SunChips sm.One of the world’s largest snack-food manufacturers, Frito-Lay, has done a remarkable job of marrying its SunChips product, brand and sustainability in a very “doable” expression of its green marketing and mission.

SunChips is a whole-grain snack that was launched in 1991, and has experienced phenomenal growth (about 20% per year). Earlier this decade Frito-Lay recognized the growing intersection among its consumers’ concerns for their health and the health of the planet.

SunChips marketers know that consumers want a tangible, functional benefit (the healthy food snack) with a green benefit. So sustainability became core to their business strategy. Their efforts started in 2007 and they knew they couldn’t do it overnight. So they managed expectations and curbed any whiff of greenwashing by branding this initiative, “One small step at a time.” Their efforts include:

  • Purchasing renewable energy credits to offset it’s energy needs
  • Using solar power at its Modesto plant
  • Reducing the environmental impact of its packaging by introducing a fully compostable chip bag in 2010
  • Supporting sustainability initiatives, such as helping to rebuild Greenburg, Kansas into the greenest town in America following a devastating tornado

As an expression of their brand, their website does a wonderful job of engaging their customers to join SunChips in making a difference one small step at a time.

“Can one person make the planet greener, better…happier? We think so. Because big change starts with small ideas… We think everyone has the power to change the world. One small act at a time. Let’s do this together.”

SunChips, with National Geographic, then invited customers to come up with the best Earth-saving idea. These ideas were collected on the website, The Green Effect, and each of the five winners received $20,000 to put their idea into action.

Being driven by a core sustainability mission, SunChips is a remarkable example of all three legs of our green marketing stool. The tangible healthy qualities of its product are very approachable, and therefore make the larger brand approachable. Powering their plants with solar energy and creating compostable packaging make Frito-Lay’s green efforts with SunChips all the more believable with no fear of greenwashing. Engaging its customers in their “One small step at a time” initiative makes it all very “doable.”

Tell us about an example of a company, cause or organization you know that is approachable, believable and doable?