Brands Building a Sustainable Future

Brands Building a Sustainable Future

‘REDUCE. REUSE. RECYCLE.’ It’s a phrase that’s been instilled heavily into our lives especially over the past 10 years. The evidence is there to prove how much use of single usage products is impacting on society and the environment around us. From slogans such as ‘Save the Turtles’ and ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ to ‘Save the Earth’, our social responsibility is becoming more prevalent than ever. This social responsibility has become a Corporate Social Responsibility for business. Therefore, we have seen noticeable changes in packaging and quality provided by some of our larger brands- in some cases this was due to corporate decision making and in others this was due to influence from customer pressure.

Primark are one of the latest companies to add to their corporate social responsibility through their ‘Primark Cares Initiative’ which already has single-use plastics, sustainable cotton and recycled materials as commitments. They have a new large paper bag designed with a candy-stripe seasonal print which can be reused as gift-wrap to enhance their commitment to the environment.

Primark aren’t the first company to do this. FatFace had this initiative back in Winter 2019, obviously with a different print. They advertised this on their Instagram with a tutorial video on how customers may use the bag to wrap a gift, whilst also acknowledging that a tag can be cut out from the bag too. Whilst some may undermine this, the sustainability factor of a paper bag as gift wrap or even to back schoolbooks is incredibly beneficial. Not only does it save on paper wastage, but it also saves people money on purchasing wrapping paper! 

Of course, paper isn’t the only single-use product businesses are reducing. Last year, McDonald’s changed their classic plastic straws to paper ones, all due to a customer petition for them to change. The argument that plastic straws don’t degrade, only break up into smaller pieces which can be swallowed by turtles, large birds and fish made public support and sign it. The popularity of the petition weighed heavily in the corporate social responsibility conscience for McDonald’s leading to them making the executive decision to follow through and change to paper straws. This effectively in turn influenced other large brands such as Starbucks and KFC changing to paper straws to match the sustainability trend.

Our high streets and fast food chains aren’t the only places who are making changes to help create a more sustainable future. Recently, ASDA have opened a ‘new sustainability store’ as a trial at their Middleton store in Leeds, which is hoped to play a major part of their plastic reduction strategy in which customers will pay less for greener choices. In order to do this the supermarket chain have partnered with major UK household brands including Kellogg’s, Radox and Persil to name a few. Again, this is a major initiative from a large business to endeavour to help the public to reduce, reuse and recycle easily.

To compliment this further ASDA have also launched a national price promise called ‘Greener at Asda Price’ which vows that loose and unwrapped products (e.g. fruit and vegetables) will cost less than their wrapped equivalents. This is not only beneficial for the environment, but it will save customers money when shopping at ASDA.

Whilst all the measures taken by the previously mentioned businesses above are a step in the right direction to achieve a greener planet, there are many businesses in society who have made little to no changes. Unfortunately, some are still stuck in their old ways and reluctant to change. Therefore, we need to make more sustainability driven decisions to improve things for our generation and for the generations to follow.

As a society we need to make changes to how we purchase, what we purchase and where we purchase from. These decisions may not seem like they are making big changes now, however over time they will have drastic effects. The responsibility ultimately comes to us to make ethically informed decisions to reduce our carbon footprint and save the planet we live in! So, remember the mantra ‘Reduce. Reuse. Recycle’.

Holly Lucy Mc Allister is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter and LinkedIn

How David Attenborough is changing the world using modern media, one millennial at a time

How David Attenborough is changing the world using modern media, one millennial at a time
Sir David Attenborough becomes fastest person to reach one million  followers on Instagram

There is likely no one on this earth who has had a life similar to David Attenborough’s. He lived through a world war, was in the navy, has a knighthood and has won countless television awards. From whales to polar bears he has seen it all. Attenborough is now 94, and still wants to help us protect our planet. Even though most people would start slowing down at his age, he feels it is his duty to give us the information we need to save our planet, even if it involves new methods of communication he has never used before.

