Brand citizenship or clever marketing

* 3 min read

first touched on the subject of sustainable packaging solutions and brand citizenship back in June.  With Christmas just around the corner and considering the masses of packaging that will soon be consumed, now seems the perfect time to revisit this important issue. 

Brand citizenship has become more prominent in recent years, with companies seemingly taking their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) more seriously. The trend for sustainable packaging continues to grow and more recently we’ve seen brands looking to extend the life of their packaging through innovative design and structure; giving packaging a purpose beyond its primary role. 

Three of my favourite examples of packaging with life after use are:

1. M&S’s Ruby & Lime Quencher salad castle shaped biodegradable moulded plastic pack, which can be           used by kids to make sandcastles on the beach

2. Puma’s reusable Clever Little Bag replacing traditional cardboard shoeboxes

3. Coca-Cola’s 2nd Lives campaign which saw the company create 16 screw-on caps that transform empty       plastic bottles into something fun, including water pistols, paint brushes and pencil sharpeners.

Do brands go far enough?

Whilst the use of sustainable packaging is an obvious channel to allow brands to be good citizens, it doesn’t always go far enough. Pampers, for example, face a tough challenge; with over one million tonnes of nappies going to landfill every year. In order to off-set the negative impact that their products have on the environment, Pampers engage in true brand citizenship on both a local and global scale. Locally, they provide an advise resource for soon to be and new parents, offering guidance on a range of topics, from choosing the right nappy through to safety and sleep. 

The company reinforces its vision for ‘caring for children’s help and development’ by partnering with Unicef, with the aim of eliminating maternal and new-born tetanus. For every pack of nappies Pampers sell, they fund one vaccine to be administered in the most deprived areas of the world. 

Why do brands aim to become good citizens?

Although all of the schemes that I’ve touched on are of course positive, the question remains as to the motivation of each brand. Why do they aim to become good citizens? Is it a genuine commitment to CSR, or is it simply creative marketing? 

The truth is that in most instances brands talk about CSR and engage in brand citizenship because they believe they should be seen to be doing so. Perhaps they’re also motivated to get ahead of any legislation that may come into play in the future. So whilst we should certainly commend brands for their efforts to give packaging a life after use and offering advice and support to society, there’s still much more that can, and must, be done in order to tackle the issue of waste. 

We must commit together…

If we’re truly to tackle waste then there must be a collective commitment from government, consumers and brands. It is pointless brands putting their efforts into manufacturing sustainable packaging if consumers don’t actually recycle. Likewise, in order for consumers to recycle, local governments must provide the ability to do so easily, with regular kerb-side collections. As it stands, we’re some way off achieving the EU set recycling targets and there seems to be less urgency from consumers and, more worryingly, the government.  

If big brands are serious about CSR, now’s the time for them to follow through with their commitments and open dialogue with the government on how we can all work better together to tackle the issue of waste.