We’re Two Years into Our Journey as Clean Creatives Agencies. Here’s What We’ve Learned. 

We’re Two Years into Our Journey as Clean Creatives Agencies. Here’s What We’ve Learned. 

Vero Clean Creatives

Vero and On Purpose agree that signing the Clean Creatives pledge to foreswear work for fossil fuel brands is a decision worth celebrating. 

 

Estimated reading time: 5 mins

 

When we signed the Clean Creatives Pledge in 2022, we made a clear choice. An official and public declaration of our commitment to decline all contracts with fossil fuel brands and front groups meant drawing a bold, palpable line between progressive sustainability communications and deceptive optimism that’s distracting the world from the pressing climate crisis. We were the first to take that step in Asia—a continent that is warming faster than the global average. And on this two-year anniversary of our signing, we can look back and agree that this was an important and valuable decision. 

It was a reaffirmation of a business principle we’ve long practiced – to never partake in the dishonest greenwashing campaigns that have become commonplace among many of the world’s largest oil, gas, and coal companies. These campaigns deploy the creative efforts of PR professionals to downplay, disguise, and distract from the harm Big Oil continues to cause in pursuit of its profits — and at the expense of the general welfare of humanity and the natural world.  

And in the two years that followed, we have witnessed cause for hope and momentum for change.  

More agencies and creatives joined the movement to demand accountability and transparency from their PR agency leaders. More PR agencies are realizing the reputational and moral risks of working with fossil fuel polluters. More PR professionals simply do not want to work for Big Oil. And more consumers are rewarding brands that align with their values and aspirations. 

Signing the pledge also connected us with some of the most progressive voices in the industry. From the US to Southeast Asia, through Cannes and New Delhi, we are forging collaborations with inspiring practitioners and opinion leaders who carry the same badge. 

However, the truth is that the impact of the Clean Creatives Pledge as a whole remains relatively muted.  

Amidst the urgent backdrop of climate change and sustainability emerging as polarizing topics of discussion among global leaders, the absence of real backlash against PR agencies maintaining ties with climate deniers is glaring. Despite the potential for engaging debates on whether comms professionals should cancel or counsel fossil fuel clients, the prevailing sentiment in the region is that it’s too distant from the forefront of environmental consciousness and decision-making to truly impact change. 

The lack of earnest and bold commitments about the climate crisis at the recently concluded Davos was yet another clear indication that the increasing calls for energy transition and real climate action are not yielding immediate results. Yes, we’ve planted 12 billion trees in over 100 countries, but let’s be honest: tree planting is now just a mere symbolic gesture to compensate for rampant deforestation, carbon emissions, and environmental degradation. 

In fact, the wealth of fossil fuel companies continues to soar, and many of the world’s largest PR agencies still pocket millions from deals with major oil producers even as the planet experienced its hottest year on record.  

A comprehensive study of public communications in 2022 from five oil and gas firms by climate finance thinktank InfluenceMap found that 60% of their public communications made at least one claim about companies’ positive climate actions. But on average, the five companies devoted only 12% of capital expenditure to low-carbon activities. With the support of globally influential—and regrettably award-winning—agencies and a US$750 million yearly budget for communications, it is hardly surprising that holding these companies accountable for greenwashing proves to be a challenging task. 

In Asia, 72 communications agencies signed 103 fossil fuel contracts between 2022 and 2023, according to Clean Creatives’ F-List published last year. Here’s a hard pill to swallow: most of these deals came from the countries where we’re trying to make a difference. 

It’s disheartening to witness conversations around sustainability in the PR industry die down even before they’ve reached the right audiences or how procurement professionals, despite their interest in the pledge and knowledge of the F-List, do not necessarily find it a decisive factor in their decision-making processes. Even environmental non-profits, which one might expect to champion such initiatives, often overlook the importance of partnering exclusively with clean creatives and inadvertently engaging with F-List agencies. In some cases, we learned that industry peers may not even know that they could check the credentials of their partners in regard to their environmental impact and vet them accordingly. 

But these are the very reasons we believe aligning with truth and authenticity isn’t just a choice but a moral imperative—particularly in a people-focused business.  

What we consider our biggest takeaway thus far is the fact that we are creating a culture of creativity and integrity among our teams. The development of a playbook about authentic sustainability messaging a year after our pledge came to us as a natural initiative. This also empowered employees to create their own projects, leading to the opening of our in-office secondhand store. “The Good Shop,” in Thailand.  Talented comms professionals understand the relevance of the Clean Creatives Pledge in the work that we do, and aligning our commitment to sustainability with their ethical standards has made us better businesses. 

Now, we’re called to take even bolder and bigger steps towards a future in which the wonders of human creativity are no longer corrupted by those who are willing to put profits over humanity and the planet. Let this be a call—a rallying cry—for our PR industry peers to unite with us in taking this pledge. 

 


 ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Raphael Lachkar is the chief operating officer of Vero, and initiated Vero’s signature of the Clean Creative Pledge. Girish Balachandran is the founder and managing partner of On Purpose. Brian Griffin is the CEO of Vero. Vero and On Purpose are the first agencies in Asia to sign the Clean Creatives Pledge.

 


Healthy food choices in Southeast Asia

 

Southeast Asia and India’s highly diverse culinary landscapes have seen significant shifts over the past years. With emerging food trends and the rise of technologies that impact consumers’ journey from buying to dining, conversations about food have become a lot more complex than just what to eat for dinner. 

As a result, consumers in Southeast Asia have become more knowledgeable about healthier eating habits, which include actively seeking more nutritious, sustainable food options to improve their mental, physical, and psychological well-being.   

