What makes a sustainability leader? Meet Consumer Engagement champions Zero Waste Scotland

With the entry deadline for edie's 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards less than a month away, this series showcases the achievements of previous winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: Winner of our 'Consumer Engagement Campaign' award, Zero Waste Scotland.

What makes a sustainability leader? Meet Consumer Engagement champions Zero Waste Scotland

Ready to follow in Zero Waste Scotland's footsteps? Entries for the 2022 Awards close on 1 October 2021


Trial Period is a bold and first-of-its kind consumer engagement campaign for Zero Waste Scotland. The multi-channel campaign tackling a taboo subject – periods and menstrual waste – was new territory for the organisation, and a subject that is seldom discussed in the mainstream, let alone featured on massive billboards.

To ensure campaign success, Zero Waste Scotland undertook scoping, research, planning and objectives; campaign development; creative campaign testing with target audience to decide on the final approach; campaign refinement; pre-launch engagement with stakeholders; launch and evaluation.

There was a need for this campaign to encourage the switch from single-use menstrual products to reusable alternatives (such as menstrual cups, cloth pads and period pants) in a bid to tackle the 427 million single-use products which are disposed of every year in Scotland, either ending up in landfill or flushed down the toilet, thus becoming a significant cause of marine litter containing plastics and other synthetic materials.

Whilst pre-campaign research showed good levels of awareness that reusable alternatives exist, Zero Waste Scotland’s study found that only 10% of people in Scotland were using reusable products and, although they may have heard of them, there was a lack of knowledge and understanding on how to use them.

Even with the environment dominating agendas worldwide, encouraging mass behaviour change is not easy with a topic like this which is still stigmatised. Pre-campaign research was the most important part of the project to ensure the campaign had cut-through and that Zero Waste Scotland understood the enablers and barriers to switching. The organisation convened 10 focus groups and a detailed survey with 1,000 respondents on awareness and attitudes to reusable period products. Findings highlighted the key barriers to behaviour change were lack of knowledge of reusable products – 80% had never tried one, 30% had never even heard of them, and effectively changing a habit of a lifetime. Once people have tried a period product and found it works, they seldom switch.

Positively, the initial research also found 76% would consider trying at least one reusable period product. Zero Waste Scotland tapped into this receptiveness to encourage people to try and switch, and from here #TrialPeriod was created, showcasing a clear call to action.

From the research findings, it was clear Zero Waste Scotland’s overarching strategy needed to dispel the myths behind reusables, educate on what products are available and deliver free trials so people could see for themselves. The key drivers of single0use product consumption are convenience, hygiene, comfort and accessibility. Environmental benefits were used as a secondary message in line with the above insights.

The campaign focussed on 25-35-year-olds, as the research identified this group as one of the most receptive demographics to making the switch.

Zero Waste Scotland created a three-part communications strategy blending paid, earned, shared and owned media. Communications methods included digital and online content driving traffic to the campaign website; PR coverage on BBC Reporting Scotland, BBC Radio Scotland and major print titles; pop-up events; outdoor advertising in prime city locations and public washrooms, and stakeholder engagement encouraging partners and large employers to share and run their own events.

The campaign had a positive impact across consumer audiences with amazing feedback from those who tried a product, as well as a great response on social media and during the events Zero Waste Scotland held. The business had 2,000 sign-ups for products within 36 hours.

Post-campaign, Zero Waste Scotland has continued to respond to media requests on menstrual waste and the issue is more widely discussed now. Post climate week in September, after a webinar on Trial Period, the organisation featured in the Sunday Times as well as various other major print media titles.

Since the campaign officially ended at the start of 2020, Zero Waste Scotland has published the results of the free trial on menstrual health day in May 202; taken part in media interviews for BBC radio; delivered various webinars on the topic for community groups and organisations; promoted reusables during Environmenstrual Week and launched the single-use plastics consultation in Scotland – which doesn’t include menstrual products under the current list for market restrictions at the moment, but the Scottish Government is exploring future action as part of this consultation. The campaign is always live online, and Zero Waste Scotland has successfully used digital channels to adapt to the ever-changing context of Covid-19.

edie’s judges said: “This was a really impressive campaign, covering a challenging issue that requires more attention. It was well-researched, imaginative and delivered a real impact – everything we look for in this category.”

Are you our next winner?

After a tough and extraordinary year, edie’s RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are back for 2022, bigger and better than ever – celebrating the incredible people, projects and partnerships that are accelerating climate action and transforming business, for good. 

Entries are now OPEN. The submission deadline for the 2022 Sustainability Leaders Awards is Friday 1 October 2021. The Awards is then set to take place as a live ceremony on the night of Wednesday 2 February 2022 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 

Our ‘Sustainability Leader of the Year’ category is among the 23 categories to choose from. Make sure you get the recognition you, and your team, deserve. ENTER THE SUSTAINABILITY LEADERS AWARDS 2022 HERE.

Sarah George

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