability

If your organization wants sustainability efforts to be known beyond your annual report, you’ll have to design it into consumer experiences.

Sustainability remains on the list of top trends shaping business as we move into 2017, driving companies to rethink how to best deliver on the triple bottom line­­—people, planet, and profit. How can your team continue to innovate your corporate social responsibility strategy in a way that’s meaningful to consumers?

One piece of the sustainability puzzle is efficiency—reducing waste or capturing it to be repurposed. The problem with efficiency improvements is that they tend to happen behind the scenes with better sourcing, faster manufacturing, and less material. These strategies are important, but lack a consumer experience, so your sustainability efforts may stay hidden to the public.

Here are 5 strategies to provide a desirable consumer experience when you enhance your organization’s efficiency:

1. Allow consumers to track the environmental progress you’ve made together.

Immerse consumers in the sustainability efforts they care about beyond simply stating it on a label or mission statement.

Sustainable fashion company, Reformation, achieves this experience by providing an online consumer profile that illustrates the impact of their purchases over time. It itemizes exactly how much water, carbon dioxide and waste they’ve reduced from buying Reformation’s products versus a standard garment.

This strategy enables the consumer to see the efficiency they are helping to create by participating in conscious consumerism. It can help your business foster customer loyalty by tracking your relationship over time, and sharing these sustainability details may even give your product a higher perceived value. There is abundant opportunity for the food and fashion industries to improve in this area.

2. Turn sleeping assets into effective moneymakers.

Utilize the sharing economy to take advantage of resources that are inactive in their current state to allow consumers and business alike to minimize waste.

Uber and Lyft turned a stranger’s car into a desirable ride-sharing experience, allowing the vehicle to get a better bang for its buck two ways – 1. More people per trip maximizes the car’s carbon footprint, and 2. Previously empty seats are now generating income.

The sharing economy allows consumers to borrow more and purchase less, which allows for more sustainable consumption patterns. It also provides the opportunity for consumers to employ their assets as business ventures if they choose to. When moving from a traditional product space into service design, businesses are able to rely on other partners to own the assets they use. Low investment, big returns—we’ve seen it with cars, apartments, and planes. Will your industry be next?

3. Empower your consumer to continually minimize waste long after they’ve purchased.

Design not only an efficient product, but also an experience that allows the consumer to practice efficiency well beyond the point of purchase.

For example, when Solar City sells solar panels to a consumer, they sell the experience of net metering. Net metering allows consumers to sell excess power from their panels back to the grid at peak energy times, and buy it off in case they need to supplement their own power generation. The home’s energy is streamlined, moving power to and from the grid on demand to minimize waste.

This strategy helps your consumer generate ‘green’ returns for the long term—both financial and environmental. Every day that they experience the benefits of efficiency, they are reminded of your brand and are motivated to be advocates for it. Products with extended ownership, like cars and home appliances could especially benefit from providing these kinds of experiences.

4. Team up with consumers to use waste for a greater good.

Establish a hub to transfer waste from your business or consumers to projects that serve those in need.

Madewell’s denim recycling program provides an in-store experience for consumers where they can trade in their old jeans in return for a discount on a pair of new ones. The old pair of jeans is recycled into insulation for homes of those in need.

A program that turns waste into useful material provides an opportunity for the consumers to give back, while treating themselves at the same time. This strategy encourages consumers to physically interact with your brand at a brick and mortar location, while reaching them at an emotional level to show that you care about more than just business. Any retail company looking to improve their in-store experience can benefit from this strategy.

 5. Partner with consumers to help your business close the loop.

Leverage your consumer’s interest in sustainability to help you participate in the circular economy, where one business venture’s waste turns into another’s resource.

Terracycle enlists their consumers to help them turn waste material into innovative products, from pencil cases to playgrounds. Consumers conduct drives in schools, businesses, and homes to collect resources that are typically not recycled by municipalities, and receive rewards points that add up to charitable donations.

This strategy gives consumers the opportunity for a team building and philanthropy experience within their organizations while diverting resources that would otherwise end up in a landfill. It helps ensure no resource goes to waste by making use of consumers’ support to strengthen your supply chain and grow your business. Consumer packaged goods companies looking to improve their use of recycled materials can especially benefit from this kind of program.

Consumers want to feel like they’re a part of your sustainability efforts. Using a strategy that taps into emotions and benefits they desire will bring satisfaction along with loyalty to your product and brand. How will you transform efficiency initiatives into engaging consumer experiences?