The growing need for sustainability: pledges, initiatives and more

The past year fractured everyday lives more so than anyone could have ever imagined. As the world and consumers reemerge from COVID norms, a focus is moving away from the pandemic, and returning to some of society’s other most pressing issues.

While many are realising life can go on without the every day commute to work, needless travel and other emissions-heavy activities, an increasing number are realising the ability to live more eco-friendly lives is more important than ever.

A study from the BBC’s Global Minds panel has found that post-COVID, audiences expectations of brands to take climate action is reaching all-time highs. Most notably, within Australians surveyed, 93% believe it is important for brands to address sustainability.

Alistair McEwan – Global News APAC

The pandemic has renewed consumers expectations from brands they buy from, or are looking to buy from, to put this issue at the fore of its business plan. Forty nine percent of Australians over the past 12 months say that it is more important than ever before for brands to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Alistair McEwan, SVP for commercial development at BBC Global News APAC says: “I think what the pandemic has done is brought really sharp focus into our audience’s concerns around this in ways that perhaps were building before the pandemic, but really think it hit a crescendo during the pandemic.”

BBC Global News is the international commercial arm of the BBC, tasked with commercialising predominantly the english language platforms of the BBC.

As a result of this research, BBC are seeing an increased desire from consumers for brands to be displaying a real effort in sustainable practice. The report found that 79% said sustainable practices and commitments are an important consideration for them when making purchase decisions, that number jumping to 84% when only accounting for Australians.

The aim of the report, says McEwan, was “really about understanding audience and consumer sentiment, and then bringing that to our advertisers,” and the results of the survey “continued to confirm what we already knew […] that this is an issue that is very present, and matters an awful lot to consumers”.

“Obviously this current government is facing significant calls for change of policy, and yet you’ve got a highly active Australian consumer base that is really engaged on the subject. But also you’ve also got an Australian business environment that is actually genuinely making changes, even if the government policy is perhaps slightly out of kilter to that.”

Brands are beginning to listen to consumers, especially in the recent lead up to Earth Day, brands have been announcing different pledges, initiatives and ways in which they are committing to a greener future. According to the BBC’s findings, 81% agree that demonstrating a commitment to sustainability adds brand value, so there is clearly an added incentive for taking action. And with 74% of Australians stating they are happy to pay more for brands with strong sustainability and eco-friendly practices, it is also clear that consumers expect more than just promises, they expect action.

Last week, youth travel company Contiki announced it was going carbon neutral by 2022, with all unavoidable emissions from trips beyond 2022 to be offset. Budweiser also committed to having each beer brewed globally by 2025 done so through 100% renewable energy.

The data shows environment and sustainability is an issue consumers feel strongly about, and it is beginning to be reflected in advertising campaigns too. SodaStream launched a new ‘Don’t Just Share, Care’ campaign, featuring Randi Zuckerbuerg, providing a tongue-in-cheek message about enacting real environmental action, rather than social media statuses. SodaStream is also aiming to eliminate the need for 78 billion plastic bottles by 2025, as well as boosting its production outputs by utilising solar energy to 10% by 2022.

JCDecaux’s Adidas bus stop in Bondi

Out-of-Home provider JC Decaux recently took over a Bondi bus shelter to celebrate the launch of Adidas’ new sustainable Stan Smith sneaker. The shelter was decorated with live plants on top of, and within the shelter, to match the green ‘planet earth’ embroidery on the shoes, which are made using 17 recycled plastic bottles.

Australian insurer NRMA added to its history of climate aware campaigns, this month releasing an educational interactive game “Climate Warriors.” The campaign, developed by Thinkerbell was designed to educate and engage young Australians on the increasing risk of natural disasters. Creative campaigns like this will go lengths with consumers to show a brand’s commitment to climate action and awareness.

Swedish financial tech firm, Klarna are showing their users they have a real commitment to climate action, introducing a carbon footprint insights program for users of its app. Up to 90 million customers can access and track their shopping carbon footprint in the app. In addition to this, they have launched a 1% pledge campaign, which will bring US$10 million to initiatives tackling climate change and loss of biodiversity alongside 50% emissions reduction ambition for 2030.

And it’s not just customer facing brands that are making significant commitments. Agency holding group WPP announced among several commitments, its intention of reaching net zero emissions across its own operations by 2025, and net zero carbon emissions across its entire supply chain by 2030.

WPP’s carbon pledge

Meanwhile, comms Sling and Stone promoted Alana Theodor in February to lead its new specialty sustainability offering for brands focused on energy, climate change, waste reduction, and fashion. At the time, the agency said: “There is more noise than ever, and the need for clear, impactful, and cohesive storytelling is greater.”

With a poor environmental performance ranking as a top three concern when buying from a brand, deciding whether or not to address a company’s footprint is becoming less of a question, and more of a necessity. The longer the wait for change to be made, the more consumers will migrate elsewhere, as 60% of Australians say they would stop buying from a brand they were previously loyal when discovering it was not committed to sustainability.

The BBC has launched Our Planet Matters to capture all of its environmental coverage. “So that is a rallying call within the BBC for every single department or output department, and then for the BBC to be able to capture its efforts towards environmental coverage,” says McEwan.

Over the coming months and years, McEwan expects to see  more brands adopt this approach, and McEwan sees his, and the BBC’s role in this process as simple. “From the BBC’s point of view, this is about supporting brands, enabling them to make the right choices and craft the right narrative. And there is demand from the public, demand from stakeholders, and this is really to the benefit of brands who can get this right.”


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