Driving loyalty: embracing sustainability and social responsibility

In today’s market, sustainability and social responsibility stand at the forefront of many consumer’s consciousness. Smart brands are integrating these principles into their loyalty programs. By doing so, you can not only foster customer loyalty but also champion eco-friendly practices and social causes.

But integrating sustainability and social responsibility into your loyalty program demands a deep understanding to avoid tokenistic gestures. It’s imperative these elements harmonise with your brand’s core values.

Which brands can reward sustainability and responsibility through loyalty programs?

Brands that generate substantial waste, like fast fashion or fast food, can find value in loyalty programs incentivising recycling or waste reduction.

Conversely, those offering inherently sustainable products, such as eco-friendly beauty or outdoor clothing, can consider programs promoting circular fashion models or eco-conscious packaging, to align seamlessly with their brand ethos.

Additionally, brands focused on social responsibility can craft programs supporting charitable causes or community engagement initiatives.

As outlined in Loyalty & Reward Co’s Essential Eight™ principles, loyalty programs should harmonise with a brand’s mission, values, and encourage consumers to adopt sustainable behaviours.

Do Australian consumers prioritise sustainability?

Consumer attitudes toward sustainability vary, yet studies indicate a growing importance on sustainability.

However, actions don’t always mirror stated values. IBM’s studies on consumer attitudes confirm this trend, highlighting a disparity between intention and action. Despite a significant number expressing willingness to pay premiums for sustainable products, actual spending behaviour often doesn’t align.

IBM’s 2022 study showed that while 62% of consumers expressed willingness to alter purchasing habits for environmental conservation, only 31% stated sustainable products formed most of their recent purchases.

While actions may not always match words, the evidence suggests an increasing number of consumers consider sustainability in their purchasing decisions. Integrating sustainability into your loyalty program gives your brand a better chance to attract and retain like-minded consumers.

Challenges and criticisms surrounding sustainability initiatives

Sustainability presents challenges and complexities that demand a holistic approach. Some initiatives may focus solely on environmental impact, neglecting social or economic repercussions. For instance, the use of biofuels might lead to deforestation and adverse environmental effects. Certain eco-friendly materials might inadvertently impact human health, illustrating the unintended consequences of sustainability initiatives.

Critics argue that sustainability overly emphasises individual actions, sidestepping systemic issues like government policies or corporate practices. Moreover, sustainability initiatives could inadvertently exclude certain demographics due to cost or accessibility.

Despite these challenges, progress towards sustainability requires continual efforts, acknowledging its complexity and evolving nature.

Integrating Sustainability into Loyalty Programs

Incorporating sustainability and social responsibility into your loyalty program necessitates a balanced commercial model. Designing a program that incentivises sustainable behaviour without compromising business viability is crucial. This involves considering reward costs, redemption frequency, and profitability impact. Thorough market research and understanding customer behaviour are vital for crafting a loyalty program that aligns with sustainability goals while ensuring commercial feasibility.

Successful examples of brands integrating sustainability into loyalty programs

According to research by Markstein and Certus Insights, seventy per cent of consumers want to know what the brands they support are doing to address social and environmental issues.

Here’s a handful of examples of loyalty programs helping brands and consumers make positive contributions to sustainability:

  • H&M’s digital loyalty program allows members to collect “Conscious” points for making sustainable choices including recycling clothes they no longer use. H&M’s Garment Collecting programme is the biggest of its kind in the world, allowing customers to take unwanted clothes or textiles to their local store for rewear, reuse or recycling.
  • Patagonia’s “Worn Wear” Program encourages customers to bring in used Patagonia clothing for repair or recycling in exchange for store credit, aligning with their outdoor clothing brand’s sustainable ethos.
  • Members of Australian Yoga wear brand Luna & Soul’s reward program can earn points by being a sustainable and eco-conscious customer.
  • Burger chain Grill’d integrates a unique facet into their Relish loyalty program, where customers can claim a complimentary burger or donate one to a homeless individual, in collaboration with St Vincent de Paul.
  • Gratifii’s own Carbon Offset eGift Cards allow brands to reward their loyalty program members by offsetting their household footprint through the purchase of a gift card that contributes to verified carbon projects.
Thinking about incorporating sustainability into your loyalty program?

Consumers care about sustainability and so should you. By harmonising sustainability efforts with your fundamental mission, you can forge an authentic and unified customer journey.

Here’s some tips to try in your own program:

  • Seek out sustainable options as part of your offering, from packaging to recycling
  • Choose carbon neutral partners in your supply chain
  • When planning your rewards store, try to incorporate sustainable choices
  • Use gamification to engage and reward customers for eco-conscious purchases
  • Test and optimise new initiatives to see what features resonate with your audience
  • If you’re stuck, seek expert guidance on how to integrate sustainability into your loyalty program

Gratifii can offer valuable insights to seamlessly infuse sustainability into your loyalty initiatives. Contact us today.