I first remember seeing Attenborough every Sunday night after my roast dinner on Planet Earth. I always was amazed by his voice and his complete love for the animals but above all his knowledge. He talks about how he has known there was a problem for years but wanted to have researched it to the absolute max before he got his message out and to know the best forms of communication to get it out. I think this is the most impressive thing about him. Given the current state of the environment, it is imperative that something is done to stop the continual destruction of the planet. David Attenborough knows this, but more importantly, knows that the people who could actually make the difference are not the older generations, but the millennials. He has realised it is something that we need to be brought up with and that the solutions must be given before people have a chance to make the mistakes. From his advertising and marketing for his new Netflix film, this is abundantly clear.

Sir David Attenborough breaks Instagram record for fastest time to reach  one million followers | Guinness World Records

On the 24th September 2020, Attenborough started his first Instagram account breaking the Guinness World Record for fastest user to Reach one million followers in just four hours and forty-four minutes. Breaching from the normal forms of communication he has used over the last sixty years, this highlights how he and his marketing team are taking advantage of modern media. This was definitely not a whim from Attenborough so that he can finally post pictures of himself and his friends on holiday, but a stroke of marketing genius. This was exactly the media attention he needed before the release of his Netflix film. It had everyone talking about it, and everyone going to look at his account. When you arrive at his account it is simply flooded with poignant videos highlighting environmental issues. These have all racked up millions of views, which completely proves that social media is now the most effective form of communication there is. This account has enabled him to reach a plethora of people that would not normally be interested in him or the environment.

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020) - IMDb

Another very interesting use of modern media is the fact he chose Netflix to stream his new film ‘A Life On Our Planet’ on the 28th September. This is another first for Attenborough, as all his previous shows like Our Planet, were aired on BBC. This again shows that he and his marketing team know television doesn’t have the same traction it used to, especially with younger generations like millennials. I know if I had to chose between Sky and Netflix, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose Netflix. It is also known that families nowadays are scrapping their Sky subscriptions altogether due to its very expensive monthly fees and opting for the much cheaper and more accessible Netflix. I definitely feel like it is difficult today in modern society to find a millennial who doesn’t have access to a Netflix account, whether they have their own or whether they know their friend’s password. This is key in Attenborough’s attempt to make the younger generation aware of the problems in the environment. I found the movie extremely eye opening because I definitely wasn’t aware of the extent of the problem. If we want our kids to live in a better world we need to make changes now.

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet | Official Trailer | Netflix -  YouTube

I find this new presentation of Attenborough fascinating as it is easy just to see him as a very old man that my parents talk about sometimes. However after using these new forms of communication, it almost seems like he is more relatable and more in tune with the world as it is now. It seems to add validity to his message as this is how young people get information nowadays. It is also astonishing to see how wide an audience he can really reach, and how quickly he can do so, just by branching out of his comfort zone and away from his usual platforms of advertising. I think he is a great man and has done so much for our planet, I just hope it isn’t too late!

A young Sir David Attenborough | David attenborough young, David  attenborough, Famous faces

Charlotte Cockcroft is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: LinkedIn – Charlotte Cockcroft, Twitter – @Charlottecockcr and Instagram – @charlottecockcroft .

The Amazon Rainforest Fires of 2019

This summer, the Amazon rainforest began to burn at a rapid rate that hasn’t been seen before in recent years. How could a place described as the lungs of our planet be destroyed in front of our very eyes? Deforestation isn’t a new issue for the Amazon, it can be down to naturally occurring fires but the majority are thought to have been started illegally by ranchers and loggers. Burning down acres of land allows ranchers to create grazing ground for their cattle which in turn destroys the habitat of thousands of species of animals that call the Amazon their home. This threat extends to the Indigenous people who live in and around the rainforest as their protected land is targeted and they are forced to flee.

SS1

There has been a lot of speculation in the media about who exactly is to blame for the increased deforestation rates in the Amazon. Donald Trump is thought to be a key player in the disaster as his trade war with China has left Brazil grappling to support the Chinese agricultural demands. Although, the main problem seems to lie in Brazil’s domestic policies.

It’s hard to discuss the issues surrounding the Amazon rainforest fire without mentioning Brazil’s current president, Jair Bolsonaro. Spoiler Alert: He is not one of the good guys. Bolsonaro is the leader of the Social Liberal Party, as its name suggests it was once firmly rooted in left-wing politics. However, in a bizarre turn of events, Bolsonaro has led the party to abandon its liberal policies. Like its leader, the party now advocates for hard-line stances on abortion, gay marriage and women’s rights.

