Guilt-free green

16 Feb 2011|Added Value

Ditch the traditional bolt-on CSR programme.  The big brand challenge for 2011 is how to make consumer and customer involvement really easy and accessible. People don’t want to be overwhelmed with guilt. Brands need to focus in on, and communicate about, the small things that make a difference. We took the challenge to several influential brand players for their view.     

Sky Rainforest Rescue. Jo Fox, deputy director of The Bigger Picture at Sky     

“As a broadcaster, Sky has been actively working to preserve the planet’s rainforests for many years and now we have cemented that aim by launching the three-year Sky Rainforest Rescue.     

In partnership with WWF, we have been working with the Acre state government in Brazil since 2009, helping to monitor deforestation, improve the market for sustainable products and give people alternatives to cutting down trees.      

Our campaign Sky Rainforest Rescue takes a very complex issue, simplifies it and then gives consumers a tangible way to get involved.   We have a clear stated target and message. The aim is to raise four million pounds over three years. We intend to generate two million from customer donations and then we will match that pound for pound. Consumers can really get a sense of where their money goes because we use messages around tangible benefits. For example, £20 helps save 1,000 trees. We back up those messages with clear explanations of where the money goes on our user-friendly micro-site.     


On a project like this, it is comfortable to talk to people who already know about the environmental issues in the Amazon and elsewhere, but our challenge is to talk to a broader audience who are not so aware.     

We have grabbed consumers’ attention through programming initiatives such as a Steve Jones’ Boys Own style adventure programme, and a documentary with Ross Kemp. These celebrity presenters function as brand ambassadors to show, in an accessible way, why consumers should care.     

It is our job to make this story entertaining and foster long-term consumer concern. As a media company, we realise we are in a unique position to tell a story around the issues and, crucially, get involved with the solutions of helping local people create wealth without destroying the rainforest.”      

Lily Allen went out to the project area to help raise awareness


Water Efficiency. Andy Wales, head of of sustainable development at SAB Miller  

“The language of climate change is now part of our everyday lives: over the past decade we have moved from a basic understanding of greenhouse gas emissions to the acknowledgement that a climate shift presents a serious problem.     

There is no question that it is also now part of consumer consciousness. We recently did some work to understand which environmental issues consumers see as being most relevant to beer and their initial concerns are around packaging and transport – both of which relate to greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints.     

However, once you tell consumers that – taking into account the entire supply chain including the growing of barley and hops – it takes around 45 pints of water to make 1 pint of beer; they immediately elevate the issue of water to the top of their list.     

The reality is that, of these 45 litres, over 90% is used in agriculture; SABMiller uses an average of 4.3 pints of water in our breweries to make 1 pint of beer. We’re already working on an industry-leading target to reduce this to 3.5 litres by 2015 but we cannot manage the water challenge in isolation – it is a shared risk and a shared responsibility.     

A significant amount of the water people consume is ‘virtual’ – it’s embedded in the energy we use, the clothes we wear and the food we eat. As a brewer, our business has a huge reliance on water and any business that relies on water must look beyond the obvious and think laterally – across the whole supply chain – about how to better manage water.     


At the end of 2009, we launched the Water Futures partnership in partnership with WWF. Co-funded by the German government, it examines groundbreaking approaches to water management. The partnership is focused on identifying new approaches to water management, particularly developing a robust approach to evaluating water risks throughout SABMiller’s value chain and sharing best practice throughout our global operations on how to tackle these risks.     

The initiative looks at four countries where we have brewing operations: Peru, South Africa, Tanzania and Ukraine; all markets where we have identified water as a long term risk.     

Fundamental to meeting our goals around sustainability are our partnerships with organisations such as WWF, the Nature Conservancy and local governments. If we want to meet these broad objectives, we can’t have different sectors working alone. It is only together that we will resolve these challenges.     

Sustainability is core to our business; it is built into our value chains, our production processes and therefore it underpins our brands. This is not philanthropic – it’s good business sense.” Click to view The Water Futures Report     

SABMiller India has embarked on a natural recharge project in Rajasthan



Energy Fit. Phil Gilbert, head of innovation at E.ON  

“The sustainability penny dropped for many people when they realized that thinking sustainably means their resources can go further and they will save money.     

To help UK households achieve both energy and money saving goals, we came up with the concept of consumers getting “energy fit” in their homes. E.ON has launched a dedicated website that offers people tailored recommendations on how to become more energy efficient as well as how to generate their own energy at home and, importantly the potential savings that can be made.     

Powerful savings can be made by insulating our homes better, learning how to use an energy monitor and changing our behaviours, such as turning the heating down by one degree or turning off your laptop and PlayStation after use. If consumers become more engaged, they might consider installing a heat pump or solar panels to help generate some electricity themselves.     

We will always have segments of the market which are more environmentally pro’, but by highlighting the everyday ways to drive change, more people are seeing the benefits. At the end of the day, people don’t like waste, whether it is public sector spending, or their own petrol.     

Ultimately, what is important is that we execute an issue as important as this, credibly. Credibility is what customers look for from brands. If we speak from a position of expertise and strength customers can look at our campaigns and believe in them.   


E.ON's HQ showing solar panels that help power the building and one of their electric vehicles


As a top energy provider, we are in the business of building stronger relationships with customers. If we do that successfully, we will keep them for longer and hopefully they will consider and purchase new products and ideas from us.”    


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