By: Lucy Spratlin
Did you know that Earth Day is the world’s largest civic observance? More than one billion people in 192 countries participate. This hasn’t escaped the notice of corporations. Most of them seek to align with sustainability trends to meet increasing customer, employee and shareholder expectations. As Earth Day 2021 is upon us, we reflect on what it means for social impact initiatives and cause marketing partnerships.
Earth Day, Then and Now
In 1970, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson established April 22 as Earth Day to encourage Americans to protect the environment. It was a reaction to industrial air and water pollution and corporate impact on oceans, wilderness and wildlife. Twenty million people joined in protests against industrial development. Today, corporations want to prove themselves as a sustainability ally, not an adversary.
Many current Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs have environmental goals alongside social justice aims, and in many cases, they’re connected. The need for environmental improvements, for example, is often greater in communities of color. These connections are recognized in the increasing shift from CSR to broader ESG: Environmental, Social, Governance.
How the U.N. Fits In
In 2015, the United Nations Member States adopted The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) grounded in the recognition that efforts to improve education, end hunger and ease poverty can’t be achieved in a vacuum. They must be supported by a sustainable environment.
The SDGs include:
· Sustainable cities and communities
· Clean water and sanitation
· Affordable and clean energy
· Climate action
Cause Marketing Campaigns Riding the Green Wave
This year’s Earth Day theme is “Restore the Earth”, and many cause marketing campaigns have been highlighting their sustainability efforts through month-long campaigns. Here are a few standouts.
State Farm is partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation to complete 20 forest and community tree-planting projects in 15 states, with a focus on communities that have been affected by natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey. Local community and business members are encouraged to take part in helping achieve the goal of 250,000 plantings total. The campaign is closely tied with State Farm’s core brand positioning as a good neighbor.
JetBlue launched the GreenUp sweepstakes to coincide with April as Earth Month. Both customers and JetBlue crewmembers can enter to win carbon-neutral prizes, including roundtrip tickets and vacation packages, with all carbon emissions offset by JetBlue. Participants can earn additional chances to win by reading eco-friendly facts on the Green Up Website or signing up for the EARTHDAY.ORG newsletter. The sweepstakes is just one campaign supporting the company’s extensive ESG targets, which include increasing its partnerships with businesses owned by women and minorities and doubling the representation of minorities in leadership positions by 2025.
Mastercard commissioned a study on consumer preferences about sustainability and found 85% wanted to take personal action to help the environment this year. In response, Mastercard created a Carbon Calculator that banks can share with their customers to help them make purchase decisions based on products’ carbon footprints. The tool also offers the opportunity to make donations to Conservation International, a Mastercard and Priceless Coalition partner in the coalition effort to restore 100 million trees by 2025, with Mastercard matching up to $200,000.
Chipotle released their annual sustainability report last week highlighting their responsibly and organically sourced food products that help to reduce adverse environmental impact. Chipotle also launched a round up at the register campaign with national youth environmental engagement nonprofit, Earth Force. The Chipotle Sustainability Challenge engages youth as environmental problem solvers inspiring the next generation to help identify ways to better support sustainable agriculture in their communities. Now through May 5th customers can round up their change at checkout in store or when ordering online to support Earth Force.