Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

Engaging customers in the sustainability dialog

By David Laituri on January 30, 2009

 When we first conceived of Vers back in 2007, we wanted to develop sound systems that were better in every way imaginable; an ambitious goal that we hoped would drive our company to do great things on into the future. This applied not only to the design and sound quality of our systems, but to their environmental thoughtfulness as well.

As we progressed, the idea of involving our customers in a dialog about energy efficiency, sustainability and carbon reduction seemed natural to us – we wanted Vers to be a participatory brand. Since the large part of Vers is its plantation-sourced wood construction, trees were an obvious device to help connect the CO2 generated by using a Vers system to a simple, easy to understand solution. Trees are both tangible and visceral; our customers easily related to them. Planting trees became an engaging way to initiate the carbon reduction dialog and to encourage our customers to participate in making a difference.

Though subject to many variables, an average tree can consume 40 - 50 lbs. of CO2 in a year, about as much created generating the electricity required by a Vers system under average conditions. In its lifetime, that average tree could sequester the CO2 of about eight Vers systems. While there is far more to sustainable product development than simply offsetting CO2, carbon footprint reduction is a concept a majority of our customer base already understood. If you only have a few seconds to capture their attention and request their participation, it’s important to focus on what’s already familiar to them.

This past fall, in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, an organization well-known for dedication to the value of trees and tree planting projects, we offered a 1:1 tree planting opportunity at check out on our site; for every tree our customers planted, we would match it. To our surprise, over 18% of our customers selected this option; many chose to plant more than one. We had expected 5% at best. We’ve since added advice on how our customers can live a more efficient and sustainable existence with our products, as well as offering a take-back program for the old iPod gear a new Vers system may have displaced.

While still early yet, the response to these cooperative initiatives with our customers has been surprisingly strong. They appreciate the difference we are trying to make, they are choosing to get involved and they tell us so with through their emails … and their purchases. Beyond making well-designed, great sounding systems, we see Vers as a laboratory for testing new ways to engage our customers on the topic of sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of their everyday lives.

Image credit: David Laituri