Marketing sustainability to Conservatives - trigger words
April 9, 2018 2:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm wanting to market sustainable approaches into a Conservative business sector (Capital and lowercase c).

I design Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems - SUDS. To certain C/conservative groups the word sustainable is a trigger word for everything they fear. This is difficult when the word itself is embedded in the terminology. The thing is SUDS can save a LOT of money - I'm aware of savings from 15 to (one I worked on recently) 80 percent versus piped networks, which one would think would be enough seeing as how C/conservatives and money seem to mix so well.

These are not necessarily religious conservatives, just behind the times in that they are losing money because of their worldview. Communities do include some engineers - who seem risk (change) averse by nature.

There seems to be very little literature on the topic.

Are there any other similar experiences here? What do you - do / say / not do? What works?
posted by unearthed to Work & Money (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
different product, but we use words like “high-efficiency” and “premium” to reframe green/sustainable concepts.
posted by samthemander at 2:52 PM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

You could substitute "Superior" for "Sustainable" and not even have to change the acronym.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:58 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Read the book Confessions of a Radical Industrialist. The author is a conservative businessman who demonstrates the business advantage of sustainability.
posted by beyond_pink at 3:18 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Is SUDS the only way to describe what you design? Is there a more specific thing (a particular feature of them relative to older models) you could use to refer to the whole thing?

For instance, they aren't "Green Water Heaters", or "Water-Saving Heaters," they're "Tankless Water Heaters."
posted by Polycarp at 3:31 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Floodproofing drainage systems? High-efficiency anti-flood drainage systems (HADS)?
posted by hungrytiger at 4:22 PM on April 9, 2018

Or even just "money-saving urban drainage systems"?
posted by hungrytiger at 4:33 PM on April 9, 2018

How about "smart" or "smarter" drainage systems? "State of the art"?

"Stewardship"/"conservation" are also ideas that can frame green stuff in a more conversative-friendly way, depending.

I imagine your system might have advantages like -
-protecting property, protecting a client's investments in that property
-less maintenance expense?
-less downtime or employee time spent on maintenance?
-less chance of disruptive events like clogged pipes?
-less waste?

There might also be a business-framed case for doing the green thing, if there are tax incentives or if they could put it as a feature on their marketing/lobbying materials as a plus for customers/local government.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:37 PM on April 9, 2018

substituting "Superior" for "Sustainable" is a great idea Nerd and Confessions is a great book - thanks beyond_pink, I will interloan a copy today. Stewardship does seem to work even in NZ.

Sadly no tax incentives here yet - this is New Zealand - 'we're perfect', 'pure New Zealand' - not true at all really, a lot of denial here.

I recently did a trade show where I basically just had a huge poster with the word Riparian on it and it worked perfectly; 18 leads, all focused on (rural) water issues. If you had a water issue you would know the significance of the word, if you didn't know what the word meant my stand wasn't for you. The perfect filter. So this post is helping me tailor things to the more urban sector.
posted by unearthed at 5:21 PM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

In the US we call this "Low Impact Development" or LID. I don't know if that terminology is much better overall, but it does take "sustainable" out of the equation for those that are averse.
posted by Empidonax at 5:32 PM on April 9, 2018

The notion of stewardship suggests that it’s OK to have nice things if you are going to take care of them. (You stop here, and let them finish the notion silently about who it is that they think is worthy. You don’t want to go there.) And if your product/solution/whatever is the one which delivers the best reaults to Posterity, they can style themselves small Carnegies.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:44 PM on April 9, 2018

I just remembered this paper: "The Language of Conservation 2013: Updated Recommendations on How to Communicate Effectively to Build Support for Conservation." It's from a US perspective, and it focuses on land conservation so it's not exactly what you're looking for, but there are still some good points about what words resonate with people.
posted by Empidonax at 10:25 AM on April 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Empidonax - that is one amazing paper; a real gem. Discusses all my areas of work: water, landscape and ecosystems. Thankfully the atmosphere is not quite so adversarial here in NZ, but there are some groups that are right up there.
posted by unearthed at 11:56 AM on April 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

A thing that seems to go over well in my rather conservative area of the US is the implication that the system or product you're offering increases the buyer's self-sufficiency. The prepper community is quite large, but even less extreme ideologies place a lot of value on the idea that you'll be able to 'do it yourself' and maintain/thrive even if outside help is unavailable. In my neck of the woods this ends up looking like a lot of solar power and water harvesting systems - which, hey, look at that, also can be sold as the 'ecologically sound' choice to folks with a more liberal bent. No need to change the product, just the marketing - same as your question.

Is there an angle you can take that emphasizes how an aspect of what you are selling will help the buyer be less reliant on the grid?
posted by DSime at 1:23 PM on April 10, 2018

Thanks everyone for all your ideas. I've borrowed a copy of Confessions of a Radical Industrialist - amazingly my tiny rural library had a copy. Recommend everyone to read it; a very holistic, integrated book and yes lots of very helpful language and ideas for selling genuine sustainable services to the skeptical.
posted by unearthed at 2:15 AM on April 14, 2018

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