UNEP throws its weight behind Green Awards

The United Nations is to endorse an awards scheme that will recognise the creative use of marketing and design to promote sustainability and environmental issues.

Under the United Nations Environment Programme, the organisation has become an institutional partner in the Green Awards, a scheme that will assess creative work across a range of categories including packaging design, art direction and copywriting.

According to UNEP executive director Achim Steiner, the awards reflect a growing awareness of environmental challenges. ‘Rapid environmental, social and technological change is presenting human society with unprecedented challenges. Fortunately, people, businesses and governments around the world are waking up, not just to the threats we face, but to the many opportunities there are for addressing them,’ says Steiner.

The Green Awards are a recognition of the role that marketing plays in pushing sustainability up the corporate agenda, says Iain Patton, director of Satellite Marketing Communications, the scheme’s organiser. Its inaugural event will be held later this year, with a 14-strong judging panel that includes Michael Wolff.

Asda has signed up as a sponsor of the Best Packaging Design category, under wider plans by the Wal-Mart owned supermarket to stop sending any waste to landfill sites by 2010. By this time, it hopes to be disposing of material from its 307 food stores through recycling, reusing or composting. The company is also planning to redesign its range of own-brand packaging over the next 18 months, with the aim of reducing weight and volume by at least 10 per cent.

‘Packaging is an essential part of retailing, but we all know we should use less of it and anything we do use should be easy to recycle or reuse and should come from renewable and sustainable sources,’ says Asda chief operating officer David Cheesewright. ‘The awards will showcase the best examples of innovative packaging, demonstrating how the creative use of materials can dramatically minimise their impact on the environment.’

Such initiatives follow ongoing pressure from environmental campaign groups, as well as the Government. Last month, David Miliband, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, gathered together bosses of the UK’s four major supermarkets – Asda Wal-Mart, Tesco, J Sainsbury and WM Morrison Supermarkets – and demanded that they make their businesses more environmentally friendly.

The Green Awards draw the marketing and communications sector – an industry whose raison d’être is to convince consumers to continually buy more products – into the burgeoning sustainability campaign. Already, Tesco’s offer of loyalty card points to customers using their own carrier bags has been branded as a ‘Greenwash’ by Friends of the Earth, although the latter organisation is a partner in the Green Awards.

Perhaps the question is whether brands and corporations can convince consumers, lobbying groups and the Government that their ‘Green’ enterprises are more than just a public relations opportunity.

The awards ceremony will be held at the Guildhall in London on 29 November.

By Scott Billings


• Set up to recognise creativity in marketing that promotes sustainability

• Open to all UK business-to-business and business-to-consumer organisations

• Judging panel chaired by Jill Rutter, director of strategy and sustainable development at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

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