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Canary Wharf: Making Sustainability Real

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The Making Sustainability Real (MSR) Campaign has been devised to enhance Canary Wharf’s current sustainability performance by motivating stakeholders to waste less and recycle more by creating a sense of community and ‘shared value’ between retail tenants. The communications strategy needed to instigate enthusiasm in the retail tenants to connect them with the strategy; acting as a catalyst for long-term participation, behaviour change, and engagement with MSR. To achieve this, we needed to create a distinctive face for the new sustainability programme that resonated with all key stakeholders tactfully, to encourage positive action.

A team of 5 engagement specialists spent 4 days at Canary Wharf for the launch, visiting 268 retailers and distributing 481 welcome packs, walking 160 miles.

Whilst the launch communications focused on delivering key messages around the MSR strategy, in particular, the new Waste and Recycling programme, we deepened the impact by constructing the messaging around promoting local community links and charity partnerships to help to diversify our stakeholder’s perception of sustainability and by integrating donations into the Circular Economy* principle through facilitating community reuse schemes. We did this by communicating and promoting ‘Pay It Forward’ as our launch activity.

In order to devise an inspiring communications campaign and bring about genuine behavioural change, it was essential that key stakeholders were involved in the creation of the campaign to understand key drivers and inhibitors.

We enlisted the expertise of Veris to assist in ranking the issues and evaluating their relative importance to stakeholders and impact on our company. Our assessment and materiality matrix** include the views of many of our stakeholders and has been reviewed by senior leadership, including our CEO.

We solicited feedback from more than 200 internal and external stakeholders on a broad range of topics, including our company’s impact on the environment, society, and the economy.

We took into account our knowledge of our existing mission, business forecasts, strategic growth plans and resources to determine how this stakeholder feedback interacted with our plans for long-term business success.

We considered the impact we have on the communities in which we live and work in as a significant corporation. We remained mindful of our responsibility to respond proactively to the external market and industry changes. We also looked at our market peers and sustainability leaders to see how they have communicated and tackled relevant issues.

To aid the tenants’ understanding of the MSR campaign, it was necessary to address complex terms such as the ‘circular economy’ and what it means in practice. This was achieved by referring to the common term ‘waste’ as ‘resources’ to turn this into a positive social action – embracing donation and re-use to create a behavioural change from within.

The foundation of MSR is face to face interactions to boost connection, and deliver understanding to remove barriers to success.

The mechanics of this includes:

Face to face communications:

  • Monthly outreach
  • Seasonal roadshows.

An array of digital tools to reach a diverse and tech savvy stakeholder base:

  • QR codes on all communication materials
  • Video animation series
  • Social media activity
  • Monthly E-newsletters communicating progress
  • MSR campaign app to enable tenants to upload new ideas and nominate their sustainability ‘heroes’
  • Augmented reality – bringing traditional print communications to life
  • Sustainable Selfie campaign
  • An internal MSR ‘hub’

Print communications supporting outreach and digital loading points including:

  • Welcome packs
  • Flyers/ promotional postcards
  • Monthly newsletters

Our strategies apply gamification to deliver sustained behavioural change by offering an interactive fun element, with reward and recognition as an incentive for support.

We solicited feedback from more than 200 internal and external stakeholders on a broad range of topics, including our company’s impact on the environment, society, and the economy.

One of the key actions from our stakeholder analysis was to classify stakeholders in terms of engagement levels. Such levels were classified under blockers, dormant, supportive and accelerators. The different categories are motivated by different styles of communications and in order to avoid disconnect or reduce the impact of the strategy, we used this intelligence to tailor our bespoke communications approach by tenant categorisation: blockers, dormant, supportive and accelerators.

The findings of our analysis allowed us to determine whether our actions and resource allocations aligned with expectations. By ranking and prioritising issues across both their impact on our company and stakeholder importance, we had a guide to be more impactful and responsive to environmental, economic and social needs through our new sustainability programs, now and in the future.

*A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.

**Materiality matrix – the process of identifying what is important (material) to key stakeholders to help priorities which CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives to invest in.


During the survey, stakeholders were asked for some insight on what they believed would be innovative and exciting ideas to help make sustainability real on-site. We received 40 ‘Bright Ideas’ across the community, environment and shared value categories.

The immediate impact of the MSR launch:

  • 264 coffees were paid forward
  • 105 QR codes were viewed
  • 127 coffees were redeemed at the Change Please coffee station (with 10% redeemed within 48 hours post launch).
  • An endless ripple of kind acts paid forward with the potential to impact 792 people!
  • 910 new communications and interactions since launch

With the main objective of the campaign to engage employees in the new recycling campaign to achieve better on-site recycling rate, the first 6 months of the campaign has seen successful results with an uplift in recycling and re-use –

  • Above target: 86.4% for July from an 80% baseline target since June.
  • July’s residual waste reached an annual low with less than 50t of waste going to the Materials Recycling Facility and waste to energy – achieving our 10% reduction target
  • Specific retail mall area results:
    • RT5 up to 88.9%.
    • DS8 up to 94.5%.
    • RT3 up to 84.81%, a 6% increase in on-site recovery from June.
    • RT2/RT1 up to 83.63%, with on-site recovery exceeding target for the first time this year.

