The 2015 Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability showed that almost three out of four millennials are “willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings.” The study also showed that members of Generation Z, who are in the 16- to 21-year-old age range, are willing to shell out more “for products and services that come from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.”
How is your agency poised to take advantage of this trend?
There is a simple set of steps you can take now that will not only benefit you and the environment but also may be able to help your marketing efforts.
Green Your Agency
Something happened while the federal government attempted to create a carbon-neutral agreement that ended in political gridlock. States, municipalities and organizations stepped in to fill the void. Looking to promote small businesses that care for the environment, some states have stepped up with a semiofficial approach. But how does a typical insurance practice become a green business?
Greening your insurance agency will take time and resources. A smart first place to start is with a small assessment of where you currently are. Next, consider some of the simpler steps based on their ease of implementation and overall cost.
Electronic signature technology: E-signature tools are the quickest and easiest place to start. If your agency is not using electronic signature for every single policy you issue, you are wasting your time, resources and future.
The environmental impact of moving to e-signature is clear. The amount of paper that a medium-sized agency can save in a year would fill pallets. E-signature has numerous side benefits that don’t affect the environment, such as greater security, increased speed of operations, and the ability to force clients to initial specific coverage limits as the agency sees fit. Think errors and omissions here.
Some agencies have not stopped with just one e-signature solution; they have chosen to use DocuSign, Adobe Sign and others.
Green cleaning supplies: I never thought green cleaning supplies were important, until I had kids and found my youngest son licking our table. I began to ask myself, what exactly is in these cleaning supplies and why do I need them in my home and in my office? How dirty did my desk really get since the last time the cleaning crew was here?
Many cleaning supplies are loaded with chemicals that can be overkill for daily general cleaning. There are milder alternatives derived from plants and not produced in petrochemical factories. Save the hardcore stuff for the occasional spring cleaning.
Recycling: Almost everyone does this, but how many companies enforce it? Recycling is probably the best environmental policy that is easy for your clients to see when they come into your office. The American Forestry and Paper Association reports that 96 percent of communities in the United States have some access to paper recycling. What does it say to potential clients when they come into your office and see your staff throwing away paper? Anyway, after you elect to use electronic signature, you will not need much enforcement of paper recycling.
Reduce the junk mail: We’ve all done it. We’ve signed up potential clients for our physical mailing list which automatically sends out an endless stream of letters. Cutting down on this form of marketing can really reduce your carbon footprint. Suggestions include moving to postcards and email newsletters. Constant Contact and Twitter may get you just as far on half the cost.
More expensive but worth it: If you are really energetic and want to make a big impact, other green-friendly policies involve moving to 100 percent recycled paper, allowing employees to work from home (and therefore shrinking your office footprint) and considering renewables such as solar power as your primary energy source.
Another earth-friendly consideration may be to contribute funds to a local environmental charity. Such a charity may be seeking contributions for something like a new wilderness park. This consideration can come with its own separate marketing benefits as well. Having your agency’s name connected with a well-known and well-regarded community environmental group may come with instant green credibility.
Question your carriers: After you become a green agency, clients may ask about your carriers. Which carrier do you think is the most green? First off, Forbes does not list any American insurers on its 2017 list of the world’s most sustainable companies. Short of some national ranking, you may have to base your opinions on insurance carriers’ websites. Perhaps during your face-to-face meetings with your carriers, you can ask them directly for information concerning their environmental policies. Tell them your clients want to know!
Becoming A Certified Green Business
There are all sorts of programs to certify green credentials, but be careful in assuming what is and is not legitimate. California, Illinois and a few other states have government-sanctioned programs to credential businesses as green. Some local programs — either working with their state, such as Los Angeles Green Business, or separate ones, such as Miami-Dade Green — allow local businesses to become certified.
In general, the certification process allows you to provide documentation about how you are saving the environment. The California Green Business program, usually available through a local chapter, will require a certain number of environmental policies to be instituted before an organization can become certified. You also will have to make an environmental pledge.
More states will likely set up their own certification programs, opening up the potential for you to be the first green-certified insurance agency in your state. Chair a meeting, write your congressman or offer to donate your time to help create such a program.
Turning Green Into Green
After your agency becomes green, how do you market that greenness?
Just because you and your agency are saving the planet does not mean that your clients will know this. Marketing greenness to your clients and the community could be what separates you from the agency down the street. As with every marketing program, it must be specific to the task and the client.
Since you know that millennials may be more caring of the environment than those of other age groups — they may be a good marketing niche for you. But don’t make the mistake of sending out 3,000 mailers to announce how much you care for the environment. Consider your marketing efforts with a green eye.
You might begin marketing with a simple news release, written and submitted online. Follow up with a blog post on your website, complete with the usual social media posts. Consider creating a simple green emblem that demonstrates your environmental commitment and add it to your emails, websites, business cards and documents.
From there, you can use your new green credentials to add your company to a few of the many online green business directories. You may even want to make your greenness part of a concerted marketing effort that fits into your overall marketing plan. Consider adding it to the bottom of your company listing on various social media and Yellow Pages-type listings.
Remind your clients of your green credentials by including a mention at the bottom of your company email signatures. Perhaps your environmentally conscious clients will be more likely to refer you in a green manner — electronically!
Scott W. Johnson is the owner of Whole VsTermLifeInsurance.com, a division of Marindependent Insurance Services. His agency in Marin County, Calif., has been a California Certified Green Business for about two years. Scott may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.