sustainable products for businesses

What Does “Green” Mean to Your Customers?

By Megan Erwin

In a competitive market, what sets a business apart? The immediate answers that spring to mind might be superior products, attentive service, knowledgeable staff or a convenient location. But there is another major factor you may not have considered. That factor is perception.

The way customers and prospects perceive your business can be a key differentiator, particularly if they see that your company shares some of their commitments.

One relevant example that proves the power of perception is the image created by a “green business.”

To a business owner, being green is certainly a smart bottom line decision. It means becoming more efficient and sustainable, while optimizing resources and reducing expenses. But when you change the perspective and consider “green business” from a customer’s point of view, an entirely different scenario emerges.

Being green can be a key differentiator for any business, particularly in California, a state that is extremely conscious of environmentally friendly practices. When a potential customer is faced with a decision, the thought of choosing the “green business” can be a powerful tipping point. Many customers tend to view green buildings and businesses with higher regard, which can lead to increased traffic and greater profits.

Becoming the green business customers want

Since we are on the subject of perception, let’s clear up a common misperception. Becoming a green business can be more accessible than many business owners and managers think. In fact, there are a number of areas where businesses can take simple but effective steps to be a more green and sustainable choice for customers.

Let’s explore some of these green options and the key areas where your business can make some simple changes.


LED lighting
There are a number of reasons why ENERGY STAR-qualified LED interior lighting has become the choice of green businesses. It uses at least 75% less energy and lasts 20 times longer than incandescent lighting and up to five times longer than fluorescent lighting. In addition, LED lighting can have a lifespan of 12 years or more.1 No wonder LED lighting is forecast to represent over 75% of all lighting sales by 2030.2

Bi-level switching
You can actually combine sustainability for your business with freedom of choice for your employees. The green technology that does it is called bi-level switching. It provides businesses simple manual control over lighting levels. In a three-lamp fluorescent fixture, for example, the outer lamps are switched on separately from the middle lamp. Bi-level switching also gives employees more control because they are required to select the lighting level when they enter a room. In many cases, employees choose to keep the lighting at “low.”


Programmable thermostats
When it comes to green thinking for your HVAC, the thermostat is a smart place to start. You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by programming a thermostat to drop back 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours.3 Some thermostats have adaptive recovery abilities that constantly measure how much time it takes to heat or cool your business. Other thermostats can learn your schedule without programming and can make energy saving suggestions. Some newer models even connect to Wi-Fi to adjust your thermostat from your computer.

Variable frequency drives
You can go green, conserve energy and help your equipment last longer without sacrificing on comfort. The products that make it possible are HVAC variable frequency drives. These drives allow fans to operate at lower speeds based on demand and the savings can be significant. You should also know businesses that install qualifying variable frequency drives can earn rebates of $80 per horsepower from Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).

Solar energy

Solar photovoltaic systems
Imagine telling your customers and employees that part of your power is solar. Solar is certainly a viable part of California’s energy mix and many green businesses have put it to work. But you might be surprised at all the work it can do. Solar photovoltaic systems can be used to power everything that traditional electricity powers. PG&E has helped customers connect more solar systems than any other utility in the country.

As you can see, becoming a “green business” is certainly within your reach. And that important distinction can make all the difference to potential customers. Once you implement green measures, be sure to spread the word to your employees and potential customers. Whether it’s lighting, HVAC or solar, the actions you take can make a big impression when it comes to the perception of your business.

To learn more about green and sustainable products, download PG&E’s free guide, "20 Sustainable Products to Help Businesses Save Energy and Money".


  2. U.S. Department of Energy
  3. U.S. Department of Energy, Tips: Programmable Thermostats

See why customers prefer a “green business” and what you can do about it. Learn more.
  • SMB Blog Author
    Megan Porter
    Senior Program Marketing Manager at PG&E, is a recognized leader in solutions marketing for small and medium-sized businesses. Megan uses her proven and practical expertise to bring energy efficiency education to businesses in every industry. In this vital role, she develops and oversees highly successful initiatives that result in the adoption of more efficient long-term energy management behaviors.

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