Further waste reductions have been gained through changing retailers perceptions of waste and ‘donating’ items that would have otherwise gone into the waste.  Donated items to date include:

  • Textiles/shoes from Schuh
  • Cutlery and serving boards from Plateau restaurant
  • Sofas from Everyman Cinema
  • Public benches from retail malls
  • Surplus food from Pauls Bakery and Waitrose
  • 200 Children’s books
  • Estimated volume is 10 tonnes
  • All items were rehomed to local community groups within a 6-mile radius of the Estate.

To measure success, we have a number of metrics:

  • A bi-annual survey to track on-site recycling against our KPIs.
  • Donations submitted
  • Bright ideas and peer nominations submitted
  • Digital downloads, social media interactions and participation in seasonal campaigns.

Through tapping in to interests and issues that the stakeholders are most interested in, such as turning waste into donations and ‘acts of kindness’, MSR has fostered greater engagement in the topic of recycling. This is shown by the rise in recycling and donations to date.

Previous to MSR retail stakeholders did not interact with one and other with regard to CSR, however, the launch created 264 coffees paid forward, creating a community amongst stakeholders and introducing conversations around sustainability collectively.

Previous to MSR, retailers received little communication on the targets, goals and CSR achievements of Canary Wharf. Retail is a notoriously difficult industry to gain awareness and engagement as retailers can have their own brand campaigns and agendas, however, the MSR campaign has created a mall wide understanding of recycling by engaging with retail stakeholders in a bold and creative way.

MSR workshops are offered to all retailers, engaging their teams on the complete MSR campaign and in particular the recycling programme. Numbers of workshops have increased, with 25% of the complete retail base having received one.

By thinking outside of the box and bringing the people aspect into what is essentially a waste and recycling campaign, we have been able to get people not only talking about sustainability, but talking with other retailers.

We have also listened to what topics and issues they feel we should be helping to solve and as such will be incorporating a coffee recycling scheme into the MSR programme.

Across the retail estate approx. 100,000 coffees are purchased each month, waste arising from this purchasing behaviour is significant and January 2017 will see Canary Wharf launch a complete and holistic solution to tackle this issue.

New design specifications for mall bins have been created and prototypes are currently in testing (see support materials page 35). The containers are scheduled to be deployed across the malls supported by a public awareness campaign. The campaign will encourage the public to not only use these containers, but to ‘ditch’ the takeaway cup. Discounted coffee will be offered across the estate rewarding the use of reusable cups.

Canary Wharf have partnered with a number of innovation providers to deliver a public solution, including Simply Cups to ensure recycling of cups and lids and Bio-Bean, for treatment of coffee grounds. The technology recycles the waste into biofuels  http://www.biobean.com/ with the long-term objective of using the biofuels created from Canary Wharf coffee in vehicles and CHP units across the estate.

Canary Wharf Group is in a unique position of being well placed to communicate to approximately 105,000 people how we are behaving in a more sustainable way and to encourage them to do likewise. With this responsibility, the MSR campaign will be extended in January 2017 to focus on tackling public wastes.

At the heart of the campaign was the belief that a driving force in a more sustainable future is investing in the local community. One major take away from the MSR campaign would be how we linked environmental actions to social and community benefits. Shining the light on the ‘people’ element has definitely helped to achieve optimum buy in from stakeholders.

Celebrating success is also an important tool in gaining authentic and sustained stakeholder engagement. Whilst the usual communication vehicles such as posters and guide books are required, we found stakeholders engage more with ‘people stories’ around the campaign, helping to embed messages and new system changes in a much more positive way.

The highpoint of the campaign launch was the partnership with the not-for-profit social enterprise scheme, Change Please (backed by the Big Issue). The scheme gives homeless people the opportunity to run pop up coffee kiosks, after receiving professional barista training and earn the London living wage.  By promoting and supporting Change Please directly, with a source of economy (purchasing 350 coffees up front for the ‘Pay It Forward’ cheque redemption) tenants became aware of the coffee vendor’s presence on site.

This really resonated as a commitment to help charitable organisations and promote local community development, so we now need to source further community partners to ensure we maintain this momentum and will be actively working with our tenant leasing team to approach and support other social enterprises within the local area. We also would like our tenants to suggest new community partners to extend our MSR message and actively engage with our local community and as part of our initial engagement launch we wish we had included this voting option as a means of identifying new partnerships that are close to our tenant’s hearts.

One area we are now looking at is to actively engage further with the individual retailer’s senior management team.  Gaining senior awareness of strategy from retailers will encourage a top down approach and ensure the team on the ground are confident in their participation and have been given ‘permission’ from their own hierarchy.  We are looking to invite them to our key events, research and development meetings to ensure the campaign aligns and supports their own vision and goals to achieve even more traction across the Estate.