Feature Article - March/April 2008

Green Motivations

Incorporating Eco-Friendly Merchandise Into Your Program

By Emily Tipping

Green Up Your Incentives

Slockbower said that the term "eco-friendly" means a variety of things to different people. "Most obviously, it means it's good for the environment, so you're part of something and you feel like you're making a difference."

But she adds that environmental friendliness can be viewed from a business standpoint as well as an environmental standpoint.

"From a business standpoint, a lot of companies get good PR by incorporating this type of program," Slockbower explained. "From an environmental standpoint, anything that uses recycled elements, anything that is more energy-efficient and anything that reduces waste is good for everybody."

Whether you want to make your incentive program more environmentally friendly as part of a larger initiative at your organization, to inspire participants who are motivated by green products or just because it's the right thing to do, there are several first steps you can take.

First of all, it's important to note that an environmentally friendly approach can work with any type of program, whether it's customer loyalty, employee recognition, corporate gifts and rewards, or event planning, because these brands and products are capable of motivating such a wide audience.

"Certainly wellness programs are on the rise, and they benefit from being completely online and as green as possible," Slockbower said. "Safety programs are also big in this area. Any client who is willing to put that awareness in place, we're willing to work with."

The biggest way to improve the environmental impact of your incentive program, which Slockbower said depends on your budget and how geographically dispersed your participants are, is changing your communication plan.

"The biggest thing is involving less print in your communications," she explained. "The more technology you use, via e-blasts, placing things on the company intranet and so on, would always be better than print. That's just a save-a-tree initiative."

It's also smart to put the program catalog online, versus using a print catalog. "Many of the larger, more traditional companies we work with can be resistant to that, so we're trying to push those who do use catalogs toward recycled papers and working with companies that will print from recycled goods."

The green mission that begins in small changes to the communication plan often flows outward into the selection of rewards. "Clients are asking for specifically green brands, where on the program we want to call out a whole 'eco-friendly rewards' area," Slockbower said. "But we're not seeing as much of that yet."

Don't underestimate the impact your green initiatives might have. According to Mark Watkins, a spokesperson for Voltaic Systems, which manufactures solar-powered backpacks and messenger bags capable of recharging handheld devices and, soon, laptops, said your efforts can expand outward to reach more people than you might realize.

"The ripple effect is huge," he said. "When a Fortune 500 company really has the mandate to green up, it just fans out from the business into personal lives, and it keeps going and going."