24 Ways to X-ray Your Customers in a Sustainable Fashion

Mapping new business opportunities from sustainable innovation
24 Ways to X-ray Your Customers in a Sustainable Fashion
Publ. date 17 Apr 2015
Many companies around the globe are gradually evolving from CSR centered around communication and philanthropy towards a form of business integrated sustainability. As a result, more and more companies are making an effort to capture the hidden market opportunities in this new vicinity. Unfortunately, the opportunities do not present themselves that readily. Moreover, many organizations are using old maps to find new land by applying traditional market research methods that fail to focus on uncovering the correct sustainability drivers. But how can companies better research and unlock the innovation potential from material issues?

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Finding customer materialities that matter 

Mapping the relevant product or service materialities is a hard prospecting process. Quite often they are emerging, fast moving topics that differ per target audience, per market and category. For instance, while researching the case for a global dairy standard on sustainability, leading industry players such as Arla, Fonterra and FrieslandCampina found a set of 11 key issues that varied significantly across the globe. To cover these differences, a model was developed with 6 material focus topics for each of their identified global regions leading to the Dairy Sustainable Framework. 

Burning platforms also significantly vary in intensity per market.  In 2014, National Geographic commissioned a quantitative consumer study of 18,000 consumers in a total of 18 countries asking consumers about sustainability issues such as energy use and conservation, transportation choices and food sources. This resulted in the 2014 National Geographic/GlobeScan Consumer Greendex. 

The graph illustrates that big differences per country occur: while only 13% of Hungarians indicate that environmental problems were having a negative impact on their personal health, in China this number was as high as 76%. 

The method of Method 

Sustainable innovation typically focuses on discovering what products or services can be developed to address societal issues while at the same time generating a healthy profit.  A good point in case of such a materiality driven innovation comes from Method, a San Francisco based company manufacturing environmentally friendly and non-toxic cleaning products since 2001. Method started from the desire to create products that “consumers did not have to hide under their sink”, meaning that they targeted mainstream consumers and not just environmentalists. This has led to a range of natural, biodegradable cleaning products for home cleaning, laundry, and hand & body, made from nature-derived materials.

Method’s packaging is focused on minimalistic, high-end product design with the use of 100% recycled plastic in their cleaning and hand wash bottles. This results in less waste in landfills, less energy needed to make the resin and esthetically pleasing bottles. In addition, Method uses refill pouches that offer 78-82% water, energy and plastic savings compared to a new bottle. Another example of their remarkable innovations is the launch of bottles made from a blend of recovered ocean plastic and post-consumer recycled plastic, raising awareness about the plastic soup issue. 

Since its emergence in February 2001, Method has disrupted every aspect of its industry and grew into a green cleaning leader. Along the way, they ranked #7 on the Inc. 500 list and were named the #16th most innovative company in the world by Fast Company in 2008. In 2012, Method merged with Belgian green cleaning giant Ecover, and together they became the world’s largest green cleaning company. Today, Method can be found in more than 40,000 retail locations throughout North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

Download our free path-finding tool 

To help marketers identify materialities that present strong opportunities to consumers, Finch & Beak has developed an instrument that maps 24 ways to X-ray your customers on sustainability. Our “Explore your Customore” tool contains a listing of market research techniques that will help select material issues that matter. The techniques can be used in different phases throughout the innovation process:

  • Inspiration – techniques that focus on the start of the process. They help to emphasize with customers, generate new ideas,  and think beyond the obvious.
  • Ideation – methods to further develop innovative ideas. They help to gain a clear understanding of the purpose  and the customer value of ideas.
  • Implementation –  approaches for creating and validating the first prototypes and to plan for a successful market introduction.

“Explore your Customore” is downloadable for free at the bottom of this article.

Learn more?

In case you are interested in finding out more on sustainable innovation or learning how to apply our “Explore your Customore” tool, please contact Jan van der Kaaij, managing partner, directly via  jan@finchandbeak.com or call +31 6 28 02 18 80.

Image by 2014 presskit Method 

About Jan van der Kaaij

Sustainability expert in strategy development, DJSI and sustainable innovation, with a hands-on approach and always committed to go for the max. | jan@finchandbeak.com 

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