7 Ways to Survive Recession with your Green Business

By Mark Campbell, GreenGreenGreen Editor

When times are tough and money is tight, how do we encourage people to go green, or even stay that way?

Will customers continue to pay a premium for green goods and services? Will concerns about the climate emergency and plastic pollution be thrown out of the window in favour of a less expensive shopping bill?

With energy prices predicted to skyrocket, can we really expect families, struggling to put food on the table, to stick to their principles and live a vegan lifestyle?

These are genuine concerns right now for all those who care about the future of life on Earth. Habitats will continue to be destroyed, but appealing for common sense and empathy to rule the day might be a stretch too far when people are literally choosing between heating and eating.

Green living doesn’t have to be more expensive – and eco businesses must get that message across to potential customers.

It should also be less challenging to promote the benefits of a sustainable circular economy – making and using products that last longer and can be reused and repaired.

Recessions can be very challenging. They can also be opportunities. And the world can even come out of it a greener place.

How Your Green Business Can Beat Recession

1. Reward Customer Loyalty

Various surveys have found that green-minded customers are more loyal to ethical brands, products and services. Buying decisions are made from the heart as well as the head, and the sustainable credentials of brands will continue to be important, even when budgets are squeezed.

That is not to say your eco-conscious customers will be able to cope with continuing rising prices, but they will at least try their best to support you – for the sake of their own principles, and because they genuinely want to help green businesses survive and prosper.

Ethical brands are definitely able to nurture deeper emotional ties with their customers – and this should allow them to fare better during a recession.

So reward this loyalty. Launch a loyalty card or scheme, perhaps. Introduce offers for your most frequent customers. These people are going to get you through the hard times – but it’s a two-way street.

2. Educate Consumers

On the fringes of your customer base are people who are open to changing their habits. They know that human actions are devastating life on earth, but they have not fully engaged with the details.

So educate them. Tell them why you are doing what you do. Why your foods and drinks are vegan. Why your packaging is minimal. Why your clothes are made of bamboo.

You can share this educational material through eye-catching videos on social media, and via more detailed, informative blogs on your website (see below).

In carrying out the vital role of educating the public, you are also likely to pick up new customers and nurture more loyal relationships.

Remember, in a recession, if a business does not provide a product or service that is deemed necessary by the consumer, sales will drop. So teach people why your products ARE necessary, and what the environmental impact is of alternatives.

For example, moving away from cruelty-free beauty or household products in an attempt to save money, has serious, horrific consequences for innocent creatures. Do not feel guilty about pointing this out.

3. Highlight Low Price Offers

Today’s average consumer is both thriftier and greener than in previous years. The challenge for eco businesses is to offer more affordable, environmentally-friendly products, that do not punish profit margins.

Follow the example of a number of online retailers, who have made a feature of products currently on offer – have a look at Ethical Superstore and Big Green Smile.

4. Shout About Your Sustainability Goals

Sustainability commitments will remain for most companies through recession, as governments have set targets that need to be met.

An ever-increasing number of people is thankfully now aware and supportive of businesses striving to achieve these sustainability goals.

So let people know what you are doing to make the world a better place – recession or no recession, you will earn friends, followers, support and loyalty for being seen to be green.

5. People Still Need Food – so Convince Them to Go or Stay Vegan

Whether there is a recession or not, people will always need food – and now the tide is heavily turning in favour of a plant-based diet.

One in four adults in the UK is cutting down on meat to save money, according to The Office for National Statistics (ONS). So use that information to promote your own plant-based products.

The price gap between meat and vegan substitutes has been shrinking for a while, but now most meat prices have risen far above the rate of inflation, while the prices of animal feed and fertilizer have been hit hard by the war in Ukraine.

In the Netherlands, ProVeg International commissioned research which found that plant-based ‘meat’ now costs less than animal alternatives.

Research from the Vegan Society also discovered that one in three shoppers are eliminating meat from their weekly shop – or at least eating less – and more than half said they would try a plant-based diet if it was cost-effective.

So tell people how it can be cost-effective! Tell people also of the health benefits, the environmental benefits, the reasons why the meat and dairy industries are cruel.

You might be able to take inspiration from the Vegan Society’s own Live Vegan for Less campaign.

6. Be Smart With Marketing

It is easy for brands to focus on cutting costs through difficult times, but previous recessions have shown that marketing is one area that cannot be neglected. Yours needs to be the brand that stands out above the rest – you just have to be careful how you prioritise your marketing budget.

For example, our Shop Greener guide brings a raft of business benefits for just £45 a year (that’s about US$59).

7. Boost Your Authority Through Blogging

If your business website does not have a blog, it needs one, because like with the example above, it hits the target for many goals.

A blog is a vital marketing tool, for these reasons:

  • It allows you to build a relationship with your customers and potential clients.
  • It positions you as the expert in your field. 
  • It increases your authority so that people grow to trust you. And trust = sales.
  • Green business blogging raises your profile and boosts your search engine rankings – as long as the blog is professionally written, SEO-optimised, of the perfect length, with correct grammar and spelling, of course.
  • You can also share the blog content on all your social media channels, your email list and newsletter, if you have one.

It is important to publish informative, quality posts, at regular intervals. Crucially, these blog posts must contain genuinely helpful information.

You’ve got this. Be green. Be seen.