Bolsonaro himself put the blame on local Non-Governmental Organisations. He believes the very people who are there to protect the environment deliberately started the fires as they had been denied funding. Of course, this seems rather unlikely and there is absolutely no evidence to back up his claim.

The Martyr of the Amazon

2004 FILE PHOTO OF U.S. SISTER DOROTHY STANGPictured above is Sister Dorothy Stang. (Photo: Carlos Silva/AVP)

For many people living in Brazil, speaking up about what is happening in the Amazon is a matter of life or death. When I was researching for this blog post, I came across the story of Sister Dorothy Stang. She was an American nun who had been living in Brazil and was known for helping locals who had been displaced by ranchers. She taught sustainable farming methods and was an advocate for the protection of the rainforest. Her work to protect it, and the communities who lived there, angered ranchers. She was placed on a hit list and at the age of 73, on the 12th of February 2005, Dorothy was shot and killed.

Celebrities Speak Out

SS4

At first, there was a distinct lack of media attention across the world as the fires increased. Actress, Zoe Kravitz, shared a popular post (pictured above) that went viral during the crisis. It compares the lack of media coverage to the Notre Dame fire, which in comparison was covered extensively. With the Notre Dame fire, there was a degree of shock value as a historical building was damaged. Perhaps because the destruction of the rainforest is harder to measure, the media tend to focus on stories that more readily capture the public’s attention. 

As the situation worsened, celebrities and public figures began to show their support by sharing posts highlighting the disaster. Many celebrities are beginning to get involved more actively in politics, especially in matters such as climate change. Celebrity support cannot be underestimated as it can act as a spotlight on events, focuses media attention on an issue and creates pressure for politicians to take action.

SS3

What can we do?

In the face of the current political landscape, it can feel pretty helpless watching events unfold halfway across the world.  However, there are small steps we can take that make all the difference in the fight against climate change.

  1. Share it

If you feel passionate about a particular issue sharing it online can keep it in the public sphere. Even talking about it with your family and friends can help keep the conversation alive even when then the news cycle moves on to the next story.

2. Reduce your consumption of meat and dairy

The increased demand for meat and dairy in recent years has caused the clearing of the Amazon to make room for fields to feed live-stock. If we as a society cut back our intake of animal products it would make a huge difference in the battle against climate change.

3. Support politicians that care about the environment

Climate change isn’t just happening around the world; it’s happening at home too. The worst thing we could do is support politicians who don’t even believe it exists.

Sarah Sweeney is a final year student Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-sweeney-ab6635143/  and Instagram @sarahsween3y

Is sustainability merely a PR stunt? Or are business running against the clock?

I don’t know how many times per day that I look on twitter and ask myself the same question: Is the world really going to end? And yes I am dramatic but it scares the beejeezus out of me. By experiencing all four seasons in one day; hearing that 150 species are becoming extinct daily and seeing the gruesome images of plastic taking over the world, who can blame me.

I think by now everyone recognises the name Greta Thunberg (if not: she is a 16 year old Swedish girl that has became the face of the climate change movement). Now I’m no Greta, but the current movement has made me make a few small changes: buying a recyclable water bottle; reusing plastic bags etc…. the kind of things we should be doing anyways.

KT5

 

My small changes may not make a difference but there are a lot of global companies out there that have the power to do so.

A few companies have began to take the movement seriously. However we have to ask ourselves: are these companies smart getting out in front early? OR do they know that it will someday become law to reduce carbon emissions?

Well if you have to do it, you may as well do it first and create a positive PR campaign – right?

 

1.Louis Vuitton

My favourite example is the owner of luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton. He has come out and called Greta Thunberg “demoralising” whilst at the same time announcing company plans to become more green – “I prefer positive solutions that allow us to get towards a more optimistic position” he stated.

In other words: people’s eyes have now been opened by Greta Thunberg, but let’s just call the little girl names and act like we (the grown-ups) are doing this on our own initiative. (eyes rolling)

*If like me you are not a super fan, we cannot deny the fact that the (mostly negative) publicity around Greta has drew our attention to these issues.

