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By Toni Burke, Global Vice President – Green CX, SAP

It's no secret that the ultimate corporate currency is loyalty. Businesses continuously seek to engage in trustworthy practices that give customers a reason to like them and find common ground with shared values.

This is certainly the case as we enter a new year and demand for sustainable offerings grow. For midsize companies, creating a green customer experience (CX) can become an effective first step toward building strong relationships with customers who value a mix of eco-conscious behaviors and sustainable consumption practices. Companies can leverage validated environmental and social governance (ESG) data to produce – and prove – a positive impact on the environment and in people’s lives.

In an SAP Insights global survey, CX leaders from midmarket companies across 41 markets and 28 industries shared that they're not only hearing this message but also acting on it. While revenue growth, operational efficiency, and risk mitigation are still top priorities for more than 10,000 respondents, sustainability and reusability is becoming a force multiplier – good for the brand, good for the company, and good for the customer experience.

It’s a win-win for businesses and communities alike. Outcomes can include lessening reliance on scarce resources, moving distribution centers and stores closer to customers, and onboarding ethical and compliant vendors.

Customer centricity that matters


The secret to moving forward with sustainability-driven CX is knowing how to get started.

Some organizations are enhancing their environmental and social governance (ESG) reporting to comply with external standards and regulatory requirements. Others are optimizing logistics processes, identifying low-carbon transportation methods, investing in renewables, and helping to ensure ethical sourcing – to move products and materials throughout the supply chain. Meanwhile, a few are going even further by contributing to scope-3 emissions improvements through services that help customers use and dispose of products more responsibly.

An assured green CX leverages all three strategies for the following reasons:

  • Markets and regulators place significant pressure on businesses to act

  • Investors prefer companies that demonstrate serious ESG outcomes

  • Customers view online sustainability claims as false or deceptive without transparency


A prime example of a green CX model is the B2C re-commerce customer journey. By combining centralized reporting, advanced analytics, and a sustainability control tower, midsize businesses can engage customers more effectively in ways that demonstrate their commitment to ESG-centric values.

The first step is engaging customers with a personalized and unique story about the company's high-quality products and ability to reduce environmental impact. The company can reassure customers their needs will be fulfilled with one of the products and considers buying new, used, recycled, or renting if the value proposition resonates. As customers browse the online shop, the brand story and sustainability impact become the deciding factor to opt-in, follow, and learn more about the offerings.

Now that the brand and customers have an established relationship, the company can send a targeted message aligned with individual customer behavior to promote anything from new and eligible buyback programs to used products. The accuracy of such targeted, personalized marketing campaigns is based on a customer's eco-conscious score calculated based on buying decisions and customer survey results. The message contains links to product pages relevant to each customer's interests and a buyback and trade-up page detailing the sustainability impact and product's story.

Once a customer selects a new offering eligible for a buyback or a pre-owned item, the e-commerce site displays the product's carbon footprint data and estimated future buyback incentives in the customer's shopping cart. The information is continuously updated with the assistance of customer feedback and ratings on their experience with the product and resulting outcomes.

Customers can further offset the carbon footprint of their purchases. Choices may include receiving the order in an eco-friendly or reusable package at an additional fee, picking up the item at a physical storefront location, or preferring a slower delivery method. And if the product doesn't deliver outcomes as promised, an in-store product return policy enables customers to return the item without increasing their carbon footprint significantly.

The company can also reengage satisfied customers by encouraging them to return their lightly used products with personalized offers sent periodically. For instance, customers may receive a special invitation for an exclusive event or receive loyalty points for discounted products as a means of incentivizing new sustainable behaviors. This messaging – and cooperative effort – can update the customer's sustainability contribution and improve overall purchasing power.

Re-commercing also opens additional touch points to engage customers more meaningfully. For instance, companies can create new revenue streams centered around product life extension through subscriptions, maintenance services, and rentals.

A differentiating experience customers can trust


While most companies generating annual revenues under US$1 billion have a formal sustainability plan already in place, the bar for being ecologically and socially accountable is rising.

What does this mean for midsize companies? It's a mandate to look across the entire business for misinterpreted or undervalued optimization opportunities from greener products to eco-friendlier deliveries to green loyalty programs. And there’s room to create a differentiated experience that’s good for the planet and good for the bottom line.

Get additional tips from the SAP Insights paper "The Transformation Mindset: Customer Experience Strategies That Drive Sustainability and Profitabili...."

This article was previously posted on Forbes.com