How to create successful sustainability campaigns

This article is brought to you by foodpanda.

Being sustainable is increasingly becoming a must for brands. As consumers are becoming more aware about the impact they have on the environment, brands are likewise starting to adopt more sustainable practices to meet the new sustainability demands.

However, becoming a sustainable brand is more than just paying lip-service to being eco-friendly without actually making an actual impact. As the saying goes, people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it – and it’s going to take more than just rolling out a few tactical campaigns to show customers and stakeholders the brand really cares.

Here are some tips on how brands can plan successful sustainability and authentic marketing campaigns.

1. Focus your campaign on an aspect of sustainability that makes sense for the brand to own

Sustainability encompasses a wide variety of topics. Brands need not, and frankly cannot, realistically own all of them. Focus on topics that make the most sense for your brand by connecting the value that customers are getting from your brand to potential sustainability goals that your brand can own.

For example, a large part of the foodpanda business is food delivery. It therefore makes perfect sense for us to champion the reduction of plastic waste. 

From there, we analysed the entire customer journey, and found that cutlery was an optional add-on. Most of our customers would have their food orders delivered to either their homes or offices, where cutlery would already be available. 

Making “no cutlery” as the default option, supported with customer education, allowed us to eventually change customer behaviour – and eight in 10 of our customers today no longer opt-in to receive cutlery with their order.

Keeping a razor-sharp focus on the sustainability pillars that feel “natural” for the brand to own will greatly help in planning sustainability campaigns that are authentic – in both the reasons behind them, and the results achieved.

2. Understand your target audience’s motivations, and challenges

When planning sustainability campaigns, a key question to always ask ourselves is: “How do we make it easy for our customers and partners to participate?” Ironically, this is the hard part.

What motivates us may not be the same factors that motivates our audience. This is especially so for sustainability – where individuals’ motivations and reasons for going green may not necessarily be tied to traditional group identifiers such as age or gender. Brands may need to conduct behaviour-based research to better align individuals’ values to the planned campaign.

Our recent Sustainable Packaging Programme was an example of how we combined our understanding of our partners’ motivations and challenges with the objective of reducing plastic consumption. 

We understand that our partners are open to switching to sustainable packaging, but are not sure how/where to source it, and are also concerned about the additional costs they may incur. We wanted to find an easy and affordable way for our restaurant partners to reduce their plastic waste when preparing orders from our platform. 

Rolled out as a global initiative, we have now made available sustainable packaging that our merchant partners can purchase at very affordable prices – we’re talking about almost the same, or in some instances, even cheaper than current plastic packaging. Through this, we have lessened the biggest barriers that our restaurant partners face when considering switching to eco-friendly packaging.

3. Walk it, before you talk it

The last thing brands want is to launch a sustainability campaign, only to be accused of greenwashing after. To avoid this, brands will need to be very transparent about their sustainability initiatives as a company – which means sustainability will need to be a business-wide, as opposed to marketing-only, initiative.

Sustainability campaigns should reflect upfront and realistic impacts that can be achieved. Brands should avoid putting out catchy slogans and statements without being able to substantiate them with findable evidence and information.

Brands should also refrain from making customers feel guilty about their choices. Of course, all claims should be stated sincerely and accurately, and backed up with data as much as possible.

Sustainability cannot be achieved overnight. Proper green marketing takes time, resources and money – and it cannot be achieved by rolling out a few sustainability-focused campaigns every year. Sustainability is not just a trend, and brands need to first and foremost include sustainability as part of their core values before communicating their efforts.