P&G Program Will Offer Social-Media-Era 'Green Stamps'

Deal With RecycleBank Gives Reward Points for Recycling, Green Education and Blogging

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BATAVIA, Ohio (Adage.com) -- Procter & Gamble Co. is backing a first-of-its-kind effort to reward consumers for learning and blogging about environmental sustainability as it also underwrites a Cincinnati program to give people points redeemable for goods based on how much they recycle.

P&G's multi-brand Future Friendly program will sponsor incentives for people to sign up with RecycleBank, a sort of electronic "Green Stamps" that gives people points redeemable for local merchants or merchandise when they recycle through curbside collection programs. Other marketers, such as Verizon in Philadelphia and Safeway in San Francisco, have similarly sponsored RecycleBank rewards, but P&G is the first to add a nationwide educational and social-media component to its sponsorship.

So, besides earning points for putting out more recycling in the 200 municipalities where RecycleBank operates, people nationwide can also get points for reading or watching videos, flash animation or other online content about ways to lessen their environmental impact. They'll earn additional points by blogging or otherwise using social media to get others to view the P&G-backed content.

"Future Friendly is an education initiative around saving water, saving energy and reducing waste, and recycle bank is also an educational initiative, so we see a lot of overlap," said P&G spokesman Glenn Williams.

The Cincinnati program is a pilot that could be expanded to more cities nationally depending on the results in P&G's hometown, he said. P&G is also looking into possible sponsorship of another RecycleBank pilot program that provides points to consumers for reducing home energy consumption.

"The idea is to drive awareness of Future Friendly and P&G's sustainably innovative products," he said, "and ultimately we hope to drive purchase intent as well."

The target for RecycleBank, like Future Friendly, isn't the 15% of "dark green" consumers already committed to sustainable behavior or the 15% of consumers who don't care about sustainability, but that 70% in the middle who'd like to do more for environmental sustainability but don't really know how.

"We're trying to advance this world-without-waste agenda but with mainstream consumers," said Samantha Skey, chief revenue officer of RecycleBank. "They're a group that has tremendous opportunity to drive positive impact, but many are fairly alienated by the traditional sustainability movement. They don't feel included or that if they don't do everything right there's nothing in it for them."

For the "Learn and Earn" social-media campaign, RecycleBank hopes to tap both into environmentally focused bloggers and what Ms. Skey termed "deal-seeking moms," a large and active group that isn't usually focused on environmental issues but will be more likely drawn in by the chance to earn and help others earn points toward merchandise and discounts.

RecycleBank is less labor-intensive than many deal programs. It requires people to sign up at RecycleBank.com, but there are no logs to keep or receipts or coupons to turn in. For the recycling rewards, for example, participants' recycling bins have radio frequency ID chips that are read by readers affixed to scales on collection trucks, which weigh what consumers put at the curb and automatically credit their RecycleBank accounts.

An average household can earn rewards worth around $200 annually by participating in the recycling rewards program, not counting the additional amount for participating in "Learn and Earn," Ms. Skey said.

"Our model is very much about easy green actions, and not being judgmental about consumption, but rather asking people to take steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle," Ms. Skey said.

Future Friendly and the RecycleBank sponsorship dovetail with P&G's broader sustainability drive with expanded goals announced last week by Chairman-CEO Bob McDonald. Those goals include eventually powering plants with 100% renewable energy, using 100% renewable or recycled materials for all products and packaging and having zero consumer or manufacturing waste go to landfills. Shorter term, that includes reducing packaging by 20% per consumer use by 2020.

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