Are UK Agencies doing enough to save our planet?
by Tony Chambers
Our planet is under immense pressure from our global commercial activities and consumerism lifestyles.
Climate change, unsustainable food supply chains and farming practices, combined with growing populations – are all making us more mindful of what we consume, and the impact on our planet and its fragile resources. The responsibility lies with us all now to change the way we consume precious resources and treat our natural environment. From choosing the kind of food we eat, understanding where it comes from, how it’s packaged and delivered to us, understanding and evaluating the damage that is done in this chain – and finally doing something very positive to change damaging processes for good.
We already know a great deal now about what is good and what is bad. We can make the right informed choices – as consumers, and as businesses.
It is now time to be bold, brave and ambitious in taking effective actions.
Branding and Creative Agencies working in the F&B and Hospitality sector are in a unique position to influence change – both for businesses and consumers.
There is now more than ever a clearer picture of the right things to do, versus wrong and damaging habits and practices.
We see first-hand how our clients face these challenges and the decisions they make – for commercial reasons, and sometimes for ethical reasons.
The pressure on clients and client brands to make big bold positive CSR and environmental commitments and actionable changes in the way they work is going to become overwhelming in terms of peer market and consumer pressure and expectations. We in the Creative Sector can really help them and besides it is the right thing to do anyway. We need to all be much bolder in embracing this urgent new challenge using our unique skills.
…just some of the key environmental challenge highlights relating to the F&B / Hospitality sector in 2019:
1/3 of all food in the world is wasted | 10 million tonnes of food waste are generated in the UK each year | In developing countries, 30-50% of all food spend is wasted | Families are the biggest wasters – the average UK family wastes £60 pm throwing away food | … and against that stat – 8.4 m UK people have insufficient food (Too Poor To Eat (Food Insecurity), Food Foundation, 2014, UN data) | 26% of land on the planet (ice-free) is used for livestock grazing | 33% of croplands are used for animal-feed production | Reducing world meat consumption would re-direct these valuable resources to feeding people | 40% of shoppers see the environmental impacts of their food purchases as either very important or extremely important in their decision-making UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3: cutting food waste by 50% by 2030) | Plastic pollution is one of the most important polluting and health problems we face globally today | 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste has been produced to date (since 1950). More than 70% ends up in landfills or our natural environment | Plastic packaging is the main cause of this waste. It is particularly harmful to marine life (www.earthday.org – Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit).
Creative Agencies have a special role…
…and opportunity to make a massive positive impact against this situation – as trusted specialist creative partners to our clients and their brands.
Designers and agencies are driven by the desire to make the world a better place. We make positive change by influencing trends and habits through our creative ideas and creative inspirations. Consumers, particularly younger consumers, are already more and more on board with sustainability challenges (40% of millennials consume a plant based diet) – we can really help our clients be relevant to consumer expectations and needs. We can encourage clients to build a CSR pillar as part of their overall brand proposition. We build brands. CSR is becoming a fundamentally important part of brand purpose, and brands should be at the centre of everything our clients say and do and how they behave.
As part of our offer, we can really help clients to have a seamless CSR/Environmental proposition as part of their brand offer to customers. We can also help them in delivering important CSR messages to their end customers through the customer journey and across engagement platforms.
Here are a few practical examples of what we can help with…
• Implement effective recycling stations for both food waste and packaging and help customers embrace this as part of the shopping journey through effective communication • Agencies are in the business of relationship-building. We can really help our clients engage clearly and effectively with their customers in terms of CSR as a key part of their overall business offer • Ensure CSR gets deeply embedded in a client’s culture – touching everyone in their business. To do this agencies need to lead by example – making sure everyone in the agency is inspired and motivated to do good through our own CSR culture • Help retailers introduce mechanisms to measure food waste, and set targets to cut it (continuous improvement) • Schemes for re-distribution of surplus food rather than throwing away • Encourage reduction of packaging and plastics where possible • Help retailers choose the right/best packaging solution • Schemes for customers to bring their own containers to avoid unnecessary packaging use • Good plant based options on the menu, and other foods which are more ecologically sustainable • Encourage options which offer potential for reduction in meat diet • Encourage customers to ask ethical questions as part of their decision making. Ethical decisions are often healthier decisions too • Have clear transparent stories on the journeys food makes from source to consumer • Use technology and data to inform customers of the journey their food makes, and the impact of waste, to change behaviour and habits
Use language and statements to really emphasise the benefit of greater plant-based options available to customers | Good for health in overall dining mix, good for the planet. We can influence customer behaviour and choice | Move plant-based dishes away from just in vegetarian/vegan section of menu, to stand equally alongside other menu dishes | Menu Marketing – offer free tastings on novel new plant-based or environmentally friendly dishes
I really think the time has arrived for us to grasp this opportunity as a creative industry. We need to be bold and brave in our aspirations and our actions. We need to build a dynamic robust CSR brand pillar as part of our service offer, if we have not done so already. We need to embrace ISO14001 as a standard for how we work and behave as businesses. We need to seek to influence and educate our clients and society as part of our service at every opportunity.
This is a service offer which can have huge positive benefits for the commercial success of our clients going forward, as well as for society.
And in turn will also benefit the success of our creative businesses. If not, we run the serous risk of being complicit in the neglect of our planet and it’s fragile eco-system – society and future consumers will also judge us against this.
And besides… it is the right thing for us all to do.
Credits and references:
Towards a circular food chain: Pelican Communications, 2019
The Drum, issue 08, vol 40 – The Future of Food.
Too Poor To Eat (Food Insecurity), Food Foundation, 2014
END PLASTIC POLLUTION – EARTH DAY 2018 – Earth Day Network
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