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As the built environment in the UK adopts a stronger commitment to the environment, it is the moment for building product manufacturers to step forward and ask themselves how they are contributing to this commitment. Most often than not, building products are designed with the environment in mind. It is key to be able to communicate that to architects and specifiers looking for more environmentally friendly solutions.
In this blog, we will look at the role of the built environment in the conversation about sustainability and the input that building product manufacturers could have. We will also give you an overview of the five elements your marketing strategy should underline when speaking about your building solution's sustainability. Lastly, we will teach you how to avoid falling into “greenwashing” practices.
If you are interested in this topic, you can read other content pieces on building sustainability below:
- How To Sell Sustainable Construction Materials
- Socks and Sustainability: Optimising Your Sales Approach
- Why Sustainability Matters For Building Products Businesses
Why Should You Speak About the SUSTAINABILITY of Your Building Product?
Growth should be the first thing that comes to your mind when you ask yourself this question. But this growth goes much further than simple financial growth. Understanding why building sustainability matters for the built environment will allow you and your building product brand to grow professionally and personally.
#1 Missing Out Is Not An Option
The conversation has started, and it is not going anywhere. In fact, the awareness architects and specifiers have of the issue of sustainability is consistently increasing, showing how, for the first time in history, climate issues are prompting institutional and behavioural changes. This shift is expected to continue, with architects and specifiers being more drawn towards brands that participate in the conversation and try to contribute with their thoughts.
A particularly efficient way of doing so is through content creation in every possible channel. Your brand should be positioned as a thought leader within your sector and your voice should be present online. This can be done by publishing branded e-Books, infographics, reports, etc. You can also elevate your online media presence by taking part in the conversation on social media, particularly Twitter and LinkedIn, and by attending events on the topic
#2 Understand the Built Environment As A Key Player
Marketing and brand awareness should not be the only reason you join the conversation. The truth is, the built environment has a lot to say about building sustainability and it is a key player in current initiatives towards a more sustainable environment. Did you know that the construction industry accounts for 45% of the total carbon emissions of the UK? With the country committed to reducing these emissions by 2025, the relevancy of sustainability has never been greater!
If you are not familiar with the “Net Zero” initiative, this was legislation passed in parliament in June 2019, that required the government to reduce the net emissions of greenhouse gases by 100% by 2050. This legislation involves a higher commitment by the government that, initially, had only committed to reducing these emissions ins 80%. Since 1990, the UK has already reduced its carbon emissions by 50%, putting us in the right direction.
#3 Construction Can Trigger Behavioural Changes
With an increased awareness of the consequences of their decisions, specifiers have become more receptive to messages on sustainability, listening to how a more sustainable built environment could prompt populations to further their commitment to more sustainable living. If the population see their sustainability efforts reflected in their institutions and their environment, they will be much more likely to continue with those efforts.
This tendency to keep choosing sustainable brands can help those brands that can successfully position their building products as a conscious with their environment. Architects and specifiers that have given the step of choosing sustainable solutions over those less friendly with the environment will continue to support sustainable brands, making sure they are perceived as committed and, ultimately, coherent professionals.
#4 Sustainable Building Products Make a Difference
Following this, though, positioning your brand as committed to a more sustainable built environment will make you different from other competitors. Here, it is important that this positioning is done right. Undeniably, “sustainability” has become a buzzword, used by many without truly showing what makes their solutions sustainable. If you are able to prove your contribution to the challenge of building sustainability, you will stand out in the crowd.
Providing data on how your brand is committed to the sustainability of the industry will also facilitate architects and specifiers to establish a relationship of trust with you. Construction professionals are not necessarily impressed by general statements on sustainability… They are data-driven! If you are able to show them how your building products are leading the conversation on sustainability, they will listen!
#5 Greener Commitments Elevate Your Brand
Understanding how building sustainability contributes to the greater picture will help you elevate your brand, inviting you to research and improve your building products and solutions. Showing yourself as informed and up to date with the requirements of a built environment that is, more than ever, devoted to creating a more sustainable future will bring you forward as a thought leader within your sector and industry.
Building product manufacturers often forget that they are experts in their field and that, if someone can help make their field more conscious with the environmental challenge, your voice is of incredible value. It is important for you to believe that your voice can have an impact on how things are being done in the industry.
5 Elements That Prove The Sustainability of Your Building Product
When looking at communicating the sustainability of your building products, it is essential for you to wisely choose the elements you are going to focus on. As mentioned, “sustainability” has become a sort of buzzword and you should not fall into the mistake of making general assessments about the sustainability of your solution. You will need to focus on data!
A good starting point is the BREEAM assessment. The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method is an assessment checklist that allows building product manufacturers to rate their products in different categories and certify their products as truly sustainable. Your marketing strategy should look at these and make a point to highlight them.
