Be green. Become a trusted adviser to the consumer. Change your business strategy. Understand your eco-risks. Build your business on sustainability.
That's the message James Canton, president and CEO of San Francisco-based think tank Institute for Global Futures, delivered to building materials suppliers at the International Builders' Show, held Jan. 19-22 in Las Vegas.
The eco-business trend is an important marketing trend to embrace and understand because it can and will be a key branding element for businesses in the future, he said. There will be a materials-science revolution for building materials and you need to be prepared for that. Whether those materials are recycled materials or materials with lower carbon footprints, consumers have told us that they want builders to use materials that are inherently less injurious to their health and the environment, he said.
Your customers' values are changing and you need to change with them, Canton said. You need to see what consumers want and find out what drives them, because eco-business and eco-risks will shape the future of all businesses.
As the economy starts to come back, firms will need to build their businesses on sustainability and energy-efficient products. Demand is increasing for those types of products at competitive prices, but ultimately, it will be the consumer who shapes the market, he said.
Increasingly consumers are making decisions on whether the dollars they spend are going to harm or help the environment, he said. The trend started in Europe. This is just the early part of the awakening in the U.S. We are riding an important wave.
That wave is reflected in the growing use of green insulation materials, recycled content, soy to replace some foam-based products, and solar roofs. It also is evident in greater demand for energy-efficient products and those with lower carbon footprints.
Canton told building and construction firms and material suppliers that they are missing an opportunity by not having more videos on their Web sites that showcase and explain green and clean materials. In order to educate consumers, firms need to develop their green strategies and designate a go-to person to help people embrace ideas and concepts.
The educated consumer is driving the process, Canton said, but more than 98 percent of consumers are not aware of the solutions available to them and need a trusted adviser to guide them and help them sort through the options for building materials and energy. You can be that trusted adviser.
The consumer needs to know and understand when they should consider solar heating, when they should consider certain green materials, and what value those green materials add when the customer is remarketing that property down the road.
To capitalize fully on the eco-trend, companies need to know their own green footprint, the green footprint of their products, their eco-business strategy, and what type of return they need on their eco-investments.
You need to position yourself to take advantage of the key trends, Canton said. You need to have an eco-view, a long-term view, make eco-investments and develop eco-talent internally or collaborate with others.
From a financial standpoint, the desire for eco-products creates an opportunity to increase margins in the long term, as the trend is not necessarily about consumers spending less money, but rather consumers being smarter with their home investments especially if the products add value.
Don't leave money on the table, Canton said. Saving the planet and putting a buck in your pocket at the same time is the way to go.
The trend today is building smart and healthy sustainable homes. Environmental health issues related to building homes and office buildings is becoming a critical issue, he added.
Indeed, Canton sees the day when homes like food products have ingredients listed on their labels. Homes will come with labels focused on their sustainability that show their annual energy use, their annual C02 emissions and their annual water use, he said.
The Washington-based National Association of Home Builders sponsored the show.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.