written by: Ho Wai Wun, Vivian

The market leader [1] of coffee machine, Nespresso, recognizes the need for a responsible approach to the use of aluminum and the recycling of our used coffee capsules. After being criticized by environmental groups about the waste of aluminum coffee capsules for years, Nespresso launches a sustainability initiative called “The Positive Cup” in 2014 around [2] the world. This initiative is a commitment of Nespresso in sustainable coffee sourcing and social welfare; aluminum sourcing, use and disposal; and resilience to climate change.

This campaign starts in September 2016 in Hong Kong. The key message is to encourage users of Nespresso coffee machines to recycle their used capsules. The company released a campaign video featuring Karena Lam Ka Yan, a famous movie star in Asia, to explain the recycling procedure and the company’s is work with farmers to provide alternative sources of sustainable income to them. Despite the low views on both YouTube (460k views) and Facebook page (35k views, 250 likes), the reactions/comments towards this campaign over the internet are generally positive.

First of all, it is smart and suitable to invite Karena Lam as the promoter. She is quite famous in Hong Kong which can help draw attention. She is an environmentalist and vegetarian who is very active in promoting sustainability and green living. Being one of the promotion ambassadors of Green Monday, her image definitely fits the campaign and makes the message stands out.

Also, the campaign is effective in attracting potential customers who regard sustainability as one of the concern when buying coffee machines, or customers that are interested in greener lifestyle habit. With this campaign, people can easily recycle their used capsules by simply taking them to the Nespresso boutique, which is suitable for people living in a fast-paced city like Hong Kong. Each Nespresso Club Member could receive a grow-your-own mushroom kit upon returning a full bag of used capsules. This award system further promotes sustainability and provides an incentive for recycling. The coffee grounds are separated from the used capsules and will get a second life as compost. Although in Hong Kong, home composting is non-existent, Nespresso collaborates with the Hong Kong Organic Waste Recycling Centre (HKOWRC), the city’s only organic waste recycling center to make the recycling process more reliable and convincing. Now customers do not need to worry about wasting as recycling saves up to 95% of the energy needed to produce aluminum from raw bauxite. This is also a good strategy to confront the new reusable capsules launched by their competitor, K-Cup, a few years ago.

In addition to attracting customers, this campaign demonstrates the social responsibility of Nespresso and highlights the brand’s involvement in sustainability. Apart from just being environmentally-friendly, they illustrates the brand’s commitment to coffee sourcing sustainability, emphasizes the importance in cooperating with sustainable coffee farmers and to ensure their welfare. Nespresso and Fairtrade International are now collaborating with the farmers in Colombia on an innovative retirement savings plan. This helps to enhance the company reputation and build a caring image for the company. The campaign successfully connects coffee drinking in satisfying one’s need with concerns of the world’s sustainability needs.


[1]: http://www.wsj.com/articles/nestle-loses-a-round-in-coffee-pod-fight-1456214403 

[2]: https://www.nestle-nespresso.com/media/mediareleases/nespresso-launches-its-2020-sustainability-ambition-the-positive-cup-and-the-nespresso-sustainable-development-fund