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A Drop in the Bucket: Why eco-friendly companies don’t always communicate their impact and why making metrics personal matters

October 26, 2016 By: Muska Ulhaq

The MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) are proud to announce the 2016 RBC Impact Entrepreneurs who will be showcased at the 9th annual Social Finance Forum. Taking place on October 27th and 28th, the Social Finance Forum is the best place to engage and profile leaders in Canada’s diverse social finance scene and to capture advancements from the world stage.


Doomsday (or is it?)

As many of us know, world temperatures are set to increase on average by the dreaded 2 degree Celsius limit. What this means is an environmental systems failure on a global scale, with much discussed and often disregarded consequences. Scientists know that sea levels will rise, so will mass migration frequency and patterns, food and water shortages will increase and a host of other problems are on the horizon.

So who cares if you put that Coke bottle in the trash? As an individual consumer, you are not accomplishing anything by recycling it. Anything you do is a drop in the bucket. Why try?

This mindset is the single greatest barrier that companies with eco-friendly products or services have faced for a long time. Even when a consumer is aware that they are addressing a global issue, they don’t think they are having any tangible impact. Simply telling customers that something is ambiguously “fair trade” or made of “100% recycled fibres” has had the teeth taken out of it, and likely won’t influence the purchasing choices of the average consumer anymore.

The answer to this longstanding issue is to tackle the problem head on.

Ecologically and socially conscientious individuals and organizations took a page out of the behavioural economist’s book by demonstrating the outcome of action (or inaction) through tangible and relatable terms. Applied to green companies, this means expressing your green story in a way that consumers can relate to, and will make sense to them.

In fact, despite the pervasive “drop in the bucket” mentality this piece opened on, people have gotten together time and again to address complex, global or distant problems, whether it be acid rain, polio or even ALS through the Ice Bucket Challenge. The successful participation these campaigns generated showed their audiences impacts that were tangible and relatable, and relied on simple calls to action.

Back to the drop in the bucket, the challenge for companies with eco-friendly products or services is getting their customers to believe that they are making an impact with their purchase. Old school marketing techniques of using labels and borrowed credibility to present environmental or social messages are not working as well.

With too much noise muddying the waters, and with companies using outmoded models of conveying their message, customers are losing trust in companies.

This translates to making purchasing which may not be in favor of eco-friendly products and services. In fact a recent BDC study indicates that only about 2 out of 10 consumers believe a company when they say they’re doing something eco-friendly. The numbers are even worse in mature markets like Europe.

At Green Story our philosophy is to make positive environmental impact more personal and relatable through visual storytelling and credible data. This means getting rid of borrowed credibility and refreshing branding to reflect today’s consumer. We help eco-friendly and socially conscious companies show their impact and that of their customer’s purchases through our 3 step process:

  • The first step is to help companies measure their impact against the norm and show it in a way that customers understand (understanding the impact).
  • The second step is to convey this information in a believable, credible, and relatable way through visuals. These can be printed on labels, put on websites, customer logins or social media so that customers can see and understand the impact of their purchases and of the company (relatable messaging that goes wherever your brand goes).
  • Thirdly, we add a layer of interactivity or gamification by giving your customers targets to achieve and simulations (engagement and retention).

Our approach addresses the troubling “drop in the bucket” problem that eco-friendly companies face. It goes a step further and adds saliency to environmental or social impact by showing consumers the end result of their actions.

For example, our visuals can show customers where that disposable cup will wind up: either in a recycled product or in landfill depending on their choice. This allows customers to make decisions based on their values, and with our messaging the outcome of the decision is clear. Making the data easily understandable and highlighting the impact of their choices is a great way to make consumers feel good about buying green.



Feeling good about doing good

As a company, Green Story is bringing together the feel good factor of doing something for the environment and the credibility of environmental and social impact analytics in a new, more relatable and impactful way. We think this is changing the way consumers make decisions and changing the way our clients market themselves. Best of all, when we are successful, and our clients are successful, we are making a difference for the Earth.

We are very excited to pioneer this approach. Simply too many eco-friendly companies are seeing underperforming sales and engagement and that trend needs to be reversed in a big way. We would love to have more companies follow suit with our already successful partners and take part in this movement to make environmental and social impact more relatable, believable and transparent.

If you are thinking of marketing a bit differently, do get in touch with us.

Find out more about Green Story here.


By: Akhil Sivanandan (