Nespresso goes big on sustainability credentials in new global campaign

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After years of being "shy" about how it sources its coffee, Nespresso is putting its partnership with farmers at the centre of a new campaign, the brand's chief marketing officer tells Campaign.

Created by J Walter Thompson Worldwide, "The choices we make" tells the story of the community mill built by the brand in Jardin, Colombia, and the economic, social and environmental benefits it delivered.

A 60-second TV ad, which launches today and will run in every market in which the brand is sold, is accompanied by a quartet of two minute films – "The fisherman", "The guardian", "The fireman" and "The community mill" – exploring the facility in more detail.

There are also six videos for social profiling the brand’s "grand crus" – its flavour varieties – and the Nespresso system, and a series of press versions, which also play with the theme of the choices made by the brand and their results.

The campaign was created by Lucas Peon, Jacqui Stecher, Rob Bovington, Stephen Webley, Adam Rimmer, Pete Davies, Darren Beard, Jules Mortimore, Lauren Harrington and Tony Cianci. The main films were directed by Cric (Clem De Muro & Davide Mardegan) through Agosto Films, Barcelona. The media agency is Zenith.

New role for Clooney

Much of Nespresso’s advertising in the past has centred on brand ambassador George Clooney and a number of other Hollywood A-Listers, including Matt Damon and Jack Black.

This time, while Clooney voices the new ad, and is credited on-screen, he does not appear on camera and the guest stars are gone.

But the decision to focus the campaign around sustainability does not truly reflect a change of priority for the brand, chief marketing officer Alfonso Gonzalez told Campaign.

"We continually try to communicate this," he said, referring to the brand’s approach to its supply chain. "But we’ve never put such emphasis or push on communicating that more broadly."

Nespresso had done a good job of "building the brand, the different coffees, the innovations, the services we provide," Gonzalez said – but it had been "a little shy" in the past on its ethical credentials.

"Consumers are valuing more a sustainable approach from different companies and we have not been aggressive or very open in the way we have communicated this."

The brand had not found the most appropriate way to talk about the subject, he added, but an increase in consumers reaching out to ask about how it worked made it a priority to do so.

The messaging across the campaign is around how the difficult choices the brand has made determine outcomes – not just for coffee-growing communities, but in terms of the end product.

One of these difficult choices, Gonzalez said, was rejecting an approach of "just buying high quality coffee", instead taking the decision "not to buy in the open market but work with 70,000 farmer directly".

Fairtrade and capsules

For many consumers, sustainable practices in emerging economies are closely connected to certification schemes like Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance.

Nespresso has its own label, the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality programme, which was developed with RA. But only around 40% of the coffee Nespresso uses is actually RA certified, while limited editions have been Fairtrade certified.

A number of companies, including Sainsbury’s and Mondelez, have attracted negative attention recently for moves away from Fairtrade. But according to Gonzalez, the benefits to brands of Fairtrade certification are dubious.

"The reality is that the in-depth knowledge of what that certification stands for is not widely known," he said. "What we see in reality is that for those consumers that value that, we don’t have evidence that these labels drive a different type of value or consumption."

Beyond the coffee, Nespresso has another challenge in talking up its eco-credentials, and that’s the fact that every cup made generates a spent pod.

Gonzalez admitted this was a challenge, but insisted that Nespresso’s strategy was sufficient to allay concerns. The brand’s recycling collection scheme has 86% coverage, and while only 24% of capsules are recycled at present, Gonzalez said the aspiration was for this to reach 100%.

"When you look at the conversation, it’s around the afterlife of the capsules," he said. "We believe that aluminium is one of the best choices, because it’s not only infinitely recyclable, but also the best way to preserve the quality, aromas and freshness."

This means the brand is unlikely to adopt the biodegradable capsules used by Halo, the coffee brand launched earlier this year by Nils Leonard. "Today to maintain that quality of freshness, we believe this [aluminium] is the best material," Gonzalez said. "That doesn't mean we don’t continue to research the best ways to do that."