The problem with this growing interest is that consumers cannot assess the actual sustainability of the products and services provided: consumers and other stakeholders are increasingly confused with certificates, green labels and eco-brands. Since it is impossible to determine how sustainable a wine or restaurant is without having detailed data on their supply chain, social policy, and others: the existing online rating methods do not work for sustainability performance. A different approach is needed.
Originally, a boomerang business model is a business model in which consumers receive a share of the profits or value they help generate. They are rewarded for their loyalty and ambassadorship. For example, a website that uses a boomerang business model generates encourages consumers to share their experience with their Facebook friends in return for a gift coupon.
The green boomerang business model is different. It combines the power of consumer rating with a self-assessment (as used in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, for instance), providing a sustainability performance benchmark, creating transparency on sustainability in the industry.
The Green Boomerang business model is a cooperation between an online customer rating platform and participating companies who get rated.
Next to its consumer website, the online rating company (say Tripadvisor), creates a business-to-business site. This site enables its subject industry (hotels), to fill out a questionnaire on their sustainability profile. This questionnaire is based on a thorough materiality analysis of the hotel industry to make sure that the right topics are valued. While creating value for their participants, the online rating company expands its hold on the sector, and earns money with its sustainability benchmarking tool.
Hotels, in this case, are enabled to fill in the questionnaire for a small fee, in return for a benchmark-report on their sustainability profile. As is the case with other sustainability benchmarks such as DJSI and CDP, this report enables the hotel to compare and conclude where they could find improvements in eco-efficiency. And experience shows that self-assessment can also spark innovation from sustainability. On top, participating hotels receive a “sustainability score” which is included in the consumer rating app whereas non-participating hotels score a blank, or unknown. This way, conscious consumers are enabled to base their choice not just on consumer opinions but also on sustainability profiles, creating a competitive advantage and a green pull for the industry.
To test the assumptions and our online self assessment-tool, Finch & Beak created the Sustainable Golf Project, aimed at greening the approximated 34,000 golf courses around the globe. From this exercise we learned that while certification can build trust, benchmarking can build consumer preference. But in order to become successful, a strong link to a recognized online rating platform is indispensable for the necessary green pull.
Are you thinking of redefining parts of your business model? Or are you looking for concepts for sustainable innovation, please contact Jan van der Kaaij at email@example.com or call 31 6 28 02 18 80. More information on the sustainable golf project can be found at www.sustainablegolfproject.com and in the case description for IMD Business School in Lausanne.
Image source: Ian T. McFarland