Get more than just environmental lip service from tender responses

This post is by Chris Sewell, Business Director at TrinityP3. Chris has a wide ranging knowledge of all areas of the advertising and procurement world and specializes in helping companies understand the environmental impact of their marketing spend.

Translating corporate environmental strategy into marketing output

Gone are the days when telling the world you use recycled paper cuts it as a sufficient response to the environmental requirements section of a tender. Expectations have moved forward despite the watery environmental guidance offered up as policy by the major parties in this country.

There have been major improvements by leading, forward thinking businesses in the compliance requirements for all aspects of sustainable practices. From the growth in the building of 5 star Green offices to energy efficient (read carbon as well as cost) refits. From light bulbs to travel rules, sustainability is now embedded in the day-to-day business strategy. Whilst the initial focus has been on high emitting areas of a business, the energy efficient glow is now shinning brightly on how to include the Marketing spend.

Environmental impact

The importance of weeding out the bad corporate citizens as partners

Marketing is connecting with consumers in a relevant and cost effective manner. Delivering this message in a targeted way requires an efficient process. Reducing carbon and therefore lowering the environmental impact of communication is by its very DNA an efficiency driver.

So how do you get your marketing partners to understand this and work with you in the language of lower CO2?

Anyone you ask is more than capable of wheeling out an elegant environmental statement.

We recycle this and that and we really really care. If they are not able to tell you the carbon impact of the goods and services they provide for you these statements are not worth the PDF they are displayed on.

Media planners should supply a carbon assessment of their proposed strategy. Agencies the carbon from the production of the ideas. And printers must share the footprints of the printing and freight they generate on your behalf.

As with most things in life you get what you ask for

How does one even start the process?

Existing contractual arrangements with your agencies and printers/managers will most probably not have any tangible environmental deliveries. So you will have to negotiate with them to ensure they deliver more accountable reporting that matches the requirements of your company. If there are no clear overall guidelines that translate easily across into Marketing we can assist with interpretation.

The big environmental gains can be made when going to market to seek new alliances by adding environmental deliverables with a focus on evidence of achievement.

Setting guidelines for environmental requirements when going to market

Firstly let’s look at the weighting of the important factors in any purchasing decision. Naturally your major drivers remain service and price. These will deliver ‘value for money’.

When looking at the sustainability factors you will need your company’s risk assessment process or the standard evaluation matrix if you have one.

Both should have a section on sustainability. Typically this is a blend of environmental criteria and governance and is given at least 10% of the weighting in the decision making process.

The key is to include more qualitative requirements insisting on evidence to make this a relevant, comparable section to base your decision on.

The art is in the questions and insisting on a requirement for reporting with validated figures.

If the response gets a pass mark on a question by answering ‘We purchase environmentally friendly office consumables such as print cartridges that can be recycled’ then you are clearly asking the wrong question.

Here are a couple of examples of how you could structure questions that demand evidence:

1)  Explain how you measure the environmental impact of any project you undertake on our behalf. Please show reporting functions and frequency and examples of the report.

2)  Based on your ability to show the environmental impact of any work you conduct for us please show examples of how you will work with us to minimize this without adversely affecting the business strategy.

Your business has it’s own unique requirements in this area. Independent guidance is definitely required. If you need to understand more just ask

As carbon pollution increasingly becomes a hard cost as well as an issue of corporate reputation, understanding your company’s current marketing carbon footprint today will not only help the planet it will also increase your bottom-line.

I am interested to hear your views. Please leave a comment.

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About Chris Sewell

Christopher Sewell is a TrinityP3 Business Director specializing in helping companies understand the environmental impact of their marketing spend. He is also the CEO of The Gaia Partnership who is building an on-line application ‘CO2counter’ to measure carbon emissions in all forms of marketing communications. Read his full bio here
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4 Responses to Get more than just environmental lip service from tender responses

  1. Pam O'Connor says:

    Chis, I laughed to myself when I read this line – "Media planners should supply a carbon assessment of their proposed strategy." It is extremely unlikely that any media planner in the country would know where to start or how to start. Maybe it is time to teach them ………………………?

    • Christopher Sewell says:

      Don't disagree with you Pam on that.
      The good thing is that there are software tools available now to help them with the measurement. Once they see the data they will start to understand the link between the media channel and it's carbon intensity.
      Some channels are easy to understand. Does anyone think towing a billboard around on the back of a truck is environmentally sound practice? The more complex ones they can use the software.

  2. shirley Kirkwood says:

    Totally agree with you Chris particularly when it comes to media placement. Those mobile billboards (motorbike or truck) – have to be the worst offenders as their purpose is entirely myopic unlike bus, train and ferry advertising which at least transport passengers (consumers) about.
    In reference to print, my earlier article on Obsolescence, touches on being carbon footprint conscience when it comes to finally making a print or point of sale item obsolete. Asking for a report on how this is being done should be standard procedure.
    Here again is my article for those interested. http://www.trinityp3.com/2013/03/reducing-print-obsolesc...

    • Christopher Sewell says:

      You are correct Shirley, the cost of obsolescence is unfortunately way more than just the dollars and cents. The entire process of from pulping the trees to either landfill or recycling is 100% a waste of money and a major carbon impression when getting rid of miss ordered or unwanted stock. The key word is waste. A waste of money and a major negative on the carbon balance sheet. As a rule of thumb for each tonne of paper marketing material that is not required, you are responsible for 3 tonnes of carbon.

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