New sustainable Louis Vuittons anyone? (Well…what they look like in my head)

KT4

2. McDonald’s & Burger King

Another classic example is Burger King & McDonald’s plan to ban plastic toys in their kid’s meals (say what?)

In this case Thunberg has spoken for every child in the world when she states:

KT3

Chill kids… you may not have a plastic toy but you will have a beautiful planet and we will all live another day.

The End

Jokes I’m not done yet. The fast food giants could save 1,325 tonnes per year between them thanks to new green initiatives in the UK. And false alarm: kids can still get recyclable toys, books and board games in their Happy Meals.

This is a huge step for the fast food giants and one that didn’t come overnight. This change was a result of two (8 & 10 year old) girls learning about the environment in school and starting a petition. As you can see below over half a million people have signed the petition already – You gotta give the people what they want!

KT4

In this case once Burger King committed to becoming more sustainable McDonald’s followed to avoid negative PR… again emphasising my question: is sustainability merely a PR stunt?

 

3. Carlsberg 

I think it’s fair to say that this one has blown our minds. Drinking beer out of a paper bottle!

I for one see this as a dream come true and if you own a car and park it in Belfast’s Holylands you will too… no more flat tyres or broken windows… (Carlsberg – thank you).

KT2

The bottle forms part of Carlsberg’s Together Towards Zero initiative, which includes a commitment to reach zero carbon emissions and a 30% reduction in its “full-value-chain carbon footprint” by 2030. Although Carlberg are using their new bottle as a PR stunt, they, unlike Mr. Vuitton can admit that they are running against the 2030 clock 

(tick…tock… tick… tock)

 

KT3

So there you have it – the sustainability craze has hit the corporate market and according to (Burger King’s) Mr. Murdoch the craze is set to have a domino effect.

“If it makes other competitors move their practices forward, that can only be a good thing,”  

Who knows what extraordinary, sustainable inventions will form as a result.

But please listen to me when I say that if its anything like the paper straw…. go back to the drawing board!

 

KT1

 

 

Kayleigh Tinney is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, current doing a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on: Instagram – @Kayleightinney and LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayleigh-tinney-76b240161/.

Vegan – Your Way

As January comes to an end, the paths we paved to good intentions merely four weeks ago become harder to follow. The image of our summer bodies and Instagram perfect lifestyles become clouded by the reality of work, classes and our 2018 habits that refuse to die. The annual fad that is “Veganuary” is over just as suddenly as it began, but does it have to be? I want to give my thoughts on the very topical “vegan lifestyle” and what that means to me, and I challenge anyone reading to keep an open mind.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “VEGAN”?

If I was asked this question one year ago, a gory image of intense PETA protests displaying the horrors of a skinned lab bunny, overbearing animal rights activists and “tree huggers” forcing their beliefs down passerbyers’ throats, automatically would fill my head, did you have similar thoughts? I want to help plant a seed in those minds who are open enough to consider simple lifestyle changes for a cause that will benefit personal health as well as having a lasting impact on the world we inhabit.

My Experience

For me, my journey began with my sister, a vegetarian of two years (at the time), challenged me to try out “Veganuary” with her in 2018, to which I surprisingly agreed. Bearing in mind I had no previous restrictions with my diet whatsoever (except for a peanut allergy lol), I considered myself a true foodie. However, it was a fun concept to me and with a love for animals I was interested in becoming educated in the industry that I was previously so ignorant too. I always claimed that I had an adoration for animals but when it really mattered, I turned a blind eye and ignored the major ramifications that my choices had on the environment.

To kickstart these revelations and find out the truth regarding my food, I began binge watching documentaries on Netflix; “What the Health” and “Cowspiracy” are two that stick in my mind and I recommend for anyone curious enough. It was fascinating to me that what products we purchase and consume can have such a direct effect on the environment and in most cases a detrimental impact on our health. I won’t bore you all with major statistics and facts that may very well fall onto deaf ears, with the likes of…’the water usage to produce ONE burger is the same as taking one hundred days’ worth of showers’, (that was the only one I promise.) One thing that really resonated with me was the simple statement, that cow’s milk is just that. Its purpose is to nourish a calf, humans were not designed to digest this produce. I am not a baby cow, I don’t think anyone reading this is a baby cow, so what human being decided to milk a cow for the first time and what did they think they were doing? Clearly, I had many unresolved questions and as these thoughts marinated in my brain, the more I found the transition to reducing my dairy intake to be easier. Key word being “REDUCING”.  I know this will only resonate with very few people, but I personally don’t need to cause the death of a life, in whatever form, for simply the pleasure of my taste buds. It doesn’t make sense to me.

