Our annual Inner Circle Symposium was held last week in the good ol’ Honky Tonk city, Nashville. The theme was Engagement and a wide range of companies attended – everything from building product manufacturers to a wine maker, CPGs to an MRO, and utilities to large retailers. Despite the inherent differences in categories represented, the challenges faced by members of the group in initiating and implementing effective sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives were strikingly similar.

In discussing each others’ paths to engagement in sustainability and energy initiatives, we began to hear some common themes – themes not entirely new to the Shelton Group team. Here’s what bubbled up:

A catalyst is required to initiate sustainability efforts.
In the absence of top-level management’s commitment to energy and environmental initiatives, there must be strong consumer/customer demand within the product/service category. Without either, these initiatives are hard, if not impossible to move forward. The common thread was that getting management buy-in is essential. Having someone in the C-suite on board makes implementing these initiatives more palatable. And it helps that those responsible for the initiatives – be it sustainability directors or program directors – gather momentum and ultimately drive success for the initiatives.

Employee engagement is key.
Employees are often overlooked when it comes to corporate sustainability or energy initiatives. In reality, they’re the front line for these programs, your walking billboards, so to speak— and not engaging them in what’s being done at the corporate level is a crucial mistake. In fact, one of our clients shared how the employee engagement program we worked with him to create has been foundational to moving his overall sustainability efforts forward.

A key to engaging employees is first understanding employee perception of words like sustainability or energy efficiency. Often we work with our clients to survey employees and ascertain that level of understanding (or in many cases, lack of understanding). It’s all a part of addressing where they are in the learning curve and then crafting messages that empower them to make sustainable practices a part of their everyday lives.

A real investment must be made.
Financial support for sustainability or energy initiatives is still lacking. To create a little more funding, focus your efforts where you can demonstrate bang for your buck and ensure budget decision makers understand the impacts of a sustainability story. We know from our research, for instance, that 46% of Americans say corporate environmental reputation impacts product choices. So work with your decision makers to understand the very real bottom-line impact your energy and environmental programs can have.

By all accounts, the 2012 Shelton Group Inner Circle Symposium was a great success. All who attended left with a reinvigorated sense of optimism – and an understanding that they are not alone in their good fight to engage customers, employees and value chains in sustainability and energy initiatives. In 2013, I hope we’ll have them all back to hear how things are going, one year later.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and GreenBiz.com.

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insight

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Penny Kemp

VP Account Management & Strategy

Penny leads our client engagement process, overseeing activities from both a strategic and a tactical level to ensure our work generates desired results. She works closely with Suzanne, President & CEO, to develop strategic marketing plans and with Matt, VP Creative, to foster creative campaign ideas. Before joining Shelton Group, Penny had developed expertise in brand management and marketing while working with award-winning agencies and shepherding programs for the likes of Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Russell Athletic and James Hardie Building Products.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Glen L. Vesser III

VP Finance and Administration

Glen manages Shelton Group’s finances and administration, ensuring our internal systems run smoothly so we can provide exceptional client service in a seamless and timely manner. Glen’s financial and administrative expertise has been shaped by decades of experience in a variety of industries, including public accounting, media distribution and health care.

Mike Beamer

VP Business Development

Mike joined our team to help provide strategic vision and foster our agency’s growth by overseeing new business leads and managing agency marketing and website content. He arrived in Knoxville steeped in energy efficiency and renewables – he previously led client service for an agency division in Boston dedicated to marketing communications strategy and branding for B2B and B2C clients in that space.