Aberfield Communications Logo Menu

A look at Coca-Cola’s new sustainability campaign which aims to encourage customers to recycle plastic bottles.

Posted on Thu 3rd Aug, 2017 in: Blogs, Industry Comment by Roslyn Fordyce

Coca-Cola has launched a sustainability campaign, the first of its kind by the company in Great Britain. The multi-million pound campaign aims to encourage customers to recycle plastic bottles. The campaign tells the love story of a Fanta and a Coca-Cola bottle, which keep meeting due to consumers recycling them.

The campaign plans to reach 35 million Britons by the end of the year which, as it is estimated that less than half of the plastic bottles we buy in Britain are recycled, is great to hear.

This year an international study by Unilever revealed that a third of consumers are choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. This should prove positive for Coca-Cola and its new campaign, but the word ‘believe’ sticks out to me.

While consumers are now more actively considering environmental impact with their purchases, something like a 500ml drink is a low value purchase. Consumers are unlikely to actively try to find out which brand is more sustainable when they are deciding which £1 drink to buy on their lunch break. This makes the brand that consumers think is more sustainable more likely to win, rather than the brand that is actually more sustainable. 

The study by Unilever went on to say that the brands which have integrated sustainability - such as Dove, Hellman’s and Ben & Jerry’s - delivered nearly half the company’s global growth in 2015.

These brands also happen to be ones that have had campaigns about their sustainability. Dove is part of Unilever’s Bright Future campaign. Hellman’s recently released a new ketchup, marketed to be healthier and more sustainable as it is sweetened with honey rather than sugar. Ben & Jerry’s run an annual Free Cone Day that promotes the company’s values and the good it does, including its support for environmental sustainability.

This raises a question. What is more important: how sustainable a brand is, or how sustainable the consumer thinks the brand is?

To look deeper at Coca-Cola’s sustainability efforts, the campaign gives the impression that its plastic bottles are made of recycled material. But the bottles, while being 100% recyclable, are currently made of only 25% recycled materials.

Coca-Cola says it plans to increase this to 50% by 2020, which sounds like a big improvement. However, competitor Ribena’s bottles are currently completely made up of recycled materials – a full 100%. And they have been since 2007!

While some of you may already know about Ribena’s recycled bottles, I doubt that 35 million other Britons do, the number which Coca-Cola’s campaign is expected to reach. This shows how important a campaign and brand positioning are. In terms of sustainability from plastic bottles Ribena, owned by GSK, is doing much better than Coca-Cola. But when I type ‘Ribena recycled bottles’ into a search engine the entire first page is results from 2007. If I do the same search term for Coke, the results are all from this year.

As highlighted by Unilever’s study, a third of consumers take sustainability into consideration in their purchase. When buying a drink on their lunch break, what do you think those third of consumers will think is more sustainable and choose to buy: a plastic bottle of Cola-Cola or a plastic bottle of Ribena? After this campaign, my bet is on Coca-Cola.

There is no doubt that being sustainable is a good thing for a company to be, whether or not people know about it. But sustainability can have benefits to a business that would impress the board and this could encourage more companies to prioritise it.

Sustainability matters to consumers and it could show positively in things like sales and brand image, just like it has for Unilever and probably will for Coca-Cola. The key thing is, consumers have to know about it.

Back to news

Twitter Icon LinkedIn Icon Pinterest Icon Google Icon