Brand owners in green drive

13 May 2011

NEW YORK: Brand owners such as The Campbell Soup Company, Kraft and Unilever are developing their sustainability credentials, both to engage shoppers and fuel growth.

The Campbell Soup Company has recently adopted a broad range of objectives covering this area to be achieved by 2020.

Individual targets concern cutting carbon emissions and water use, reducing childhood obesity, encouraging staff to champion corporate social responsibility and improving customers' nutritional intake.

"These goals are not isolated platforms. They are a framework for making better business decisions," said Douglas Conant, Campbell's chief executive.

Campbell's now has 200+ products containing less sodium and fat, 150 items with no more than 100 calories per serving, and 115 lines approved by the American Heart Association.

Further activities have included offering financial backing to firms run by women and members of ethnic minorities, alongside introducing an eco-friendly beverage bottle.

"A vibrant CSR programme inspires greater support of our company agenda while guiding that agenda in a caring, thoughtful, and socially responsible way," Conant said.

Elsewhere, Kraft, the parent of LU and Cadbury, has beefed up its existing environmental schemes, adding more rigorous measurement in fields like transportation and agricultural commodities.

"We're learning, improving and looking beyond our four walls for opportunities," said Steve Yucknut, Kraft's vice president, sustainability. "Our new goals will help us do more."

Between 2010 and 2015, the firm will increase the sustainable sourcing of commodities by 25%, trimming plant energy usage by 15% and eliminating 50,000 metric tonnes of packaging.

Kraft has already secured certification from the Rainforest Alliance for its coffee, boosting brand equity as a result.

"Our commitment in coffee is a great example of how we're making sustainability an integral part of how we do business," Hubert Weber, president, Coffee, Kraft Foods Europe, said.

"Our consumers and customers care about the benefits that certification delivers. That's good for business."

Earlier this year, Unilever rolled out a new Sustainable Living Plan, aiming to halve the ecological impact of its brands, source all raw materials in an ethical way, and assisting 1bn people in enhancing their wellbeing by 2020.

It has now formed a tie-up with Recyclebank to show American buyers how to cut water usage and waste, placing digital media and reward points at the heart of such efforts.

"As one of the world's largest consumer packaged goods companies, we have a responsibility to grow our business while reducing our environmental impact, but we need to collaborate with others," said Kathy O'Brien, vp, personal care, at Unilever.

"Recyclebank is a natural partner to help us educate and engage consumers regarding what simple steps they can take to help protect the planet, and save them money in return."

Procter & Gamble has witnessed the positive benefits that result from embracing green policies, offsetting the surging prices of raw materials.

"We're reducing our dependency on commodity and energy costs through our sustainability efforts," said Jon Moeller, its cfo, last month.

"We just launched compacted powder detergents in the US, for example. These use less packaging material and require less energy to transport."

Petraea Heynike, Nestlé's head, marketing and sales, also suggested corporate branding may prove the most effective way of communicating with shoppers concerning such issues.

The Swiss food group is pursuing strategies from modernising models of growing cocoa to saving honey bees, and believes building popular confidence is especially important in developing economies.

"If anything, in the emerging markets where they have less money, they need to have that faith and trust to an even greater degree," said Heynike.

Data sourced Seeking Alpha, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff