The Lipton tea brand's link up with the Rainforest Alliance recently made headline news. The Rainforest Alliance will check that parent company Unilever is buying tea from plantations that use sustainable farming and ethical labour practices.
What is smart, and brave, about this move in trying to give the whole brand stronger ethical credentials by being values-led": integrating the ethical principles into the way of doing business. This feels much more powerful than the more commonly used, quicker fix of launching an "ethical version". This is the approach used by Nescafe with their "Partner's Blend" extension, and Kenco with their "Sustainable Development" version.
Re-launching the whole Lipton brand with the Rainforest Alliance has several advantages over doing an ethical extension:
- It avoids the risk of a green extension raising questions about the rest of the brand... if Nescafe have a single ethical product, doesn't this imply that the rest is unethical?!
- A Lipton brand re-launch will strengthen the core business and avoid adding complexity through the addition of another extension
- As the re-launch will be on the whole brand, and not just a new extension, there should be more marketing funds available to communicate the news to consumers and retailers
- If Lipton can make this move it has a chance to "own the high-ground" in tea by combining quality, value and ethical credentials. This is hard for competitive brands to copy as it requires changes to the whole business system, not just the launch of a me-too green extension.