Trewin Restorick of sustainability communications charity Hubbub says campaigns such as the #SquareMileChallenge to recycle coffee cups, launched this week, succeed if they are positive and playful
This week saw the charity Hubbub launch #SquareMileChallenge, the UK's largest coffee cup recycling campaign, which seeks to recycle half a million cups from the centre of London during the month of April.
The idea started at a meeting I had in a non-descript hotel lobby with Simply Waste Solutions and Simply Cups. Ten months later we had managed to persuade most of the coffee cup high street retailers, manufacturers, recyclers, major employers plus Network Rail and the City of London to get behind the concept. It is an unprecedented coalition of organisations supporting one clear objective: to make it easy for people to recycle their coffee cups.
Focus on what matters to people
The SquareMileChallenge is a great example of the type of campaign I was looking to develop when I created Hubbub two and a half years ago. I had spent most of my working life in the environment sector, starting as a recycling campaigner at Friends of the Earth through to setting up new enterprises such as PaperRound and Global Action Plan.
During this career, I was getting increasingly frustrated that, despite growing scientific evidence, many people were either not engaged with or openly hostile to environmental messages. Why was this?
For me, one of the reasons was poor communication. Rather than talk about sustainability, carbon footprints or biodiversity, why not talk to people about things they are passionate about, such as the food they eat, the clothes they wear, their homes and neighbourhoods.
Using these topics, could people be persuaded to cut food waste, to run their homes more efficiently or to create cleaner neighbourhoods? Hubbub has discovered that the answer is a resounding yes. Positive, playful, lifestyle campaigns seem to resonate with people and have also attracted a diverse range of businesses keen to take a fresh approach to environmental engagement.
IKEA’s Goldilocks campaign
One of the first was IKEA, with whom Hubbub has helped to create LiveLAGOM. LAGOM is a Goldilocks Swedish word meaning "just the right amount - not too much and not too little". It captures the essence of sustainability whilst keeping the Swedish ethic for which the IKEA brand is renowned.
From a business perspective, the aim of LAGOM was to increase the sale of IKEA products that help people to save energy, reduce waste, cut water use and live more actively. LAGOM also sought to increase awareness of IKEA’s co-workers and customers about the level of investment being made in sustainability.
The fundamental approach of LAGOM is to let IKEA’s customers tell the sustainability story. The first step was to make it easy for customers to know what products would help them to take action. A LAGOM brochure was created showcasing the products. IKEA’s Family Members were offered £500 to spend on IKEA products that would help them meet LAGOM’s ambitions. More than 8,000 customers applied and, in partnership with Hubbub and the University of Surrey, 125 households were selected from across the country to participate.
Each household received a home visit from Hubbub, enabling the charity to explain the ambitions of LAGOM in more detail, to take people through the catalogue and to discuss how changes in behaviour could cut household bills. Households were invited to their local IKEA for a store tour, where they could see products first-hand, look behind the scenes at IKEA’s sustainability activities and get to know a co-worker who would be on hand to help them LiveLAGOM.
The selected customers then made their decisions on how to spend their £500, and were encouraged to share experiences through a closed Facebook group and WhatsApp. They agreed to tell their stories to others using all forms of social media. The University of Surrey worked with the households to measure lifestyle change, including shifts in values and understanding as well as financial and environmental savings.
IKEA's sustainable products sales double
LiveLAGOM is now in its second year and is gaining momentum both inside and outside the company. IKEA has reported that sales of its “sustainable life at home products” have nearly trebled. The company has a growing bank of customer stories from which it can learn and share. The project has given the company additional insight into what products are most popular and what new things they might consider selling. In the first year LED lights and all things connected to food storage were most popular.
Unexpectedly the LAGOM has also been picked as a lifestyle trend. Influential magazines such as Vogue and Elle have proclaimed it is time for Hygge to step aside and be replaced by the more sustainable LAGOM. Given this level of interest, IKEA is gradually building the profile of the campaign and in June will be showcasing the LAGOM lifestyle in all of its stores.
The ongoing relationship with the University of Surrey is helping IKEA collect independent, academically verified data on the impact of the campaign, which will help the Swedish big box retailer to develop its sustainability strategy and enable other retailers to learn what can be achieved.
Sainsbury’s food waste campaign
The IKEA experience inspired Sainsbury to approach Hubbub, and we have worked with Sainsbury to develop "Waste less, save more", a five-year, £10m campaign helping Sainsbury’s customers to reduce food waste and save money.
As part of this, Sainsbury launched a national competition, offering £1m to a UK town willing to act as a test-bed for a range of new approaches to cut food waste. The South Derbyshire town of Swadlincote beat more than 200 entries and during the past year has been acting as a social experiment for a range of different interventions, including a community fridge and education programmes.
In the second year of the programme a £1m fund will enable communities from across the UK to bid for grants of up to £50,000 to replicate the most successful elements from the Swadlincote experiment.
Experiment, then replicate at scale
The relationship with Sainsbury neatly captures the Hubbub model, which is to experiment intensively and then seek to replicate at scale.
A growing number of companies are being drawn to this approach. The charity has recently run a highly successful campaign called #GiftaBundle with Mothercare, which redistributed more than 20,000 pieces of high quality out-grown baby clothing to families struggling to make ends meet.
Plans in the future including tackling plastics in our waterways and exploring the sharing economy. It will be intriguing to see if more companies are interested in partnering on these new areas, building on the experience and learning that has been gathered over Hubbub’s first two years of existence.
Square Mile circular economy sustainability Ikea Sainsbury Mothercare carbon footprint coffee cup waste