Could your seasonal gifts help both you and your clients tread more lightly on the planet?

Giving gifts to clients and employees is a quick way to affirm important relationships. Everyone appreciates a thoughtful gesture like a small gift or a note of thanks. But what if that gift also helps you and your clients save the planet?

What is sustainable corporate gifting?

Sustainable gifts help your clients and employees reduce waste and embrace a climate-friendly lifestyle. They can also help you make a statement about your values.

Instead of reaching for another plastic pen or gift basket emblazoned with your company colors, think about how you can help people lower their daily impact and become more environmentally responsible.

A sustainable gift given by your company says three things:

  1. We appreciate your contribution to our company/business.
  2. We care about the earth and reducing our impact.
  3. We want to help you do the same.

Who should give sustainable business gifts?

If you’re a business owner wanting to align your business or brand with sustainable choices, consider gifts that give back to the earth. They showcase your commitment to environmental responsibility and build staff and customer loyalty. More than simply sharing eco friendly promotional products, gifts to clients and employees show recognition and appreciation.

Who should receive sustainable gifts?

brightly wrapped presents
Forbes magazine reported “value attributes” such as handmade, artisanal, and sustainably made client and customer gifts are more desirable and memorable than other gifts given by businesses. Not only that, C-suite executives preferred these types of environmentally friendly gifts. (Hint: They’re not just for the mailroom clerk.)

What makes a gift sustainable?

“Sustainable” isn’t a term that’s regulated, but this catchword generally includes gifts that fall into one of the following categories:

  • Gifts made from eco friendly, recycled or repurposed materials
  • Items that include locally sourced or organic materials
  • Items with alternative materials or those made from certified sustainable processes (e.g. free from harmful dyes, bleaching, etc.)
  • Items that can help eliminate single-use plastics (e.g. zero waste alternatives)
  • Products that have achieved certification for sustainable industry standards

Related: Tips for Sustainable Giving

What are the best business gifting criteria?

The best sustainable corporate gifts meet the following criteria:

  1. Reinforce your company values. If your business wants to send the message that it supports reducing plastic in the workplace, giving a reusable glass coffee cup or set of beeswax wraps demonstrates your commitment to the issue. It also shares a useful item.
  2. Reflect the quality of your relationship. Businesses give top clients gifts that say something about their contribution to the company. That often means a higher value gift for more important clients, VPs, and executives. But it’s more important to think quality over quantity.
  3. Adhere to company policy. Some companies do have restrictions around what value of gift an employee can accept. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these rules if you’re giving outside your own business.
  4. Are personalized. Adding a personal note of thanks or greeting to your gift’s card helps your gift feel more sincere. If you can’t add a personal note, ask someone else to do this for you. A handwritten note signals your connection with the gift and the receiver.
  5. Are artfully presented. How you wrap or present a gift adds to its value. Skimping on the outside can quickly devalue what’s inside.
  6. Are useful. Think about what people can use and veer towards practicality.
  7. Aren’t always branded. There was a time when adding your company logo or message to a gift was a given. Not any more. Now some branded gifts send the message that you want your company to be remembered more than you want to thank the gift’s receiver. Is this a present, a promotional gift, or a marketing opportunity?
  8. Aren’t just for the holidays. More companies are moving towards a New Year’s gift, when presents are less likely to be lost in the glut of Christmas and seasonal giving. Giving birthday gifts is another way to show a personal touch.

Most popular corporate gifts

Incentive magazine conducted a survey of the most common gifts given by businesses in 2017. The chart below summarizes the most popular choices by percentage.

graph showing percentage of gift type given by corporations

Information adapted from 2017 Corporate Gift IQ Survey, Incentive Magazine.

While gift cards have remained popular for the last few years, their acceptability for business gifting isn’t universal. Data shows that while gift cards can be a safe choice, they can also be a forgettable one. They may also lack the personal element that many businesses are aiming for when giving.

Best employee gifts

According to the 2018 corporate gift-giving report from the Advertising Specialty Institute, employers spent on average about $65 per employee when giving business gifts. That includes the popular choices above, along with more unique items like clothing, jewelry, and tech.

