Loyalty Programmes Need to Step up to Support a More Sustainable Future

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on November 16, 2021

The world is watching the world leaders at COP26 make pledges to help our planet. More than 100 countries have promised to reverse deforestation by 2030, including almost £14bn of public and private funds. 450 organisations, (who control 130 trillion dollars which is around 40% of the global private assets) have planned to shift finances to support clean technology. There’s a pact to cut emissions of the world’s second-worst warming gas, methane, by 30% by 2030. Now more than ever, sustainability is at the forefront of the marketing agenda too; what can we as loyalty marketers do to really help make a difference?

By: Charlie Hills, CLMP

In Britain, it is well known that loyalty programme members want rewards that help charities and the environment. Back in 2020 in the Mando-Connect and YouGov White Paper “What the Brits want from Loyalty”, 28% of Brits said they wanted to rewards to help charities and the environment. They were second only in desire to rewards that helped them save money (83%) and that were treats for themselves (53%).

This recognition of customer desire has led to a well-established model for how loyalty programmes in Britain have supported good causes and the environment. In short, programmes have offered charity support (including environmental charities) as a “reward” to members, within a broader portfolio of rewards and benefits offered.

The retail loyalty sector has some good examples of this theory in practice:

1) Every time Marks and Spencer’s customer shop with Sparks (in-store, online or through the App) M&S Sparks donates to charity. “Environment, Wildlife and Animals” charities are supported by the programme, including Cool Earth, The Marine Protection Society, RSPB, pdsa, Woodland Trust, and WWF. So far the programme has donated almost £10m.

2) Tesco Clubcard also enables members to donate their Clubcard vouchers to charity. Members can choose to donate to one of six supported charities including WWF, the Trussell Trust, FareShare, Diabetes UK, BHF, and Cancer Research UK.

3) The Co-Op loyalty programme takes a different angle, asking members to choose local charities to support. Members have donated £15m to 4,500 local causes across the country.

Most programmes now offer a version of this approach; it’s becoming a hygiene factor for our industry. And programmes have adapted this core approach to fit the needs of their particular sector or loyalty mechanic. For example, some brands enable members to choose the charities they want to support, whereas other select the charity for the member. Some programmes offer this as an “always on” reward, and some just offer it as a short-term “campaign”. We anticipate that the Christmas period this year will be particularly keen for this type of activity from loyalty programmes.

However the execution is adapted, the core premise remains the same: charitable (and environmental) support is presented as a reward option for members and a financial donation is made to that charity. In this model, the pressure is normally on the member, not the programme, to select rewarding the charity. And environmental and sustainable charities are offered as one of a number of charitable options.

In 2021 there is increasing recognition that loyalty programmes (and marketers everywhere) can and should do more than this — that the focus on sustainability and corporate social responsibility needs to go deeper than simply offering a charity as a reward.

There are some great examples in Britain, where programmes are doing more than offering sustainability as a charity reward option.

1) Costa Club is one of the biggest programmes in Britain and it has just re-launched with a new mechanic and proposition that actively rewards sustainable behaviours. Members who use a re-usable cup for 4 coffees get 1 free. Members who don’t, have to buy 8 coffees to get 1 free. It’s twice as good for members who demonstrate sustainable behaviours.

2) BrewDog has also made sustainability a bold part of the launch of its new loyalty programme, Planet Brewdog “Drink Beer. Earn Rewards. Kill Carbon”. BrewDog plants a tree for every multipack of beer sold, and they have also worked hard on their business, they take twice as much carbon out of the air as they emit.

3) TK Maxx Treasure is another good example of a programme doing more than offering charity rewards. Members collect keys and then choose from a range of rewards. Recent great sustainable rewards offered include reusable Beeswax wraps to keep food fresh (in August 2021) and Bee Bombs, recyclable and sustainable “seed bombs”, packed with native wild flower seeds to re-create lost habitats and bring back bees (in June 2021).

The challenge to all loyalty marketers in 2021 is simple. How can you help people live more sustainably? What small and big steps can you take to make a difference? 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?

Charlie Hills is the Managing Director & Head of Strategy at Mando-Connect, a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional, and a featured contributor to Wise Marketer.