How to encourage sustainable practices with channel incentives

More consumers expect sustainability than ever before. From greenhouse gas emissions and environmental practices to strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies, consumers have a growing awareness of brands that commit to sustainable actions and behaviours.

When vendors want to be seen to be strong in this area they need their channel and trade partners to follow suit and incorporate environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) targets into their business practices too. 

My insights below will help you shape your channel incentive programme so that it motivates your partners to adopt sustainable behaviours and environmental responsibility, by rewarding them with prepaid cards.


Consumers demand sustainable brands 

Today's consumers actively choose brands whose values align with their own. One study found that sustainability is important to almost eight in 10 people, and six in ten would adapt their shopping habits to help reduce the impact on the environment.

In fact, many customers feel that brands have the same responsibility as governments for driving positive change. As a result, one in three shoppers have stopped buying particular brands and products due to sustainability or ethical concerns about them.

The thirst for brands that help consumers adopt a more sustainable lifestyle is set to continue. In recent years, no less than 85% of consumers have become greener in their purchasing habits and 68% of consumers pledged to step up their efforts to identify brands that pledge to reduce environmental impact.    

Plus, with 65% of the world economy committing to becoming carbon neutral, not taking action could result in your brand being overlooked by consumers.


The business benefits of sustainable practices

Sustainable-led purchasing decisions have a huge effect on brands.

From a financial incentives viewpoint, the majority of consumers are willing to pay up to 35% more for sustainable and environmentally responsible products and services. As a result, a brand's sustainability practices can directly impact how that company is valued in the market.

On the flip-side, it's estimated that failing to focus on sustainability could lead to a brand's sales dropping over the next five years.

As Cristianne Close, Global Markets Practice Leader for WWF International said, "Brands that deliver on pursuit of purpose, that drive a culture of sustainable innovation, are the front runners in consumers' eyes - and they are watching."

So, how can you achieve your sustainable goals?

Research has shown that an incentive programme with the correct type of reward can lead to a 79% success rate in reaching your desired outcomes.

But what are the right type of rewards?


Incentives and rewards that influence sustainable practices

Flexible incentives

It's important to remember that your trade and channel partners’ employees are consumers themselves, outside of work. So, it's best to approach your channel incentive programme as you would a customer reward programme and put yourself in their shoes and take the time to consider their behaviours and needs.

Everyone is different and there's no one size fits all reward solution so don’t forget to acknowledge that different demographics have different needs, but not to make assumptions on their choices either

For example, our research highlighted that:

That's why it's best to give your partner incentive recipients the freedom to choose their own reward. For this reason, multi-brand or pre-paid cards are increasingly in demand, with 62% of people buying them more in 2020 than in the previous year


Prepaid card rewards

Our prepaid cards are easy to use, secure, and offer the ultimate flexibility. They offer recipients the freedom to spend anywhere that Mastercard® is accepted. You can also customise our prepaid cards with your company branding so you remain top of mind with your partners.   

According to Blackhawk Network’s research, prepaid cards are seen as a desirable incentive by 69% of respondents and 78% of employees prefer prepaid cards over all other rewards types.

Plus, the benefits to you of prepaid cards include that they're fully compliant with the latest regulations, they're fast to implement, and you can choose the values you want to add to each card. 

Another benefit of prepaid cards is that they are themselves sustainable; they can be distributed virtually which reduces the environmental impact of traditional production and distribution methods.


Speedy rewards

Speed of delivery is another key factor when choosing the right type of reward for your partners. Consumers are increasingly becoming used to next-day or same-day delivery, so having to wait for an incentive is the biggest turn off for customers who expect instant access to their rewards.

Although Millennials use digital gift cards more than any other generation (75%), they remain popular across all age groups from Gen X (72%) and Gen Z (65%) to Boomers (61%).

That’s why our quickest reward, Select, is a favoured option for channel incentive partners. Recipients can instantly receive digital codes via text or email which they can swap for self-selected gift cards or eGift rewards.


Sustainable incentives - a win-win solution

With sustainability being such a hot topic, supporting your channel partners to adopt sustainability initiatives is a no-lose situation.

Including a sustainability element in your channel programmes lets you measure the desired behaviours and recognise and reward the partners who embrace sustainable practices. 

Ultimately, encouraging CSR behaviours throughout your value chain will have a positive impact on your own sustainability goals.

To learn more about the Blackhawk Network approach to encouraging sustainable practices in your supply chains with channel incentives visit our Channel Solutions page or complete the form to the right, and one of our Channel Sales team will get back to you shortly.



Christine Rodriguez started her career with a global IT manufacturer, where she spent over a decade building expertise in the channel network’s role in a vendor’s route to market.

She has been working in the incentives and rewards industry for over 14 years, helping clients meet their engagement objectives for their own employees, customers and partners.

Christine joined Blackhawk Network in 2019 and leads a team that works with vendors and brands to achieve their partner incentive goals.

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