Environmental Cause Marketing: How Brands Are Reaching Local Communities

April 22, 2021 | Experiential Marketing


One of the most pressing issues impacting our world today is the environment. On a global scale, much of the conversation revolves around finding ways to protect, clean, and heal the multiple ecosystems that make up our planet. What’s more, in the wake of COVID-19, the calls for more sustainable, environmentally-friendly solutions and products have increased significantly.

“Take a 2020 global survey by management consultancy firm Accenture,” notes the BBC. “It said that consumers ‘have dramatically evolved’, and that 60% were reporting making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases since the start of the pandemic.”

And while many people choose to help protect the environment through large-scale efforts (think donations to major environmental groups or charities), we’re also seeing a movement to act on a more local level. From volunteering to planting trees, recycling, cleaning up litter, composting or supporting local businesses, there are certainly multiple ways to protect the environment and reduce the risks of climate change within our own communities.

With that being said, more and more brands are taking on a greater role in supporting environmental protection, particularly through campaigns designed to benefit the local communities of their core consumers. We explore some recent examples and take a closer look at environmental cause marketing and the impact brands are making on a local level.

Starbucks and its New Reusable Cups Initiative

In April of this year, Starbucks announced the launch of a new environmentally-friendly initiative designed to reduce the amount of waste generated by its single-use coffee cups. The plan? A reusable cup.

“The coffee chain announced a new two-month borrow-and-return trial program launching at five Seattle store locations that will allow customers to order a beverage in a reusable cup, which will replace the use of up to 30 disposable cups,” notes Good Morning America. “Starbucks partnered with Ridwell, a Seattle-based recycling service, to offer customers an at-home option to return their borrowed cup.”

The move is all part of a larger effort by the brand to embrace sustainability. Once consumers request to purchase a reusable cup, they can then return that cup to a touchless kiosk at one of the local Seattle locations. Aside from the good that comes from reuse, customers can also scan the Starbucks App to get bonus stars and a credit ($1 given back to them for purchasing the reusable cup). All cups are then deep-cleaned and sanitized for future use.

“This effort is just one of the coffee chain's many attempts to go green with its cups, which helps push the company's pledge to reduce its waste by 50% by 2030,” notes CNN.

This is a strong example of an environmental cause marketing initiative that even if it does someday launch on a full-scale level, will still impact local communities by encouraging different towns and regions throughout the country to embrace a more sustainable way to enjoy their morning cup of coffee.

Paramount+ -- How the SpongeBob Movie Supported a Local LA Organization

To promote the new SpongeBob movie, Paramount+ held a series of events in Pasadena, CA, with the company going on to donate proceeds from ticket sales to a local area nonprofit organization concerned with clean water and protecting marine habitats. Both a nice nod to the aquatic theme of the show and an example of helping the environment on a more regional level.

As part of the launch of “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” the streaming service sold tickets (with prices ranging from $30 up to $100) to provide fans with a fun, drive-through SpongeBob-themed experience, capped by safely-distanced drive-in screenings of the movie.

And as part of its efforts to adopt environmental cause marketing, Paramount+ went beyond delivering an engaging film experience by donating all proceeds to Heal the Bay, a Los Angeles-based organization dedicated to mobilizing residents to protect the coastline, advocate for clean water, and restore waterways.

By finding a way to connect the marine theme of Spongebob with a local environmental cause, the campaign felt authentic and found a way to provide both an entertaining and meaningful experience at the same time.

H&R Block’s Partnership with Nextdoor

As part of an environmental cause marketing initiative, HR Block encouraged consumers to nominate their neighborhoods for a community-improvement project. And while the campaign was initially planned before the COVID-19 pandemic, the brand continued on with it, emphasizing the importance of the connections it could create amid stay-at-home guidance.

In a partnership with Nextdoor, a neighborhood networking app, H&R Block went on to receive almost 2,000 nominations across the United States, and chose 10 projects to pursue.

“This partnership is part of H&R Block’s new community impact platform, Make Every Block Better,” noted H&R Block in a press release. “The company seeks to build sustainable connections in neighborhoods and for small business owners at a time when more Americans are experiencing increased social isolation.”

The company’s employees collaborated with local volunteers and small businesses on a variety of initiatives, from community gardens and street clean-ups to painting murals and revitalizing recreational sports facilities. Another poignant way to support and better the environment.

And while the original intent may have been to align with national partners, the end result was programs that felt more home-grown, more authentic and more meaningful. In some cases, local small businesses donated supplies, gift cards or meals for volunteers.

It was such a success that H&R Block and Nextdoor are running it back again this year.

“We’ve seen incredible examples of our neighbors and communities coming together in safe ways through the pandemic to build meaningful connections and drive change in their neighborhoods,” noted Jeff Jones, president and CEO of H&R Block in a press release. “I am proud that we’re continuing to live our Purpose and find ways to foster more conversations, tackle social isolation, and uplift our communities and our neighborhoods as we strive to make every block better.”

As our world continues to pay attention to the environmental issues impacting the planet on both a large and small scale, sustainability and environmental cause marketing will continue to be important when it comes to helping to make a difference.

Posted by Dyan Cornacchio | Request as a Speaker

Social media and creative writing connoisseur. Obsessed with my golden retriever, pop culture, and pizza. Nothing makes me happier than being home on LI, relaxing at the beach with my family.