Go Green, Get Green With a Sustainable, Green Loyalty Program

Learn about incorporating sustainability, recycling and charity into a green loyalty program to align brand values with those of your customers.

The cover image of Antavo'sGo Green, Get Green: Sustainability in Loyalty Programs article

Sustainability is an enormous social issue and it’s here to stay. Eco-friendliness has become the new normal for young customers, who are increasingly choosing well-made ethical products over cheap, mass-produced goods. It’s no surprise that Gartner predicts that the rate of sustainability in businesses will accelerate in 2022. To keep up with this rising demand, brands need to align themselves with green practices. This article will reveal one easy way to begin: through a green loyalty program that promotes sustainability.

Download the Global Customer Loyalty Report which includes a look at current trends and challenges, plus anticipated trends for the coming years, such as ESG.

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What Is a Green Loyalty Program and Why Is It Important?

Sustainability is a way of living and producing that simultaneously meets human needs while promoting the health of our environment. As the saying goes, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. Sustainability is important in all aspects of life, but studies show that it is particularly necessary in the fashion, beauty and jewelry industries.

Clearly, companies have a duty to reduce their footprint, and consumers are demanding it. One of the ways to demonstrate this commitment and build a customer relationship at the same time is through a green loyalty program. A green rewards program can incorporate green features, such as bringing back old electronics or donating them to charity for good karma and positive word-of-mouth. As such, a green loyalty program builds emotional loyalty and brand advocacy, which builds customer interest, and helps the Earth at the same time.

The frontpage of Patagonia’s green program.
Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia has fully aligned itself with a commitment to sustainability: it promotes eco-conscious movements and upcycles used clothes into new, desirable products.

What Are the Benefits of Sustainability in Loyalty Programs?

So how exactly does going green give you green? There are more benefits to a green loyalty program concept than you think. Beyond receiving kudos from your customers, you’ll benefit from the following:

  1. More in-store visits: When customers are able to donate garments for a reward, they’ll need to come into the store. This encourages them to shop around and use their reward on the spot.
  2. Larger community: When you partner with a charity or environmental organization, you can gain respect and attention from their following and increase yours.
  3. Reduced production: When you encourage customers to bring back used products for reuse, be it empty bottles or plastic containers, you are able to close the loop on production and, ultimately, cut costs.
  4. More social engagement: Many environmental movements are happening online, so when you participate in a hashtag campaign, you insert yourself into the movement and increase traffic to your brand.
Two phone images showing how a green loyalty program offer looks like.
A green loyalty program doesn’t have to be boring: by adding a little gamification to the mix, doing good for Mother Earth can be a fun and exciting process.

The Problem With Recycling Loyalty Cards, and a Greener Solution

How brands incorporate sustainability in their green loyalty programs may vary in each industry, but there’s one area where all green rewards programs could be eco-friendly: loyalty cards. Using plastic cards is not only unintuitive (customers tend to forget them at home), but also made of materials that are recyclable on paper, but very few curbside programs actually accept them.

A much cheaper, more reliable, intuitive and of course, greener option is to offer digital loyalty cards. These can be a digital identifier on the membership page, or a pass stored on the customer’s smartphone wallet. Digital wallets don’t pollute Mother Earth, easier to use, an unlimited amount can be stored on the phone, and because smartphones are always at hand, customers are more likely to use them while doing their brick-and-mortar shopping.

Learn more about how the Mobile Wallet system works for loyalty passes.

5 Inspiring Green Loyalty Programs That Promote Sustainability

1. Etihad Airways – Fly High With a Lower Carbon Footprint

Etihad Airways has updated its Etihad Guests rewards program with options to support sustainability and reduce carbon emission, demonstrating that any industry can have a green loyalty program. Labeled as Conscious Choices, members are rewarded with a unique badge for actions such as carrying less baggage. Travelers can also donate their Etihad Guest Miles to green causes, effectively offsetting their carbon footprint.

Main page for the eco-friendly features of Etihad Airways’ loyalty program.
Besides being eco-friendly and helping Earth, green loyalty programs are a great differentiator, giving customers another reason to support certain brands, such as Etihad Airways.

2. Madewell – A Fitting Form of Recycling

Did you know your old jeans could be used to make housing insulation? Popular apparel company Madewell makes it happen through their partnership with Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling program. Customers can donate old jeans (from any brand) to be turned into housing insulation. Madewell then returns the favor with $20 off a new pair.

The frontpage of Madewell’s green offerings.
Madewell inspires customers through real numbers and tangible change—creating ‘infinite good vibes from giving back’.

3. REI – Giving Back to Nature

Outdoor retailer REI’s membership program, The Co-Op, measures the success of their program through stewardship. Through the profits of their program, REI invests millions of dollars in hundreds of nonprofits. In 2019, the retailer grossed $3.12 billion in co-op sales and invested almost 70% of their profits in giving back to the environment. They give money back to their customers as well, issuing $210.8 million in member dividends in 2019.

Frontpage of REI’s green campaign
REI mobilizes their members to act in their #OptOutside on Black Friday campaign, calling on customers to clean up and pledge to reduce their impact.

4. Kiehl’s – Recycle & Be Rewarded

Popular skincare brand Kiehl’s rewards customers for recycling their empty containers. For each container they bring, customers receive one stamp, and once they reach 10 stamps, they receive one travel-sized product.

Image depicting how Kieh’l green recycling offer works
Kiehl’s stamp program not only encourages recycling, but also keeps customers engaged and coming back to the store.

5. Beer Hawk – Closing the Loop on Empty Kegs

Circularity is a key facet of sustainability. Beer Hawk, the UK’s leading online retailer of specialty beers and ales, promotes circularity by offering customers beer tokens for returning their empty PerfectDraft kegs. Customers could convert these tokens into discounts, and Beer Hawk could repurpose these kegs — a win-win situation!

Image depicting how Beer Hawk’s keg return system worked.
By offering customers the ability to return their kegs, Beer Hawk took the extra waste off of their hands and offered rewards in return.

Don’t Let Mother Nature Down

There are so many ways to implement sustainability in green loyalty programs. Use these methods we’ve shared or create your own — just remember to reduce, reuse, recycle. We’re here to help you design the best green initiatives for your program. Customers will love your creativity and awareness, and you’ll see results when they become loyal brand advocates.

Start up a conversation with Antavo to discover how our technology can empower the launch or renewal of your loyalty program. Book a demo with our experts, or send us an RFP.

And don’t forget to download Antavo’s Customer Loyalty Report, an in-depth report that showcases dozens of statistics as well as future industry trends to help you navigate the world of next-gen loyalty programs.

A banner recommending to download Antavo’s Global Customer Loyalty Report 2024.
Headshot of Timi Garai Senior Business Analyst at Antavo

Timi Garai

Timi is a Senior Business Analyst at Antavo. She has helped numerous eCommerce, physical retailers and B2C brands strengthen customer loyalty, and significantly increase annual revenue. Timi is also the head organizer of one of the largest anime conventions in Europe.

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