Design for maximum impact & minimum effort: how brands can encourage sustainable behaviour change


Nikita Simone

Senior Research Executive, London

An in-depth look at the Tesco x Loop initiative, sharing 3 top principles for how brands can learn and build from this to encourage sustainable behaviour change


A disruptor in food shopping has recently made an appearance, with potential to make a huge impact. Introducing Tesco x Loop; (your supermarket shop in reusable packaging). This week we take an indepth look at this exciting eco offering and share our ideas and provocations for how Tesco can maximise engagement through the shopper experience.

Many would like to shop more ‘sustainably’, but potentially don’t know how or don’t have offerings that allow them to do so. Tesco has recently launched a new way for their customers to shop which enables them to buy a wide range of food, drink, household and beauty products in reusable and durable packaging, courtesy of the company Loop. This new range of 88 products includes some of the UK’s biggest and most popular brands; Persil, Fever-Tree, Carex, BrewDog and even Tesco own brand essentials such as rice, pasta, oil and sugar (with more products set to be added to the range throughout the year).

The Loop range comes with the products pre-filled in the perfect container for that product, eliminating the need for customers to bring in their own containers or refill themselves. The idea is significant and could be really successful. But, despite this, there’s still some optimisations that could be made in order to really maximise its potential and properly engage the mainstream shopper, for who ‘sustainability’ is not top of mind. We believe this could even become the catalyst for the new way to do our supermarket shopping.

Tangible takeaways:

Don’t give consumers the permission to behave badly, give them the incentive to behave well. Design for positive reinforcement to sustain the momentum of Loop and encourage shoppers to keep doing their supermarket shops in this way.

We often start with good intentions to change our behaviours, such as shopping in a more sustainable way, but without being able to see the impact that you have, it can become very difficult to sustain those behaviours. This can be seen in many other areas of our lives (i.e. healthy eating) and can very easily become a barrier to entry for new processes and behaviour change.

There’s a behavioural science theory called ‘low perceived behaviour control’ – a lack of belief that your behaviour will have an impact –  which we see occur with consumers attempting (and failing) to adopt more sustainable behaviours specifically. Therefore, key challenge for these sorts of services (like Loop) is to encourage shoppers to continue to use them.  And enlightening the consumer in on how their contribution, no matter how small, is making a difference using positive reinforcement in a simple, interesting and tangible way is a way to do that.

It is said that the impact of switching just three items of the weekly shop using Loop could be enormous: if customers in the 10 stores switched their recyclable tomato ketchup, cola and washing up liquid bottles to the reusable Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Coca Cola and Ecover alternatives, the packaging would be used and reused more than two and a half million times a year But what does that really mean? How much is that REALLY equal to? It’s tough to comprehend or imagine and could also be much better and more beneficial if personalised by tracking individual shopping.

There are some really great examples of brands that give consumers a sense of the impact their actions have with the likes of Oddbox and Bulb, just to name a few. They encourage their shoppers to keep going using light-hearted language, tangible comparisons and really great graphics.

Sustainable shortcut:

Making sustainability the easy choice for consumers with little thought of their own needing to go into it

Having the Loop fixture in store makes shopping sustainably considerably easier and almost allows for a System 1 sustainable mindset. This sort of system is incredibly advantageous for brands and puts them in a position of ‘doing good’, which will most likely end up getting them more recognition than it had done before. Often the actions that brands have taken to be more sustainable are hard to recognise and the communication can be missed by shoppers. However, the Loop fixture and scheme eliminate that uncertainty and make it incredibly obvious and easy for the consumer – this is exactly what’s needed.

This is particularly interesting as many of the products and brands are actually doing the exact same things as before; for example, Fever-Tree and Coca-Cola already use glass bottles, and the packaging for Brewdog and Bulldog have barely changed. However, they now have an end-to-end returns system which amplifies that impact even more. With a number of brands now part of this scheme, with an incredibly obvious fixture in store, it allows shoppers to easily be signposted to the most sustainable choice. This could potentially sway them from purchasing brands they would have done beforehand in order to choose the one that’s part of the Loop scheme. Many brands may need to play catch up!

So, the next step for Tesco & Loop to really make the most of this opportunity would be to expand the offering beyond its current remit. Think of what other brands could be included, could Tesco own brand products be a majority of it? Where else could you place these reuse stations; could they also be in Tesco Express stores? Placing them in convenience shops could be a huge step forward for getting consumers to stop & think before choosing single-use. Along with making the returns that bit more convenient.

Inclusive NOT exclusive:

Don’t risk missing out on a large pool of shoppers, the reach and success that this could have could be far greater

Whilst this system in theory is great, is there a better way of doing it that would be more  accessible to everyone? The deposit scheme claims to start at £0.20, which is misleading as the deposit can vary a lot – not to mention, the breakdown of the deposits and pay back system is potentially very confusing for new users. This could put people off choosing to go down this route even if they’re intrigued by it.

Another consideration for consumers wanting to continually shop using Loop is that you have to pay a deposit for the containers each time you purchase items in the scheme (which gets paid back within 3-5 days once returned, even if purchasing the same products again). This could mean that shoppers end up having to lay out huge sums of money every time they shop, which many consumers don’t have the funds to do so.

Price is always going to be a barrier, and when pasta has a £3 deposit (resulting in it costing £3.53 instead of its usual £0.53), it’s certainly not inclusive for the majority of the population.

Could there be a way of making this more accessible for all? For example, consumers pay a deposit for the total scheme each time you shop using it instead of per item? Or a deposit that depends on how many items you buy, but not one that varies from product to product… As it stands, the deposit scheme makes buying into this service seem way more expensive than your normal shop (and so has the opposite effect to what you want).

Another potential solution could be incorporating a rewards system. Rewards are something many brands offer successfully to offset any inconvenience (in price and/or effort) costed to the consumer.

There are many ways to go about a rewards system. Boots are a great example of this and have had a successful rewards system for many years where you earn points based on spending to then use in store. The North Face have something called The XPLR Pass which offers many cool benefits for its members, such as early access to limited edition collections and collaborations, opportunity to wear test products before they’re made available to the public, and product ‘field testing. They aren’t generic discounts on products—they’re curated experiences that help to build a stronger emotional connection between consumer and brand.


While there may still be a few optimisations to make in the future to encourage engagement from the mainstream masses, this exciting Tesco x Loop partnership presents an exciting opportunity to create real behaviour change and could be the tipping point for many, in encouraging them to shop more consciously. But as it stands, we feel there is more that could be done to overcome the key behaviour change barriers – particularly around price – that stand in the way of engaging the mainstream masses.

The three principles outlined here are not only a message to Loop/Tesco but apply to many other brands looking to engage mainstream consumers with their new sustainable initiatives and products and incite behaviour change. How can your brand create more tangible takeaways, give consumers a sustainable shortcut and be inclusive not exclusive when it comes to sustainability?

Next, it will be interesting to see how the range evolves within Tesco, which other brands join in and how much shoppers warm to the concept over the next few months across different markets. We’ll be interested to see if any of our hypotheses become reality!