When speaking of the sustainability of your building product, it is key to refer to how your solution is contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions. For materials to turn your building products into sustainable solutions, you can look at the production and maintenance of the materials used in your building products, as well as what effect they have once installed in a particular environment.
An effective way of speaking about sustainable materials is through comparisons. Not only should you be bringing the conversation of building sustainability forward, but you should also put it into context. Reflecting on how the materials used in your building product creates a more sustainable solution will allow you to underline the value of your product and position it as a solution worth considering.
Looking at the materials involved in the manufacture of your products will inherently lead you to speak about durability. By definition, in construction, durability refers to the resistance a particular material has to degradation. Due to popular misconceptions, durability has often been linked to hardness or toughness, but that is not necessarily the case. The clearest example is diamonds!
Durability is inversely proportional to degradation, and it is important that, when looking at the durability of your building product, you have information of its performance in a wide range of conditions, from severe exposure to rain or ice to consequences of neglectful levels of workmanship. Equally, you should consider different types of degradation, including corrosion, erosion, or decomposition.
For the design of your building product to be sustainable, the aforementioned elements should have been taken into account. That, however, should not be your ultimate goal. The sustainable design looks at sustainability in a bigger picture, considering the impact of the resources used in the production and installation process, together with the environmental, social, and economic consequences the design of a particular product could entail.
#4 Water and Energy Efficiency
If concerned about the sustainability of the products they are specifying for the projects, architects and specifiers will pay particular attention to the efficiency of your building solutions when it comes to energy and water consumption and conservation. For some architects, these characteristics are just as important as structural soundness!
It is, as a result, a priority to demonstrate how your building product responds to the requirements the industry has regarding energy efficiency improvements and water recycling procedures. Your data on these elements should englobe not only the production but also the installation and later performance of your building solution. Some standards will allow you to rate your building products!
Whilst disposal needs to be a key topic in your building sustainability aims, it is important to underline that, the more sustainable your building product is when it comes to its materials, its durability, its design, and its efficiency, the less waste it will generate and, therefore, the less you will need to focus on its disposal.
Waste is not only a sustainability concern but also a financial one! The more waste a product generates, the smallest its profit margin will be. Reducing the waste generated from the production and installation of your building product will help you present your solution as an efficient choice that contributes to the environment holistically and does not worsen the environmental challenges we are currently facing.
3 Mistakes You Should Avoid When Talking About Building Sustainability
Due to the popularity of all things sustainable, a surprising number of brands fall into what is referred to as “greenwashing”. The term “greenwashing” refers to the marketing practice adopted by companies that deceptively present themselves as environmentally friendly without actually contributing in any way to the improvement of their brand in terms of sustainability. These companies often believe that they can “get away with it”, but this is not the case.
If there is greenwashing, architects and specifiers will spot it! And they will not forget that that specific brand tried to trick them into thinking that they are something they are not. It is important that you do not fall into greenwashing by avoiding some common practices.
#1 Not Stating Your Commitments Clearly
While it is important that your building product is positioned as a sustainable solution, you should also be able to explain why it is necessary for your brand to be sustainable. This should include some of your wider commitments with the world and the environment. When doing so, you should be transparent! Threatened by the shadow of greenwashing, architects and specifiers will not trust anyone that does not provide clear sustainable goals for their project.
A common mistake, unfortunately, is to provide clearly unrealistic commitments. Stating that your commitment to the sustainability of the built environment is an unrealistic goal is almost as bad as not having any commitment at all. You should be able to state your goal, as well as the actions and deadlines that will allow you to reach that goal.
#2 Not Being Able To Back Your Claims
Any statements made regarding how your building product is sustainable should be backed by expert data. Architects and specifiers will expect you to have this data and will not settle for brands that brag about their building sustainability if there are no credentials to back them up. Failing to do so could put your credibility into question!
When providing these certifications, third-party or independently assessed certifications tend to be welcomed by architects and specifiers, giving them the possibility to not only look at your data, but also data that has been achieved objectively. Research conducted on your sector will also be helpful for specifiers to see your commitment to the environment.
#3 Failing to Understand Sustainability As A Long-Term Goal
Something that will give away brands with questionable commitments to the environment is very short-term sustainability actions with little to no impact. This is the case of brands that decide to, for example, use phrases that are claimed to raise awareness over the topic of sustainability in their branding without necessarily taking any action themselves. Yes, the phrase “save the world” might be on the packaging but, how are you exactly “saving the world”?
These brands are strongly penalised and often called out since they do not only come through as untrustworthy and deceitful, but they also seem to consider their customers as easy to trick.
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