Consumers Think Loyalty Programmes Need To Do More in Sustainability

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on June 7, 2022

In 2021 we challenged loyalty programmes everywhere to do more to address consumers’ desire for sustainability. Helping the environment is a topic that really matters: 90% of Brits always make an effort to recycle, 71% think green energy is the future, 63% are trying to use less electricity to help the environment. Action is following intent. But what can loyalty programmes actually do to help?

By: Charlie Hills & Isobel Finlayson, Mando-Connect

8 Solid Tactics To Consider

In 2022, we continue the challenge, and have new research to share. In partnership with YouGov, Mando-Connect commissioned new research that revealed that the majority (71%) of British adults think loyalty programmes should help people live more sustainably or support the environment.

When we dug deeper into the data, exclusively explored for The Wise Marketer, we uncovered that it’s even more important to women (77% vs 66% of men), to younger people (78% of 18-24s vs 69% of those aged 55+), and to ABC1 consumers (at 76% vs 65% of C2DE). Interestingly, it’s also far more important to households with children in — 82% of one child households and 74% of two or three child households think that loyalty programmes should help people live more sustainably or support the environment (vs 69% of those with no children in the household).

The research then went on to explore what tactics programmes could employ to help address their sustainability goals. It uncovered 8 tactics:

#1. Reward sustainable and environmentally friendly behaviours

44% of Brits said they want programmes to reward sustainable or environmentally friendly behaviours. It was the most popular tactic identified in the research, appealing to the largest number of respondents. Costa Coffee Club is a great example of a programme rewarding its members for sustainable behaviours — members earn free coffees twice as quickly if they use a reusable cup. Traditionally loyalty programmes have rewarded members for transactions, spend or just for staying longer. But increasingly in the last few years we have seen other behaviours creep in to the reward cycle. Members are rewarded for social engagement, for recommendation, and even for basic interactions.

Monica Vinader (a sustainable jewellery brand) offers members of its MV Family Rewards programme points for spend, sign up to the newsletter, referring a friend and for following the brand on instagram or facebook. The brand itself prides itself on its strong sustainability creds “Monica designs jewellery that empowers, uplifts and endures using only recycled gold vermeil, sterling silver and sustainably sourced natural gemstones, diamonds and pearls” and positions itself as an industry leader in sustainability having won many awards. They offer a great Repair, Rewear, Recycle programme too. We wonder how long it will be until the team in charge of the loyalty programme start building in extra rewards for sustainable behaviours too, points for recycling anyone?

#2. Rewards that help members live more sustainably

43% of Brits said programmes should offer rewards to help them live more sustainably. TK Maxx Treasure is a great example of a programme that offers these type of rewards in its portfolio — from reusable wax wraps to bee bombs to wool drier balls to bio-degradable hair brushes and reusable make-up removal pads.

#3. Support environmental causes

39% of Brits thought supporting environmental causes mattered. This is an area that loyalty programmes have done very well in — enabling members to donate points to environmental charities, creating rewards where members can donate to charity directly, and even just promoting charitable causes directly to their members.

A recent great example was a partnership between VOXI Drop (the loyalty programme of VOXI, a telco network designed for Gen Z) and Cool Earth (a charity that supports projects helping biodiversity, people and trees.) VOXI donated £60,000 to Cool Earth and VOXI Drop members could choose the projects that were supported. A hugely successful partnership and a great example of a programme supporting an environmental charity in a way true to its brand values.

#4. Offer rewards from brands that help and support sustainable causes

33% said programmes should offer rewards from brands that help and support sustainable causes. And, in fact, 59% of Brits say that they prefer brands that are sustainable. There is a plethora of sustainable brands with that loyalty marketers can partner with to create unique and engaging rewards for their members. From brands who began with sustainability at their heart like Patagonia or Finisterre, to more established brands who are making significant sustainability shifts such as Ikea or H&M.  The challenge to loyalty marketers everywhere is to ensure you are exploring the sustainability credentials of every brand you partner with.

#5. Offer a digital card rather than a plastic or paper one

31% said they should offer a digital card rather than a plastic or paper one. As we move to a smartphone enabled digital world, loyalty programmes need to explore the possibility for their audience of just offering a digital card. It’s worked for many programmes. Lidl Plus is a great example of a grocery loyalty programme that’s plastic card free. Launched as a digital only proposition it’s gone from strength to strength.

#6. Offsetting carbon

28% felt programmes should offset carbon. In fact, 71% of people in the UK are concerned about their carbon footprint and want to take action. This is an interesting area for loyalty programmes to consider. Shell Go+ has tried it with mixed success. Members can join the programme’s CO2 offset programme, which, as long as they join, opt in and swipe their card, Shell offsets the carbon emissions from the fuel purchases they make by purchasing carbon credits.

#7. Provide information to members about the environment and sustainability

One fifth said programmes should provide information to members about the environment and sustainability. This is an absolutely critical area for programmes, your sustainability policy needs to be clear, accessible, and aligned to the Masterbrand’s. If possible, go one further, and share your environmentally supportive and sustainability actions with them as part of your regular membership communications.

#8. Offer forums to discuss environmental and sustainability issues and suggestion solutions.

8% of Brits thought that programmes should offer this to members, whilst it’s only a small percentage who want this, it’s an interesting area for highly interactive programmes to consider. If you have a regular 2-way dialogue with your membership that includes suggestions and forums, you should definitely consider adding a sustainability stream.

We believe that every loyalty programme should be acting to support the environment and improve its sustainability positioning. The challenge to all loyalty marketers in 2022 is the same as the one we posed in 2021 — How can you help people live more sustainably? What small and big steps can you take to make a difference?

And that applies to all of us that work in this industry, big and small. As part of Mando, Mando-Connect, who authored the white paper, have taken their first step towards becoming a climate positive team by signing up to the #MillionTreePledge in partnership with Ecologi. Planting trees is recognised to be one of the best ways to prevent the earth’s temperature from rising above 1.5C. Mando has pledged to plant 1 million trees by 2030 and they will be planting trees to offset their carbon emissions as well as in honour of colleagues and clients to recognise work anniversaries, personal performance, team events, and articles. They will plant 100 trees to show their support for this article too.      

We are excited to see what loyalty marketers will do and how our industry can step up and help make a difference. Will sustainability become the next big KPI for loyalty programmes? What can you do to help?

Charlie Hills, CLMP, is the Managing Director & Head of Strategy at Mando-Connect and a featured contributor to Wise Marketer. Isobel Finlayson is the Senior Account Director and Sustainability Lead at Mando-Connect.