The concept of ‘doing well by doing good’ is becoming an increasingly popular boardroom mantra as businesses look to make a positive impact while ultimately improving their bottom line.
But in order to resonate with increasingly sceptical consumers it’s a strategy that needs to go far deeper than simply donating money to charity. Today businesses need to get to the core of a problem in order to shift consumers’ attitudes and change their behaviour.
Birds Eye is the latest brand to take on a social mission and is putting £2m behind the ‘iFreeze, iSave’ campaign, which looks to tackle the growing problem of food waste as part of parent company Iglo Group’s European sustainability initiative, Forever Food Together.
The average household in Britain effectively throws away £700 each year by disposing of food that could have been frozen to prolong its life, according to the not-for-profit Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP). It has been working alongside Birds Eye to encourage long-term change in consumer behaviour, aiming to prevent 850,000 tonnes of food worth more than £3bn going to landfill each year.
“The amount of avoidable food waste that exists is mind boggling so there is a real financial issue here as well as a sustainability one,” says Steve Chantry, Birds Eye’s UK marketing director.
To help illustrate the point that the average family throws out a fifth of the food it buys each month, Birds Eye unveiled its latest TV campaign on Monday, which shows a woman unpacking the weekly shop and throwing fresh produce straight into the bin.
In a further stunt that looks to demonstrate the volume of cash consumers are throwing away in uneaten food, Birds Eye erected a 20-foot ‘billboard’ made from four tonnes of ice on London’s South Bank, which will melt away to reveal £700 in coins and notes that passers-by can claim.
Birds Eye, which is also working in partnership with Love Food Hate Waste, the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) and white goods brand Hotpoint, is looking to educate British consumers about how to better utilise their freezers. Its research reveals that 92% of people don’t realise that eggs can be frozen when their shells are removed, 56% are not aware that herbs can be kept fresh in the freezer and 48% don’t know they can freeze fruit. Almost 2 million people also throw away frozen goods after just two weeks believing they will go off after this time.
“As we all know in the marketing fraternity, to change behaviour takes time,” says Chantry. “People have naturally, and understandably, developed habits that they will continue with for a long time, so it is the responsibility of organisations such as ours to start a new discourse and ultimately keep providing new and interesting ways of articulating that [message] to help consumers to make wiser and more savvy choices going forward.”
Changing consumer behaviour and encouraging people to send less to landfill is at the heart of fashion retailer Jigsaw’s latest campaign too. Jigsaw launched its ‘For life not landfill’ activity in order to differentiate its message from competitors and distance itself from ‘fast fashion’ brands that encourage consumers to buy cheaply and often.
“It’s hard to talk about sustainability in the fashion world for obvious reasons; all too often it is about ‘here today gone tomorrow’ at every level of the market,” says Peter Ruis, Jigsaw CEO.
“This idea that you can’t be seen in something twice is just not appropriate. It’s a very cynical, modern way of looking at things. We think the purest argument is to make clothes that last for a long time and encourage consumers that eternal stylishness is more important than being in and our of fashion,” he adds.
Some 350,000 tonnes of used clothes worth £140m are sent to landfill each year in the UK, according to WRAP. The organisation estimates that the average UK household owns £4,000 worth of clothes, 30% of which have not been worn for at least a year.
Although it doesn’t work directly with Jigsaw, the importance of extending the life of clothes is endorsed by WRAP, which estimates that if people wear unused clothes for an additional three months it could lead to a 5-10% reduction in carbon, water and waste footprints.
As part of its Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, which aims to extend the active life of clothes and increase re-use and recycling, retailers including Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Next have all pledged to work towards a 15% reduction in carbon, water and waste by 2020.
As part of this effort, M&S has collected 7.8 million garments which are either sold via Oxfam or recycled. The retailer also runs a number of other initiatives which aim to change consumers’ behaviour as part of its Plan A initiative and most recently called for 5,000 customers to take part in the Big Beach Clean Up in May alongside 3,000 of its employees.
Unilever is another business that has long had ambitions to change consumer behaviour for the better. Whether that’s via its Sustainable Living Plan or in its efforts to promote global peace through campaigns such as ‘Make love, not war’ for its Lynx brand, the business does so because CEO Paul Polman believes that “when society functions better, businesses ultimately do better too”.
Steve Chantry, UK marketing director
Q How important is it for brands to put weight behind issues like this?
Brands such as Birds Eye have a responsibility to push the moral agenda. NGOs and the likes of WRAP [the Waste Resources Action Programme] are vital in the fight against food waste but brands have to stand up and play a role too. Clearly we have resources available to us financially but equally the fact that four fifths of the UK consumer base will buy into Birds Eye means that our ability to impact what consumers do and think about is second to none.
Q How is a campaign of this nature beneficial from a business perspective?
This is a movement we are trying to drive so I don’t want to escape from that as the primary motivator. One in five Brits’ grocery shops is at least half frozen already but that obviously provides an element of headroom. In that context there is a huge opportunity for more consumers to understand the breadth of the offer available within frozen.
Q To what extent does this campaign go beyond CSR?
We know that the freezer as an appliance is opened significantly less than the fridge so in helping to educate consumers about the role of the freezer we can encourage them to put a few more frozen products in there.
But I wouldn’t step away from the fact that the crux of the idea came from, and still remains, that we believe we have a vital role to play in helping to mitigate this burgeoning epidemic of food waste and the fact that the freezer is the number one solution to help address that.