How Brands Can Drive Sustainable Behaviours

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  • There is evidence that individuals can evolve from passive activists to conscious consumers. In doing so, taking a more active role in recognising that their sustainable behaviours drive positive change and bring reward for both people and the planet. 
  • According to Nielsen, 73% of global customers would change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact, which means brands have a huge opportunity to help make sustainable choices easier and more accessible.
  • Affordability is the number one barrier to consumers purchasing environmentally sustainable brands.
  • Brands that use their marketing and retail channels to educate their customers about their sustainability pledges, as well as enabling them to play their part, are succeeding.

In this regular column, creative agency Household explores how modern wellness businesses can leverage consumer behaviour to create brand stories and experiential points of discovery for customers. 

This month it is exploring how brands can effectively engage consumers to drive long-term sustainable behaviours.

At Household, we’re committed to playing our part in the collective effort towards sustainable change. In the last month, we took part in IKEA’s annual One Home, One Planet summit for the second year running, joining thought leaders to discuss how we can take action to tackle the climate crisis, inequality and resource scarcity. One of our senior designers joined the annual training programme Climate Reality Leadership Corps led by Al Gore. Our team also got involved with the Purpose Disruptor’s call to action for creative agencies to enter The Great Reset competition, answering a detailed brief to help continue the positive signs of climate change that were the effect of the first lockdown. We have been shortlisted and hope to take our creative ideas forward into reality.

As part of our strategic approach to The Great Reset challenge, we identified that sustainability exists across a spectrum of behaviours. There are ‘passive activists’ displaying environmentally friendly behaviours without realising, in contrast to ‘conscious consumers’ who actively acknowledge and take responsibility for the role their own actions play in their carbon footprint. This is an important insight into our work with brands on sustainability as we look to engage customers in more ways they understand.

As communities continue to change and adapt to new ways of living, there is evidence that individuals can evolve from passive activists to conscious consumers. In doing so, taking a more active role in recognising that their sustainable behaviours drive positive change and bring reward for both people and the planet. 

According to Nielsen, 73% of global customers would change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact, which means brands have a huge opportunity to help make sustainable choices easier and more accessible.

In this month’s column, we discuss three ways brands can help nudge consumers towards becoming more conscious:

  1. Inform, educate and involve 
  2. Incentivise sustainable choices
  3. Serve and operate locally 

Inform, educate and involve
Despite an increasing number of brands working internally to meet ambitious company sustainability goals and targets, lots are failing to inform their customers. Almost two-thirds of UK customers are still not aware of recent sustainability pledges by big brands (GlobalWebIndex, 2019). And this disconnect can negatively impact a brand’s reputation, especially as 79% of global customers are changing their purchase preferences based on social responsibility (Stylus, 2020). 

Brands that use their marketing and retail channels to educate their customers about their sustainability pledges, as well as enabling them to play their part are succeeding. Nike’s latest House of Innovation store format in Paris uses ‘can’t miss’ billboard communications throughout the store, to highlight the brand’s ‘Move to Zero’ carbon-neutral sustainability initiative. While shopping, customers learn that the store design has 85,000 kilograms of sustainable material woven into its design and fixtures, as well as being powered by renewable wind energy. 

How Brands Can Drive Sustainable Behaviours

Image: Nike House of Innovation

Nike is informing and showcasing to its customers that it is placing sustainable design practices at the centre of its experiences. The goal is to inspire customers to align their values with their favourite brands and shop with these in mind.

Incentivise sustainable choices
The quickest way to get customers to adopt sustainable behaviours is by positively reinforcing engagement through rewards and discounts — a win for the people, and a win for the planet. This is important as affordability is the number one barrier to consumers purchasing environmentally sustainable brands (Deloitte, 2020).

Meatless Farm and Mother Flipper launched a meat-free, pop-up drive-thru restaurant in London, giving visitors who travelled to the experience via electric cars, bicycles and e-scooters 50% off their bill. By simply favouring sustainable travel options, the brands nudged passive activists into consciously choosing how to travel to the experience if they wanted to save money. 

Moreover, when IKEA Greenwich opened last year, the brand unveiled the Steps campaign, highlighting how many steps someone must take to get to the store from their exact location. Localising the campaign incentivised store visits by breaking down distances and encouraging people to walk, rather than using environmentally unfriendly methods of transport to get to store. 

Both examples show that implementing an incentive-led strategy can build brand momentum, attract more customers to the store channel and get them onboarded with sustainable initiatives by playing their own part. Customers can take personal responsibility by travelling to the store experience using sustainable transportation and be rewarded for it.

How Brands Can Drive Sustainable Behaviours

Image: LOOP

Serve and operate locally
The increased adoption of online shopping during the pandemic in many ways turned against sustainable progress, with a rise in delivery vehicles on roads and an increase in plastic packaging and wrapping.

According to research by Getty Images, 48% of people prioritise convenience over the environmental impact of their online purchasing habits, so brands that don’t make consumers compromise on convenience or sustainability have the potential to thrive. 

Take Terracycle Loop, which reached a new milestone during the pandemic, rolling out its waste-free packaging solution to 48 US States. It partners with global and local FMCG brands, selling its products in reusable containers on the Loop website. Brand associates then pick up empty packaging directly from customers’ homes to be cleaned and used again. Terracycle Loop is similar to a traditional milkman model as it uses a network of local associates to serve customers conveniently from the comfort of their own homes. 

Being local enables brands to switch to eco-friendly vehicles for their deliveries too, further reducing their carbon footprint. For example, DTC grocery brand Weezy plans to offer residents in the London boroughs of Fulham and Chelsea, grocery deliveries within 15 minutes of purchase, via electric moped and bicycle couriers. The brand is opening a hyperlocal fulfilment centre in West London to make this happen, giving it a competitive advantage over larger players. 

With focus in the past being placed at the start of the supply chain on responsible sourcing, now brands must also examine how they deliver their products directly to their customers, to ensure it aligns with their sustainability targets. Retailers with an existing store network will be at an advantage as they’re able to quickly adapt their stores to act as micro-fulfilment centres. However, for brands which operate online-only, pop-up retail strategies and dark stores will play a key role in minimising the carbon footprint of online shopping. 

The pandemic has shown that a move towards sustainability goals can be achieved by brands and consumers in a short period of time through collective action, behaviours and collaboration. With this momentum and consumer desire to do the right thing increasing, wellness brands have every opportunity to meet these needs through involving, incentivising and operating hyper-locally.

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