I was talking yesterday about how a company could make a loyal customer out of me by being the first to make a good-faith effort to clean up its own environmental mess. The example I used was a way to easily return CFL bulbs, which contain toxic mercury, for recycling and disposal in a non-crushable tube through the postal service.
(And by the way, a reader let me know that Good Magazine touted a similar idea of its own. The problem with that version, however, is that the packaging appears to be crushable, which is not so “good” when you’re talking about mailing glass bulbs filled with toxins.)
Lots of folks wrote in with a variety of other CFL disposal schemes, but what I didn’t include in my post yesterday is the aspect of the return-by-post idea that would be good for the business that implemented it: the development of a two-way relationship with customers. You see, if a company has us return our used products directly to it, then it has another chance at developing our loyalty.
I mention this for two reasons. First, I like the idea of the returnable product—not just for bulbs but for bottles and cars and electronics and many other things. A two-way relationship companies could depend on would allow them to design their products with disassembly and reuse in mind, which means (hopefully) less resources pulled from the earth and less pollutants pumped into it (returnability of some products is already mandated by law in Europe).
Second, companies may eventually begin taking responsibility for the environmental consequences of their products because it is the right thing to do, but I think they’ll do it faster if they see that they can profit from it. And there is no question that returnable products and the two-way relationship offers selling opportunities. My point here is that doing the right thing for the planet may also mean doing the right thing for the bottom-line.