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Making Sustainability Attractive

It’s time to apply some spin to sustainability. Most construction marketers will tell you they don’t do spin. This industry is less fluff and more substance than other sectors where they sell to consumers. We focus on real benefits and finding ways to get potential client’s attention.

But if you want to take advantage of the massive opportunity that sustainability represents to the industry you may just have to change your approach. Or that’s the opinion expressed in CIMCIG report The Commercial Value of Sustainability

The report concludes that the big opportunity for the supply of sustainable services is the upgrading of existing housing stock. And to do that we need to make it appealing and aspirational to consumers. Not by talking about saving the planet, or low carbon homes, but by making the idea appealing. Yes, saving money is an important message, but how about status or prestige? These are key influences when consumers buy many high value items – just ask anyone driving a BMW or Mercedes why they didn’t want a Ford Mondeo.

Consumers already spend £23 billion a year on home repair, maintenance and improvement so they are prepared to spend money with our industry. But at the moment there is a very fragmented approach, with the exception of B&Q there is no one company that effectively targets the sector.

And this is an important point, it is about credibility. Consumers are very cautious about spending large amounts of hard earned cash with companies they have never heard of. We have all see the horror stories on Watchdog. They want to but from reputable organisations, and that’s a problem for the industry. If you look at the 2010 Superbrands listing the first construction brand is Bosch at 13th and that’s also a consumer brand. The first brand which does not operate in the consumer sector (and they might disagree) is Jewson in 61st place. So how are we going to establish credibility with the consumer? Well, if the industry does not act quickly it could just become a subcontractors to the big retailers like Tesco or Marks & Spencer, both of whom are starting to target improving energy efficiency in homes.

So sustainability represents a tremendous market opportunity, but we lack the credibility to win customers and are not good at presenting products and services in an aspirational or appealing way. Either the big companies, probably from outside our industry, will take control of this market sector (and the profit it represents) or we need to find ways to make ourselves more appealing. Perhaps this is a role for the trade association, perhaps not. CIMCIG believes marketing can play an important role in this process and wants to encourage debate. What do you think? If you have a view email us at, contact us on twitter (@cimcig), or join our LinkedIn group (search for CIMCIG in the groups box).

Chris Ashworth, founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy (, provides strategic marketing services to the construction industry. He is a member of the organising committee for the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group (CIMCIG