The Bad Rep

The stigma that we attach to the label “vegan” is something that I personally prefer not to associate my diet or lifestyle with, as I definitely don’t follow a strict plant-based diet 24/7. I choose not to use labels because in my experience it gives people free rein with the belief that I validate their opinion on MY eating habits. Over this past year I have seen more “concern” for my protein intake than I care to acknowledge, questions like “So what can you actually eat?” “You’ll have some bacon still though?”  Frankly these labels carry too much backlash if some-day I fancy some halloumi sticks or some cheesy pasta. My point is, I want to remove the pressure that people feel when they are just trying to do their own bit and to try and diminish the scrutiny we put each other through.

Shaming someone for dietary habits whatever they may be, isn’t okay and I disagree with the approach some activists choose, although I do believe it is a truth that needs to be told. The importance of showing the gritty reality behind mass consumerism is something we all should be exposed to.

So what can you do?

Simple changes that I made in the beginning was delving into the cosmetic industry, which I appreciate is easy to overlook as I took for granted that we can trust our favourite lipstick can go from production to hand bag ethically.  But unfortunately keeping up with the latest makeup gurus and trends, causes major unnecessary suffering to animals. So currently, I only purchase makeup that I know is cruelty free, and that goes for skincare products too. It sounds alarming but genuinely as a make-up lover myself, I can tell you it is easier than it sounds and is beyond worth it. (Although say goodbye to MAC makeup, they really need to step up their game in that department.)  Cruelty free is a huge growing market and more and more brands are jumping on board which will include some of your favourites i.e. Nyx, Too Faced, Charlotte Tilburry, Dove etc. The options continue to surprise me, and it will only improve, so if you are considering making the switch there really is no better time than the present.  

A vegan diet shouldn’t be thought of as a chore or something that you resent, if this sort of lifestyle is intriguing to you why not begin with baby steps? For me personally, I no longer include any form of meat/fish in my diet and I have switched from dairy milk to alternative milks (preferably almond or oat) for my morning coffee or cereal.

I try to make my weekly meals at home rather than eating out, that way it is easier to keep track of what is going into your food and will ultimately be more beneficial for your health. A good idea to cut down your animal produce intake would be to designate a day of the week when you will plan meat free meals. It sounds daunting, but no your only option is not rice and beans. A favourite for me is Quorn “chicken” nuggets, I am happy to say that they taste identical to McNuggets, I have four of my housemates who will back me up with this if you don’t believe me. The variety of vegan friendly food on the market continues to surprise me, and if interested, I recommend Instagram accounts “AccidentallyVegan” and “TheVeganKind” to help your exploration.

I hope this little insight will inspire the small few of you who may be interested, to educate yourselves further and become more compassionate consumers. Don’t let the labels scare you off, everyone is trying their best and the smallest change can make a huge difference.

Bronagh Carey is a second year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: bronaghcarey_ and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bronagh.carey.1

Why being a part-timer is OK

After watching a recent episode of Dragon’s Den I couldn’t help but sit and think about a comment Deborah Meaden gave to the final contestant. Durham-based Peter Smith pitched his idea of a liquor, tiger nut milk and chocolate company. Albeit a strange combination of products, he had quite an interesting idea and just needed a bit of help with streamlining his portfolio. Whilst I would love to be a multi-millionaire investor on Dragon’s Den, sadly my opinion on the product isn’t really valuable. However, one thing struck me from his encounter that I can’t seem to shake. Following his pitch, Deborah asked the punter if he was vegan himself and questioned why he created this alternative milk. After he admitted to being a full-time vegetarian and vegan ‘sometimes’ Meaden went on to joke about her 1-2 hour period of being vegan daily. Although I’m sure the dragon didn’t mean the joke to sound as condescending as it did… well, it still did?

