Lessons in sustainability marketing
Communicating sustainability messages has always proved difficult for brands. Suspicions of greenwash, the pressures of the economic downturn and the perception that doing good is difficult and more expensive has dampened progress.
Unilever is looking to tackle these challenges with its latest initiative - Sustain Ability Challenge. The FMCG giant is inviting 12 UK households to undertake a series of challenges to save money at the same time as adopting more sustainable behaviours in a bid to find new ways of successfully marketing sustainability.
At an event to launch the initiative last week, Unilever, Mumsnet, The Fabian Society, The Futures Company and food waste campaign group WRAP discussed the issue and outlined how brands should approach sustainability messaging.
Unsurprisingly, people trust their friends and family more than they trust business and government and brands, according to research from the Fabian Society. Natan Doron, senior researcher at the Society said this means that leveraging social platforms and “peer to peer” communications is a key element for a successful campaigns.
Amanda Sourry, chairman of Unilever UK and Ireland agreed that social media provides a new opportunity.
She added: “The explosion of digital and social media offers an opportunity that we’ve never had before to share information. Consumers are much more likely to trust and listen to ideas from their peers if we can harness great ideas and leverage the power of technology, we can make a change that could span generations.”
Very few consumers are motivated by purely environmental factors, which means combining other messages that resonate with consumers will have a better chance of changing behaviour, said Lloyd Burdett, head of global clients and strategy at insights firm The Futures Company, which is working with Unilever on the research project.
Unilever has focused on highlighting the money saving impact of adopting more sustainable behaviours and believes Sustain Ability Challenge will save participating households 15 per cent on their weekly food bills as well as reducing environmental impact.
Mumsnet co-founder Carrie Longton agreed that money saving is an important complementary message.
“Money is an important part of it. Food waste isn’t for the green brigade anymore, it’s crucial to lots of families for making ends meet. Maybe it’s time Jamie [Oliver] or Hugh [Fearnley-Whittingstall] launch a leftovers show,” she said.
The Fabian Society’s Doran warned, however, that aligning sustainability exclusively with a money saving message could do harm to the agenda in the long run.
Information services that make it easier:
Brands that can provide easy to access information and tools to help consumers adopt sustainable behaviours into their busy lives will not only have an environmental impact but win “brand love”, according to Mumsnet’s Longton.
She added: “The key challenge is education. Any brand that can help parents do the right thing, save money at the same time and make them feel good about themselves will, in old marketing jargon, make friends and influence people and build brand love as well as saving the planet.”
Unilever’s food brands Knorr and Hellmann’s and WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste resources will play a key role in the initiative to provide information such as recipes and advice on planning ahead and storage.
Emma Marsh, head of WRAP’s Love Food, Hate Waste, campaign added: “People need information and tools to know how they can make the most of leftovers and store things properly. We all have embedded behaviours and it’s these we need to change. Simple things can make a difference.”
68% of UK adults say cost is the main barrier to more sustainable living
60% recognise food waste is a problem that needs to be solved
53% would waste less food if it could save them money
28% would change if it was easy to do
62% lack of knowledge of how to live more sustainably stops them
70% of Unilever’s environmental impact occurs from consumer use
Average families wastes ￡680 on food waste each year
UK homes create 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink from homes every year
Sources Unilever, WRAP, The Fabian Society, The Futures Company