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Sky Rainforest Rescue: Engaging Consumers to Purpose While Creating Clear Business Benefits

Actress, model and Sky Rainforest Rescue ambassador Lily Cole, rubber tapping in the Amazon rainforest | Image credit: Sky

The trick to communicating sustainability is to start with the right ingredients. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Of course, we all know that it’s not so straightforward in practice.

There is a raft of urgent economic, social and environmental needs out there that must be addressed. It can be tough to decide what your organisation is going to focus on. Where to begin?

One option, used by Forum for the Future, is to look at your underlying purpose and use that to fuel your approach to sustainability. By understanding and then using it as the foundation on which to build your strategy, you will naturally focus where you can contribute most effectively to the creation of a sustainable society.

In doing so, you’ll build trust and goodwill towards your brand, which won’t just help to supercharge your relationships with customers, prospects, colleagues, partners and wider stakeholders today, but is critical if you want your organisation to be around for the long term.

At Sky, one of the leading entertainment and communications companies in the UK and Ireland, we want to build a business that is durable for the long-term. To achieve sustainable success, we must be good for our customers, our people, our partners and the communities in which we live and work. That’s why we focus on doing the right thing across our business day to day as well as using our channels and our programmes to inspire our 10.7 million customers to take action.  

Today, 10.7 million homes across the UK and Ireland choose Sky. That’s a lot of people connecting themselves to each other and the world through our content and technology, every day of the week, in living rooms or on their phones and tablets. That gives us a huge opportunity to reach beyond the confines of our business and inspire people to make a positive difference.

So, in addition to acting responsibly day to day and minimising our environmental impact, we focus on four areas that we’re passionate about and where we believe we can make the most difference by inspiring people to take action: improving lives through sport; championing creativity and opening up the arts; helping young people to raise their aspirations and build skills for a changing world; and taking action to protect the environment.

Let me take as an example Sky Rainforest Rescue, our joint project with our partner WWF to help save one billion trees in the Amazon rainforest. The idea of the project is twofold: to work in a project area of three million hectares in Acre, Brazil to help make the trees worth more alive than dead to the local people; and to bring the wonder of the Amazon to the UK and Ireland and raise awareness here of deforestation and its drivers.

We’re three years in and so far consumers have donated £3 million to the project, which Sky has matched pound for pound. With that money, we’re working with over a thousand small-scale farmer families to enable them to farm sustainably and keep the forest standing, while increasing their incomes; we’re working to bring people back to sustainable forestry methods, such as rubber tapping; we’re supporting the wider framework through policy work; and we’re engaging the next generation by working with local schools.

And we’re using our ability to inspire to bring the awe and wonder of the Amazon to the UK and Ireland through an integrated campaign, working with our Sky Rainforest Rescue ambassador, Lily Cole. Last month, we held our seventh Rainforest Week across our channels, with 17 environmentally themed programmes, including a new commission on Sky Arts 1HD: Lily Cole’s Amazon Adventure. Lily also appeared in a promo about the Amazon that is still running across our channels. As well as reaching out through our TV platform, we’re raising awareness online; through PR campaigns; in schools through I Love Amazon Week; and through on-the-ground experiences in locations around the UK. Our research shows that this activity is landing, significantly shifting understanding of deforestation and its drivers amongst those who come into contact with the campaign. Of course, the campaign also generates the consumer donations which, matched by us, enable the work in Acre.

It’s also delivering for the business: Our research tracker, which engages 2,000 consumers on Sky’s Bigger Picture focus areas every quarter, shows not just strong awareness of the campaign, but that this awareness flows through to a strong favourability uplift towards the Sky brand.

This combination is key. As with the rest of our work to inspire action, Sky Rainforest Rescue isn’t a pet project, nor is it philanthropy. It’s a robust initiative that builds on our underlying purpose to deliver strong sustainability outcomes, while creating clear business benefit. 


Bella is Director of Sky Academy, part of the Bigger Picture, following on from her role as maternity cover, Director of the Bigger Picture. Previously Bella was Head of Arts, Rainforest and Sport and earlier, Head of Corporate and Financial… [Read more about Bella Vuillermoz]


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