How can we expect people to make a change when every little change gets criticised?

Believe me, I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t eat a steak or ban yourself from ordering a Boojum or Bao or whatever it is that tickles your fancy. I am a meat eater and I highly doubt I’ll ever not be. What I am trying to say is that cutting back on meat or dairy, even if it’s just 1 meal that day, WILL make a huge amount of difference. According to National UK Food statistics the average person in 2016/17 consumed 193g of chicken per week. This amounts to a colossal amount when you take into account the number of people on this earth. To put this into perspective, if the average person reduced their consumption to 170g per week (that’s only 23g- less than a quarter of the average portion) this would save over 42 million grams of chicken. In Northern Ireland alone!!

What we don’t need are people speaking disapprovingly to people who are trying to make a change.

It’s hard because I can understand where people are coming from. It’s hard to listen to someone singing their own praises about going all-vegan (acai bowls, tofu, flax seeds- the lot) when in reality they’re wearing leather Nike shoes in 75% of their Instagram posts. However, they’re probably doing more than me, and maybe you too?

When did nutrition become all or nothing? We need to end the stigma with vegetarianism and veganism and whatever else-ism. Why should they be criticised for not being at 100% when the critic is only at 15%?

In early 2018 the global environmental health company issued a final warning about climate change. Imagine we were told the world could deteriorate before our children grow up? Well, here’s the fact- we kind of have been told that? And no one seems to be listening.

https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

Here’s a few tips on how I (a long-time lover of milk and meat) made some small changes in my diet and in day-to-day life to limit my global impact;

1) Try out an alternative milk

It’s definitely worth trying out some flavours because they’re an acquired taste but breakfast is an easy way to cut meat or dairy out of your diet for 1 meal. Swapping out cow’s milk for soya milk also means consuming the same level of calcium and protein, while also reducing calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

2) Save the 5ps and get a reusable shopper bag

Understandably this is something easily forgotten but bags really do  seriously damage the environment due to the quantity produced. Surprisingly they also contain animal fat which is used as a slipping agent to reduce friction in the material. Check out Amazon for cheap, durable alternatives or even purchase a bag holder so any previously-purchased bags can be re-used.

3) If you want to cut back- stop making meat the main focal point of all your meals 

Instead of choosing a meat and then choosing your sides of veggies and carbs- make the entire dish the focal point. Try out stirfrys, pastas, chilli or stew with more emphasis on the other elements of the dish perhaps even substituting the meat for mushrooms, tofu, lentils or beans.

4) Try out meatless Monday

Check out the website below explaining how different countries around the world use this international campaign to reduce meat consumption.
https://www.meatlessmonday.com/the-global-movement/

5) Be adventurous with your cooking

Check out these vegetarian and vegan recipes (or the other thousand on Google) for some inspiration.

Vegan chai-spiced chocolate chip cookies http://recipe-chai-spiced-chocolate-chip-cookies

6) Cut out plastic water bottles

I’ll hold my hand up and say I’m so bad for this. I find reusable coffee cups and Love Island water bottles dirty and hard to wash, however, cutting out plastic bottles is a simple way to adopt a more sustainable approach. Invest a bit more, the environment will thank you.

While I believe cutting back on your consumption of animal produce can and will help the environment, we can’t ignore the environmental impact of alternative productions. Check out this article from BBC to find out the impact all foods have on the environment. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46459714). 

Animal products are hard to escape from, there’s traces in your car tyres, nail polish, shoes, perfume, beer, sweets and even certain types of toothpaste- so why does vegetarianism have to be a permanent nutritional change when it could just be a cut-back?

Anyway, hypocritically I’m going to get a Nando’s once I finish this post. Why? Because I did my bit this week. I did what I could to help the environment and I’m happy for that to be part-time because I think that’s OK and it’s helpful. And no individual (even a dragon) should tell anyone that’s not OK or not helpful, because it is.

Lauren Wilson is a third-year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently undertaking a year’s placement at Belfast City Council. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurennxwilsonn/

Why Does it Feel So Good to be Banned?