If your goal this year is giving sustainable presents, consider the following gift ideas.

Reusable coffee cups

Joco reusable glass coffee cupMade from high-quality borosilicate glass, these amazing reusable coffee cups let your employees enjoy their morning java without the trash. They are microwave and dishwasher safe and come in six gorgeous colors.

Wool dryer balls

natural wool dryer ballsWool dryer balls reduce the time and energy it takes to dry your clothes by 30-50%. They are a safe and natural alternative to dryer sheets and chemical fabric softeners, too! They even reduce wrinkles in clothes. Try them with a drop of essential oil for a clean fragrance.

Eating on-the-go toolkit

eat drink zero waste setNo more takeout waste! This convenient 7-piece set helps users avoid plastic cutlery and straws whether eating out or in the office. Its pure bamboo materials are naturally stain-resistant and anti-microbial. Packed into an organic cotton mesh back, its easy to store in a purse, desk, or car.

Zero waste shampoo bar

shampoo bar for employee giftingHelp your team ditch the plastic by gifting these naturally fragrant shampoo and body bars. Designed to lather just like shampoo, these bars will cleanse and moisturize. Each bar is handcrafted from pure plant ingredients. They’re also biodegradable and free from synthetics, preservatives, and petrochemicals.

Recycled cotton socks

recycled cotton socksKnit from recycled cotton yarn that’s a byproduct of the T-shirt industry, these amazing socks come in a variety of patterns and colors. Recycled cotton reduces the water and fiber needed to make new products. It also avoids the chemical pesticides used in producing conventional virgin cotton. And did we mention how fun these socks are to wear?

Best corporate gifts for clients

The ASI report also noted that businesses spend an average of $48 on each client gift. Popular gifts range from weekend getaways for top clients to food and gift cards for those less connected to your business.

On the sustainable front, popular eco friendly products include:

Sustainable bamboo cutting board

bamboo cutting board for client giftingThese superior quality cutting boards are made from sustainably-grown bamboo that is long lasting and resists swelling. The carved indentations on each end make for easy lifting.

Sculpted beeswax candles

sculpted beeswax sphere candlesTruly beautiful! These handcrafted beeswax sphere candles cast a luminescent glow through their unique designs. Made from unscented, naturally filtered beeswax, they are free from paraffin and other toxins.

Natural Beeswax wraps: gift set

beeswax wraps gift setHelp earth-conscious clients replace plastic wrap with a full set of beeswax wraps. These reusable beauties are sweet smelling and practical for covering dishes and leftovers or for wrapping bread, fruit, and veggies. They’re made from organic cotton and beeswax and are easy to clean.

Hummingbird scatter garden

hummingbird wildflower seed kitGive your clients the chance to attract hummingbirds (and other pollinators) to their landscape. This kit contains 17 varieties of wildflower seeds that are easy to sow and grow. The resulting blooms are lovely shades of pinks, reds and purples that will naturally attract birds and bees.

How to give gifts from your business

If you can’t decide which gifts are best, talk to the corporate gifting rep at your favorite shop: they will likely have suggestions for what’s proved popular in the past. They can also provide advice about popular colors and varieties.

Once you’ve chosen your gifts, provide the following information to the company you’ve chosen:

  • Item number (as listed in their catalogue or website)
  • Size and color (if applicable)
  • Quantity

Ask for a quote that provides a discount off the retail price of each item. Prices usually improve with the quantity ordered.

Don’t forget to ask about gift wrapping options and expected time of delivery. If you plan to have gifts delivered directly to clients, ask if handwritten cards or other personalized details can be included in the gift box.

If you want to add company branding to your items, do that up front. Many retailers offer this service, but require extra time to make it happen.

Once you’ve finalized the items you want, send in your order and request confirmation that it has been received.

Deducting corporate gifts from your taxes

Most business gifts are tax deductible in the US, but only up to $25 per person. Your type of business may have different rules. Check the applicable IRS publication for details.

Corporate giving made easy

More and more companies offer corporate gifting services. They will be happy to guide you through the process. Remember that in the end, this is your chance to show appreciation for those who mean something to your business. Clients and employees remember your thoughtfulness and carry that with them all year long.

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