Give Your Company the "Green" Light

Originally published
Originally published: 1/1/2010

Contractors that provide high-quality products and services are already being environmentally responsible. Isn’t it time you told your customers?


The term “green” has become a general label for all things that are less harmful to the environment than they once were. And for a number of reasons — such as

efficiency, regulatory compliance, and/ or competitive advantage — the concept

of protecting the environment is influencing business practices.


This is good news because businesses should be responding to this growing awareness. Research shows growing consumer demand for green products, services, and lifestyles; the Obama administration is pushing energy-efficiency improvements in homes and businesses; and manufacturers are focused on making their products less harmful and energy intensive.


Whether you believe the science behind global warming and other environmental-protection issues is irrelevant. What’s important is that many people do, and that includes your customers. But consumers are also confused by the proliferation of green jargon and labeling and often skeptical of green claims. This confusion is good news, too, because it creates another opportunity for contractors to educate consumers about the value of their goods and services.


First though, you must know what it really means to be green. This understanding will enable you to realistically differentiate yourself from your competition without confusing customers or over-promising what you can deliver.


Knowledge Gap

Increasingly, customers are seeking greener products and services. According to research by consulting firm Deloitte and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, customers are more frequently considering social and environmental benefits when making a purchasing decision. While it’s not the primary consideration, green attributes are emerging as an important brand differentiator and, when all other motivations

are equal, the green product frequently wins.



But consumers are also confused. Shelton Group, an advertising agency focused

on motivating consumers to make sustainable choices, found that more than half of American consumers say they’re looking for green products, but they’re confused about what “green” is. Similarly, the report “Redefining Value in a New Economy,” released by branding and integrated marketing company BBMG, shows that interest in green claims is on an upswing; but, one in four consumers said they have “no way of knowing” whether a product’s green claims are accurate. And, finally, a survey of product environmental claims by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing found that more than 98% of products studied committed at least one of seven “greenwashing” sins (exaggerating or lying about green attributes.)


Even the government seems to be confused. In October, Department of Energy critics accused the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of mismanaging the Energy Star program, citing weak controls in ensuring adherence to product specifications so that only qualifying products could carry the Energy Star label. Though the EPA and Energy

Star released a statement that said these criticisms are being addressed, the incident

adds to the doubt swirling in the minds of consumers. Nonetheless, awareness and concern for environmental issues is rising. Consumers are interested in products and services that are a good value, meet their needs and wants, and leave them feeling good about protecting the environment.

Many industry experts and observers contend that just by focusing on supplying the right solution to meet customer needs, hvacr contractors are practicing green business.


“We’re in the green industry by default because of what we do,” said Chris Compton, CEO and director of and “It’s crazy not to embrace green. It’s not like you’re expanding into an entirely different line. Green hvac is just doing the job the way it’s supposed to be done anyway.”


What is Green?

Ultimately, green is a label that refers to the ability to provide multiple solutions through a single product or service without adversely affecting the environment. And when referring to hvacr, it primarily refers to energy efficiency.


According to Bill Parlapiano,’s dean of green workforce and education programs, contractors should be focusing on delivering a healthy, safe, reliable,

comfortable, durable, energy-efficient, and environmentally responsible job. While some might see this as “green,” it is really just delivering a building-performance-based or whole-building/ whole-house-based solution so that a customer gets the right resolution to a problem.


“A good mechanical contractor probably has been doing green work, or what many would consider to be green, for decades,” he said. “If they’re focused on using the right products for the job, the proper installation or service techniques, and making sure that they’re recovering refrigerants, capturing the mercury out of old mercury-based thermostats, recycling their metals, and ensuring new or replacement systems are properly sized installed and commissioned so that they’re not wasting energy — they’re doing things that are ‘green.’”


So should you use the term green in marketing? The problem with green, said Mark Menzer, a senior director for Intertek, a global testing certification and inspection business, is that it is not a very descriptive word. Other descriptions of the benefits of your products or services are probably more meaningful to consumers.


Menzer advises that contractors talk about the energy-efficiency ratio and translate that to costs, and then talk about other sustainable aspects of the equipment, which usually means an environmentally acceptable refrigerant. Also, manufacturers do a lot of testing

and quality control on the products, and contractors should talk about the value of that, as well.


Customers readily accept a product’s environmental benefits when contractors explain their value in dollars and cents, for example if the system needs more refrigerant in the future, said Theo Etzel, president of Conditioned Air in Naples, Fla.


“More people are motivated to do things by an economic incentive or a description of how something more efficient can save them money,” he said. Finding out and understanding what the customer’s true needs and wants are is very important and should pave the way for a salesperson or technician to explain the energy, economic, and environmental benefits of a proposed solution that will best address the customer’s



“That’s critical to any of the products or services offered. It doesn’t matter if we’re using it under the auspices of green,” Parlapiano said. “With any type of contracting that’s important, and it becomes even more important when