Earlier this month, Iceland unveiled their Christmas TV ad for 2018 in partnership with Greenpeace which told the story of ‘Rang-tan’, an Orangutan seeking refuge after humans had destroyed his home and killed his mother in pursuit of Palm Oil. The poignant, ethical and yet simple animation had high hopes to deliver a clear message to viewers over the Christmas period and Iceland had a £500,000 media spend across TV channels to really help push the ad. However, on release it was announced that the ad was banned from TV after being deemed “too political”.

So where did it all go right?

In most instances I can image that getting your ad banned from TV would be a disastrous backfire of hard work – a very deflating feeling. But by the looks of things, the opposite can be said for Iceland.

After posting their ad to their Twitter page and letting the public know that the ad had been banned for being “too political”, there was a public outcry and people tweeted in their thousands protesting the ban. Even celebrities such as James Corden and Stephen Fry tweeted the ad which now has 17m views on Twitter.

tweet 1 (2)

tweet 2 (2)

 The response to the ban was massive and according to Iceland’s Managing Director, Richard Walker – unexpected. Despite claims that the company knew all along the ad would be banned, Richard Walker stated, “We went into this with a straight bat and I genuinely thought this [the advert] was going to get past.” Perhaps this was for the best. Since posting, their original tweet has 92k retweets, 4.4m YouTube views and a petition to get the ad that has been signed by 670,000 people. It has tripled the views from last year’s ad and created an audience of somewhat unexpected vocal advocates in support of Iceland and what they stand for. Done deliberately or unexpectedly, the video packed a punch in terms of reactions.

IT’S A FRONT!

mean girls

Iceland have come a long way from their TV ads featuring the latest B-list celebrity standing in front of a ridiculous spread of party food, aiming to persuade us to buy a frozen pig wrapped in a chicken and bacon blanket and served in a vol-au-vent. Those days are behind them. I imagine the company look back at that time in their business lives in the same way we look back at old profile pictures.

But what’s with the new image? Why aren’t they focusing on frozen sausage-stuffed asparagus? What about our platters? Where’s Coleen Nolan? What’s changed here? Is Iceland breaking up with their old image? Well, yes.

When I first watched the ad I thought “Hmm, yeah it’s good but why do Iceland care?” This thought was a shared one with many people claiming that Iceland taking an ethical stance to their business was all a front to attract a new demographic of customers. A PR smoke-screen for sales. But I’ve come to learn that that actually isn’t the case.

Environmentalism isn’t just for Christmas

Iceland have been publicly talking about the plight of orangutans for most of the year and became the first UK supermarket to vow to remove palm oil from every item in their own-brand food label by the end of 2018. Earlier this year, they also released a stream of video footage of how palm oil was destroying orangutan’s natural habitat:

The videos were part of the #PalmOilAlarmCall hashtag (similar to their #NoPalmOilChristmas hashtag) and for everyone who shared the hashtag on social media, Iceland promised to donate £1 to International Animal Rescue to fund rescue and care for orangutans left ‘homeless’. Their vow to remove palm oil from their products is expected to reduce the demand for the product by 500 tonnes a year.

On top of this, Iceland have been a leading retailer in banning single-use plastics. In January, their #TooCoolForPlastic campaign drew attention to the fact that they were the world’s first mainstream retailer to fully remove plastic packing from all of its own-label products by 2023. Who thinks it’s a front now?

Their commitment to sustainability is quite clearly not a smoke-screen but a solid foundation that they continue to build on. Their determination to lead the way into environmentally friendly business practices is admirable and something I expect other major retailers will soon follow. Iceland have set a sustainability benchmark and not just because it will make them look good, but because it is right.

Overall, whether you think it was a cunning plan as part of a marketing masterpiece or a backlash that turned out for the better, you can’t deny what Iceland have actually done. They have opened up an umbrella of conversations about the ethicality of companies, what’s in our products and what is the true price we pay for everyday items.

Our attention has been got. Everyone is listening.

Being banned wasn’t so bad after all.

Scout Dobbin is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on placement as a Marketing Assistant. Scout can be found on Linkedin – Scout Dobbin, on Twitter – @scoutdobbin or Instagram – @scoutdobbin