Tackle climate change with the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

02 Aug 2007|Added Value

Added Value chief executive advises marketers perplexed by their role in climate change to begin with the 3R’s: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle – they could become a springboard for ethical innovation.

Marketers shouldn’t be overwhelmed when considering their role in combating climate change. A good start point is the 3R’s.

First, reducing resources like unnecessary packaging or even primary materials could lead to product innovation. For example, O2 offers £100 credit for customers who don’t upgrade their handsets. Supermarkets are now offering more unwrapped fruit and veg to meet plastic bag reduction targets.

Second, the innovation potential behind re-using taps into the new breed of consumers keen to trade second-hand goods. We’ve seen this in car showrooms for years, so why not in retail outlets? eBay’s registered community of 200 million is six times bigger than the population of Australia. Freecycle, which enables consumers to swap unwanted items, has over 3.7m members in 4,082 communities. The potential is literally, enormous.

Third, recycling is a two-pronged process that involves brands using recycled raw materials as well as ensuring products can be recycled after use. The latter has clearly defined routes to innovation and undoubtedly has the highest consumer awareness. For example, M&S is selling a range of school wear made from recycled plastic bottles and NEC is buying back, refurbishing and reselling its own PCs second hand. But in doing so, brands must be careful to avoid creating confusion. For example, is a recycled bag truly biodegradable?

The 3R’s could help marketers differentiate their brand from competitors. Reducing, Re-using and Recycling are high on consumers’ agenda, according to research by Added Value.

Consumers were asked to rate their receptiveness towards ethical products and services. In general, they were positive.

  • Over half of consumers would be willing to pay a premium for ethical brands. 
  • 70% consumers claim that their purchase decision is influenced by a company’s ethics.

But one of the key drivers of ethical is waste:

  • Nearly half (46%) of consumers believe waste accumulation and non-recycling is the greatest area of responsibility for business, with 52% stating that business had the greatest capacity to tackle this issue.

Added Value believes brands may soon be forced to become responsible for recycling their own goods through legislation. The electrical and electronics industry is now accountable for the cost of collection, treatment and recycling of their equipment as a result of the Waste Electrical & Electronic Regulations (WEEE).

Says Lucy Richardson, UK Chief Executive at Added Value: “In our experience, brands wanting to tackle climate change should approach it from a different perspective. The 3R’s are a good platform for businesses to be really ingenious about their product innovation which could lead to a distinctive and compelling point of difference.  And with the threat of imminent legislation it’s better to act now than to wait before other industries are forced to take responsibility for their waste.

“What we call ’Branding for Good’ is good business. Enlightened companies have discovered that reducing carbon emissions could lead to first mover advantage, boost trust in their brands and increase market share. Brands who are not brave enough to use climate change to power the momentum for innovation will miss out.”

Added Value will be exploring the opportunities of ethical marketing at its next Branding for Good Summit, ‘Green 2.0: Avoid the Greenwash’ on November 13th. Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP will be the keynote speaker. The summit will combine inspirational speakers with interactive workshops for delegates.

To find out more, email the Branding for Good Team

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