Since the beginning of this column, tips and best practices examples taken from organizations have been given. Other media, even your favorite celebrities are giving some DO’s of how to live sustainably or acting more sustainably. Of course, the first common reaction is: “nice but this involves a budget! Not anyone can afford it”. True. Besides, the reality from which we cannot escape is that (1) we are living in a fast-moving consumption world (2) where greener products are more expensive (3) and old consuming (bad) habits are difficult to change. 2050 is coming soon and common efforts should be made by then. Therefore, shall brands lead us to live more sustainably? Actually, rather than wondering what we should expect from brands for this New Year, let’s wonder what is expected from them?

At Changi Airport, Singapore

At Changi Airport, Singapore

So far…

  • More and more actions are made to raise awareness among people but also within organizations.
  • Organizations are moving forward in engaging their employees, e.g. use of recycling garbage bins, internal training even in Turkey (!).
  • Standards for reporting are increasing; Sustainability Accounting Standards have recently started to be defined per sector.
  • A basic criteria in some brand campaigns, such as Unilever, BASF, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Levi’s, Marks & Spencer, H&M campaigns.

  • Thinking locally is more and more popular, this matters more to consumers. For example, Tropicana’s last campaign in Turkey showed the use of local fruits for the production of its famous fruit juice.
  • Public contribution is more and more required to ensure organization’s strategy is in line with its target audience.

1960’s = consumer society, 2010’s = caring-consumer society?

How to integrate more sustainability in our way of consuming daily? Going on raising people’s awareness and educate people in using better way of consuming. But time is passing and to reach a wide audience and have large impacts, leading brands may show us the way, since their investments in marketing and advertising are already quite significant. What better than campaigns to communicate sustainability values and best practices? Some leading brands already started to pave the way…

  • In 2010, Levi’s in collaboration with Procter & Gamble made a campaign to inform customers about how to take care of their jeans: the best way being not washing them! With cold water if necessary.
  • In 2012, Patagonia encouraged customers not to purchase more than necessary during the holiday season with its “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign.


  • In 2012, M&S started Shwopping, a program inviting people to donate their clothes of any brand each and every time they buy something new. Shwopped clothes are given to Oxfam.


  • H&M is not only the world’s largest buyer of organic cotton. In 2013, the second-largest clothing retailer in the world launched a quite similar operation: “Long live fashion!”. Customers are invited to give any clothe of any brand in any condition into an H&M store. In exchange, they receive a 15% discount voucher on their next item purchased per bag donated. The purpose of this operation is to reduce the amount of clothes ending up in landfill by being recycled by H&M’s partner: I:Collect.


  • In 2012, the World Bank highlighted in a report on municipal solid waste (MSW), that the world’s cities are generating around 1.3 billion tons of MSW a year, with nearly half of it generated by OECD countries. Therefore retailers and food companies have a big challenge: educate consumers to not buy excessively and create more waste. M&S took the challenge by: (1) educating customers on how to shop better and reduce waste at home using leftovers through animated games; (2) improving its packaging technology so that perishable food products can be kept longer; (3) diverting many foods from landfill; (4) decreasing prices of food products closed to be expired; (5) donating, composting or diverting not saleable food to anaerobic digesters for energy. Inspiring!


Agencies: a key role?

Communication is key, interacting and collaborating with its target audience and more generally with people, are essential to engage change towards sustainable lifestyle. Creativity is thus a ‘MUST’ required to attract people’s attention. So here enter major game players: agencies. Their main role is to translate the message of companies. And if these companies want to show their commitment to sustainability, then agencies have to find new creative ideas to communicate on this matter. They must create authentic content, create new challenges for people that turn sustainable actions into entertaining activities, and create new ideas to raise more and more awareness.

This year, hopefully, we will see more brands, more collaboration, more actions towards a common target: engaging people and make things (really) happen sustainably.


On 20th November, Unilever has launched its first consumer-facing sustainability campaign on 5 markets: the UK, US, India, Brazil and Indonesia! The campaign aims to engage people to create a better future for the next generations. But the effects may go even beyond…

Initiatives like Project Sunlight or Pepsi Refresh Project show how much brands have leading roles in shaping people’s behavior towards the environment. Not only direct consumers are being influenced by the campaigns’ messages, Marketing and Creative staff to reconsider the importance of communicating about sustainability to their consumers.

Pepsi Refresh Project

In 2010, after 23 years of tradition, Pepsi decided to not advertise during the mythic Super Bowl night in the US. But instead, award 20 million dollars in grants to people who wanted to make the world a better place. How? The concept of the project was to foster actions for the social good or ideas that had a positive impact on the community. In a way, people were invited to become social entrepreneurs and submit their ideas or their causes to key stakeholders: their peers, that is to say consumers. Consumers were voting for the ideas and grants were attributed accordingly. The results were not only amazing in terms of Marketing – a billion media impression within the 3 first months of 2010 – but also and especially how awareness towards social causes was raised.


Project Sunlight

With Project Sunlight, Unilever wants to go beyond its product brands. As Unilever’s senior vice president of marketing, Marc Mathieu, said “This is about having a broader ambition and purpose for the company. We want to establish an umbrella platform that shows all Unilever brands that have contributed to making the world better.” The campaign relies on the How Children Inspire Sustainable Living research published last August, which has been commissioned by Unilever. The research highlights are as follows:

  • Children can be not only the motivation but also the trigger to inspiring more adults to change their lifestyles and turn good intentions into positive action.
  • Children have a natural optimism about the future.
  • Children care more about global issues than we think they do.


Among the nations surveyed, perceptions were found to be different: India and Indonesia appeared to be more positive about the future than their American and British peers, and also more concerned about global issues.

Besides, based on the research children should not be underestimated, they are concerned about main global major problems:

  • World hunger (78%),
  • Children dying from preventable diseases (77%)
  • Men’s impact on the planet (76%).
Children’s concern for global issues (Source: How Children Inspire Sustainable Living research)

Children’s concern for global issues (Source: How Children Inspire Sustainable Living research)

Sustainability campaigns: the key differentiation

In its campaign, Pepsi Refresh Project pointed out something very crucial: consumers are not making their decision based on the product itself anymore, but based on the perception a brand inspire them. For the last years, the two most famous soft drinks brands are launching more and more campaigns with high social attributes that also strongly engage their consumers. Hopefully such campaigns will not only inspire competitors but also all other brands!