Vero teamed up with India-based agency ON PURPOSE to examine consumers in Southeast Asia and their growing appetites for healthier food. 

Consumers seek healthier food options

Asia-Pacific health and wellness food market is forecasted to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.9% by 2029, according to Data Bridge Market Research. This is boosted by the growing demand for healthy and nutrition-rich foods and the rise in the number of health-conscious consumers in the region. 

A survey conducted by Vero and Decision Lab found that 53% of those polled said they are eating more fruits and vegetables, with 43% eating more plant-based food. Among the 11 markets surveyed, the Philippines ranked highest (62%) in their openness to plant-based foods, showing Filipinos’ evolving focus on health and wellness

In India, the market size of the F&B industry is expected to reach $505.92 billion by 2027 with a CAGR of 11.05%. According to research by Mintel, 74% of food and drink shoppers agree that a greater variety of healthy prepared food options should be made available. Additionally, 34% of Indian consumers indicated they are likelier to buy ready-to-eat meals labeled as low/reduced salt.  

Post-COVID, brands have increased their healthy food offerings by 40%, and online aggregators have seen a 3x rise in the number of orders for healthy food. Demands for keto food have increased by 23%, and plant-based and vegan food orders have risen by 83%. Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Mumbai have emerged as the most health-conscious cities in India.  

On-demand food delivery services are on the rise

Food delivery services have been around for a while, but how consumers engage with them has changed rapidly over the past two years.  

COVID-19 changed everything when it comes to online delivery services. A survey conducted by Kantar and NielsenIQ in 2022 found that 77% of consumers regard food and grocery delivery as a way of life rather than as a necessity, as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic, or an indulgence, as it was before it. Consumers are shifting their food journey online, primarily using delivery apps as search engines, and 88% have discovered new food sellers through these apps — many of which are not restaurants but delivery-only outlets.  

Driven by factors such as increased digitalization, the rise of the gig economy, and changes to consumer and family lifestyles, 90% of consumers in Southeast Asia pre-purchased food vouchers and took note of peer reviews on online delivery platforms. Another 90% of consumers prefer brands with an integrated online-to-offline experience.  

The on-demand food delivery industry in India is estimated to be worth $22.5 billion by the end of 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 30%. The increased adoption of the internet and smartphones, the rise in working families, especially the growing participation of women in the workforce, and rapid lifestyle changes are driving the growth of on-demand food delivery platforms. However, the industry also faces challenges such as fake food shops on online platforms, ethical issues around gig economy workers, and their lack of benefits and personal expenses.    

Food bloggers are a driving force

Healthy food choices in Southeast Asia - role of influencers

For example, Erwan Heussaff (@erwan) is based in the Philippines and has over 2 million followers on Instagram. He has been cooking from the age of 8 and worked in multinational food corporations in Russia and the Philippines. His TikTok channel has recently been focusing on low-cost, healthy, and convenient options like this savory oats recipeHeussaff also experiments with other forms when it comes to food vlogs, tapping into ASMR trends like this pancake food ASMR, which received 240k views on TikTok.  

Feedy VN (@feedyvn) is a Vietnamese food vlogger with over 5 million subscribers on YouTube. They share recipe videos, cooking tutorials, food vlogs highlighting the diversity of Vietnamese cuisine, and unboxing and testing lifestyle products.  

In India, brands reach out to celebrity-status influencers to create creative campaigns that appeal to Gen Z and Millennials. For example, food delivery platform Zomato partnered with singer-producer Tesher to integrate the brand in a remix of the Canadian Indian rapper’s 2020 song ‘Jalebi Baby,’ which became a TikTok chartbuster. Remixed with American singer Jason Derulo, the July 2021 digital release of ‘Jalebi Baby’ coincided with Zomato’s blockbuster IPO.  

Value is defined by trust, quality, and taste

When we think about food and value, price is often the first thing to come to mind. But as Southeast Asian consumers become better informed on how to make healthier food choices, they’ve come to prioritize quality, safety, and taste.  

Consumers demand more transparency from brands about their products’ origins, labeling, nutritional value, and mental and long-term health benefits. For example, in India, we have started to see brands expanding their offering to include ingredients like essential minerals in glucose and electrolyte-based drinks, which help consumers to hydrate rapidly.  

Brand trust is crucial for consumers in Southeast Asia, with 84% wanting to trust the brand before making a purchase. As such, brands should be transparent regarding labeling and clearly outline how ingredients impact mental and physical health.  

Brand takeaways

To reach their target audience effectively, brands should establish a robust online presence, including social media platforms such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Food influencers have also become strong trendsetters, using their online popularity to drive food trends and engage with audiences. Brands can leverage influencers’ authentic connection with the market by having them advocate for the products. A presence on e-commerce platforms and food delivery apps can also help brands reach a wider audience and convert sales.  

Brands can partner with other brands to reach new audiences, cross-promote products, and foster innovation. To engage with their audience, brands can create touchpoints, such as online contests or mini-games, food festivals, food sampling, and activations. Hosting workshops and building communities can also be effective ways for brands to establish themselves as thought leaders and build strong relationships with their audience.  

Overall, having a healthy lifestyle is a prominent trend across Southeast Asia as consumers become more conscious and seek out healthier food options. By understanding the unique insights and trends in each market, brands can create products and experiences that align with consumers’ values and drive growth in the healthy living sector.

 

To find out more about Southeast Asia’s changing views on food, health, and wellness, please get in touch with our team of experts.