Competition is heating up among companies of all types not only to see who can introduce the hottest new product, but to also see who will first embrace the mantra of the “triple bottom line,” where organisational success means balancing people, planet, and profit. Some corporations know that climate change is now part of consumer consciousness and they are trying to prove committed to this global problem. As a result, many companies start to realise that there is one effective way to increase customer loyalty, improve the company’s image, differentiate from the competition, and demonstrate commitment to sustainability – carbon footprint reduction.
Carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities and is usually expressed in an equivalent of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon footprint calculation is useful for individuals and organisations to conceptualise their personal or organisational impact in contributing to global warming. In this order, carbon footprint reduction is a method of fighting climate change. What is more is that this green effort is also an effective marketing tool that can be used by businesses to improve their image and increase customer loyalty.
No doubt the colour of the 21st century is undeniably green. It seems every business, government, marketing strategy and product line includes an eco-friendly component, from new cars to crisps packages. Large companies as well as small businesses try to improve their corporate image and societal acceptance by different green initiatives. And this does not come as surprise considering the fact that sustainability has been shown as an effective marketing strategy. In fact, it is estimated that 56 per cent of the people are more loyal to brands that can show, at a glance, credible evidence of environmental effort.
Many companies have already taken action against the threats of climate change and in favour to their corporate image. Almost every business field has its “green” representatives. Usually they are bigger brands and organisations which use more than one method of demonstrating their environmentally-friendly behaviour regarding manufacture processes or business practices. Many of these companies choose carbon footprint reduction as a green initiative which includes a wide range of measures that support their green reputation. A good example of such a company is PepsiCo.
PepsiCo is represented by two similar brands — Lay’s potato chips in the United States and Walkers crisps in the United Kingdom. And while they may have similar logos and packaging, a subtle difference sets them apart – only one of them reduces its carbon footprint and uses this practise as a successful advertising tool. Each bag of Walkers crisps carries a label which shows the greenhouse gas emissions created by producing each bag of crisps – from growing the potatoes, to production, transportation and the final disposal of the pack. This carbon label initiative is in result of the collaboration between PepsiCo and Carbon Trust, a British-government-funded non-profit organisation that works with businesses and the public to transition to a low-carbon economy.
With Carbon Trust assistance, in March 2007 Walkers became the first food brand in the world to display carbon reduction label and start carbon footprint reduction practices which include reducing electricity and gas consumption, introducing new technology, educating front-line employees to be more energy-aware, switching to 100 per cent British potatoes to lower food miles, running their delivery trucks on biodiesel and driving in the most fuel efficient way. All these initiatives led to a significant carbon reduction. At the beginning of its environmental efforts, Walkers made a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by three per cent by 2009. Having in fact achieved a seven per cent carbon reduction which equals to 6g of CO2 emissions per standard bag of crisps, and an overall saving of 4,800 tonnes of CO2 emissions, Walkers has now committed to reducing its carbon footprint even further.
By developing this carbon footprint reduction label, Walkers and other companies following its example, have shaped the future marketing war over the environmental sustainability of consumer goods and services. The reality is that we are entering an age when consumers at the grocery store will count not only calories but also carbon, and every company willing to provide transparent information about their products’ carbon footprint and take action to reduce it will gain significant societal acceptance and monetary benefits.