Another year, another Earth Day

Posted 23.04.21

On Thursday, brands far and wide spoke up and gave their take on how they build towards a brighter future. Despite only 20% of overall consumers saying they’d like to see companies advertise on Earth Day, that doesn’t stop businesses every year from tech to fashion to food launch campaigns centred around the sustainable holiday. Akin to any celebration or cause for public opinion, there’s a level of scepticism attached to Earth Day around brands simply jumping on the green-coloured bandwagon to appear virtuous. ‘Greenwashing’, for lack of a better word, is the charge. Couple this notion with brand scepticism skyrocketing in 2020 off the back of non-stop COVID news and BLM support, and authenticity is key now more than ever. So, what brands nailed it this Earth Day, and what ones were plain as day to see right through?

Budweiser’s video campaign centred around an apocalyptic poem which when read backwards inspires hope and change, despite the difficult challenges ahead. The company has committed to brewing their beer globally by 2025 through wholly renewable energy sources – a bold but brilliant milestone. So far it’s been achieved in numerous territories including the USA, Russia, Chile, France, South Africa and the UK. It’s fantastic to see a leading beer and alcohol provider come out with this promise, and hopefully inspiring similar giants in the sector to follow suit with their hopeful words.

Elsewhere, Garnier employed TikTok to offer their customers a discount to their eco-friendly products. Despite this generous offer, the brand decided to partner with Amazon – a brand infamous for its lack of sustainable ethics and environmental awareness. Unsurprisingly, the ad campaign was met with severe backlash from TikTok users far and wide. This tone deaf strategy is reminiscent of campaigns last summer in the wake of the death of George Floyd, where brands came out in support of the Black community without thinking through the long term reactions to pushing their products in a delicate time. 60% of consumers said they’d hold a better opinion of brands if they mentioned in their ads how they’re actually physically reducing environmental impacts – so it’s no surprise this Garnier x Amazon collaboration went down like a lead balloon, failing to see its downfall whatsoever.

When we think of sustainability we can’t glaze over the world of fast fashion – a huge issue that permeates through our culture from fashion moguls like ASOS to Primark. This year, H&M have partnered with Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams as their leading sustainability ambassador. Part of the partnership is H&M’s Loop initiative. Launched first in Sweden in October 2020, the Loop recycling machines are promoting the donation and recycling of unwanted garms, which will then be turned into new ones. As a part of this campaign, H&M have bridged out into the digital sphere of Animal Crossing, allowing Loop machines to appear in the game to appeal to a younger more ‘eco-focused generation. You can’t help but feel that this is a pin drop in the ocean compared to the 3 billion articles of clothing made every year by H&M. Just how much real damage is being undone by making the brand appear sustainable?

But with the big brands, we have to take the small and look elsewhere at what sustainable companies are doing to make a difference and how they’re surpassing ‘greenwashing’ or self-confessed corporate change. Meat-free food wonder, Quorn, yesterday announced that they had signed a Climate Pledge to go carbon zero-like 2040. Alongside this, they called on their followers to make their own pledge, no matter how small or big. This autonomy being passed onto their already engaged fanbase is the kind of rhetoric wider companies need to employ to make sure people at the grassroots are doing their bit too. Similarly with WhatTheCrapTP (who sell 100% sustainable toilet paper made from bamboo and recycled paper), by offering a product at a discount to their followers that is directly making a positive change, this is the kind of advertising that will cut through on Earth Day. When comparing this to the Garnier x Amazon partnership, we see the best and worst in class examples of brands nailing the holiday and merging it with sales.

As we draw the curtain on another Earth Day, it’s imperative to remember for brands that sustainability isn’t just a fad or an opportunity, but a necessity and a long term project that needs to be handled responsibly from business to business. Where brands have the support and a fully-fledged vision behind enacting effective positive change, this is where we see them succeed and their message resonates.

Ryan Nair – Strategist

Get in touch