Selectively sustainable, can FMCG brands pick and choose?

This blog forms part of our wider Brands Driving Positive Change blog series, we’ll be uploading a new post every week so keep checking back for the latest thoughts on what it means to be a force for good…

I recently went to a packed talk at SXSW delivered by the CMO of Pepsico brand LIFEWTR and their creative agency RG/A.

The talk delivery was great, lots of cheering went on and everyone on stage seemed to feel great about the positive contribution the brand was making to society.

LIFEWTR was born from the combination of the realisation that there was an opportunity to create a premium water brand, elevated out of commodity status, and the fact that primary research found that 80% of millennial buyers are ‘belief driven’, with brands which lead with purpose increasing their share of wallet by 46% compared to those that don’t.

Their strategy seems to be paying off, after 5 months in market LIFEWTR had already broken $70 million in sales.

The LIFEWTR purpose is very simply stated and governs everything they do:

“To advance and showcase the sources of creation and creativity”

…And they walk the talk, their latest 360 campaign centred on highlighting gender inequality in the art world, tackled with (among other things) bottle designs showcasing women artists and a new mentorship program and network set up by the brand to help advance women in the arts.

Next on the list, LIFEWTR is tackling the drop in funding arts in education…

However, in the months following the talk, I’ve been reflecting on what I listened to and I can’t help but think that LIFEWTR’s brand strategy to keep sustainability (albeit the social kind) at the heart of everything it does, could be risky territory.

My tension is this: I really like the LIFEWTR brand (I even wept a little when the office cleaner accidentally recycled the one I brought all the way back from Texas) but I’m also a proud owner of a reusable S’well bottle in my attempt to cut down on my consumption of single use plastic bottles. LIFEWTR is packaged in a plastic bottle so what do I do?

In this case, being selectively sustainable just doesn’t sit right for me!

And I’m not alone, a recent Evening Standard article addressed sustainability anxiety in the food industry  and I have to say I’m just as conflicted.

I’ll be interested to see how the LIFEWTR brand responds to societal pressure on reduction of single use plastics, I’m really hoping they do!

By: Fleur Horner

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