Green infrastructure

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Multiple studies show that 97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that: ‘Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities’.

There is no doubt that there are many initiatives at institutional and corporate level to increase awareness and actionable engagement in order to reverse this trend. The Paris Agreement, Katowice deal, many corporate reforms and announcements - these are positive actions towards this direction. However, for impact to happen, we need to reform the whole supply chain, from the way we producesell and serve, to the way we consume.

Apart from the institutional and corporate activation at central/global level, actionable engagement is needed at micro-level too. Whether it concerns individual responsibility, social groups and populations, operational functions etc. In relation to this, I will focus on Sales/Commercial:

  1. Sales operations engage daily millions of employees, customers and consumers. This means that they significantly affect the environmental footprint, through their physical activation, operation and communication.
  2. Sales act as an intermediary among businesses, customers and consumers. Which means that they communicate, influence and mobilise hundreds of millions of actions and decisions on a daily basis.

So, if businesses wish to mobilise a green commercial attitude fast and at a large scale, over and above their own social responsibility commitments and processes, they have a powerful weapon in their hands to do so: the Sales team and the greater Commercial organisation.

Here are a few examples of how I believe we can transform towards greener commercial ways:

  • Consumers and Shopper Insights

Learn about your consumers’ potential new green needs, and share with them the actions you have to taken towards a strong positive green impact. Soon, the world is going to be driven by circular economy and probably next to it we will see a new model in the demand side/consumption developing along the lines of consume ‘less, better, simpler and in a responsible way’. If so, then we will have to incorporate it within our consumer and shopper insights.

  • Coverage

This is key, because it is simple and instant. The daily coverage of the market, with millions of employees out in the field, affects the amount of greenhouse gases released by human activities (e.g. transportation, etc.).

This has to be changed and it can be done. By optimising the efficiency of the coverage plan towards new ecological measures, which can be added within the set of sales KPIs. The ‘coverage plan’ may have to change and/or the way we travel as well. AI, digital transformation and technology can act as powerful levers towards this end, as well as the revolution in the car industry which is changing the potential options for car and vehicle fleets.

  • IT tools

There are very strong developments in AI, digital, sales automation, big data, business analytics and other relevant topics being driven by technological revolution. This gives companies the opportunity to better understand their market. But also, to communicate with their customers and consumers in different and more direct ways than ever before.

The adoption of these technological developments by the Sales community at a large scale, can positively influence their ecological impact in relation to coverage, travelling, materials usage, promotion and communication.

  • Change Management

Due to the rapid technological developments, as well as the development of circular economy and its needs, a new model of ‘Sales Leader’ is required. In the future a successful Sales Leader will be someone who is able to see, not only the benefits of new technology and circular economy, but also to visualise and understand how these revolutions can redefine the way they conduct business and approach to route-to-market, market development, brand portfolio, organisational structures, consumer relations, innovation etc.

These leaders will be the ‘Angels of Change’ who will be able to lead from the front and influence the rest of commercial organisations towards these reforms. This means that particular focus has to be paid to change management training programs, processes and initiatives.

The adoption of these technological developments by the Sales community at a large scale, can positively influence their ecological impact in relation to coverage, travelling, materials usage, promotion and communication.

  • KPIs and Scorecard

Based on the above, along with the classic performance measures (quantitative and qualitative) the time has come to incorporate a set of green key performance indicators, with results reported on within the formal routine (month/quarter/annual) sales performance scorecards. Keep it simple. Make a green set of sales KPIs that makes sense, can be monitored and measured (SMART).

  • Sales Incentives, Trading Terms and Commercial Decisions 

In order to mobilise the whole of your salesforce further and adopt enthusiastically the new ‘Green Commercial Way’, it is important to incorporate the above green KPIs within the salesforce bonus system. And also, in relation to the Value/Volume KPI scale of our salesforce bonus system and put more emphasis (financial remuneration) on green brands.

Of course, the same applies to special green incentives provided to customers, consumers and trade partners through trading terms and promotions. Finally, it would be very interesting to see this new green commercial attitude extended to important business decisions that Sales/Commercial leaders take. For example, they could begin to integrate relevant green commercial standards within their own decision-making process when selecting distributors in the market. This would mobilise the whole system even further and to a greater reach.

We should encourage Sales/Commercial organisations to become advocates, communicating to the rest of the market the power of our brands, unique selling proposals, promotions, best practices, advocacy programs and many others. They provide us with a powerful tool to communicate our environmental concerns and care to our customers, consumers and trade partners. 

Key Takeaway

The latest U.N. report warns that: ‘The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control.’

Action at micro-level is key. And this has to be done fast and include the operational functions of businesses too. The time has come to embrace and adopt a new ‘Green Commercial Way’, which integrates the ecological dimension within the Objectives/Goals/Strategies/Measures set of the commercial organisation.

The companies that adopt this approach, will be the ones who will gain the respect of consumers and win at the point of purchase.

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Yiannis Zarkadis (MSc Management Science 1987

About Yiannis Zarkadis

MSc Management Science 1987
Yiannis Zarkadis (MSc Management Science 1987), is Founder of CONSULT2XL. In his blogs he draws on his experiences working at Unilever, GrandMet/IDV, SC Johnson and Bacardi, over his extensive corporate career.