Back at the start of September I wrote to Innocent in reply to an email and asked a simple question.
“Please let me know when I should expect to receive an answer to my query about the amount spent advertising The Big Knit against the sum donated.”
Clearly simple answers aren’t something that Innocent do well.
I got this. It’s long. It’s deluded.
|Tilly (people’s champion) Sep 9, 12:43 BST Hello there Joy,
Hope you had a great weekend?
Thanks again for taking the time to send us all this info. It was a really interesting read, and gave us lots to think about.
First up, we agree that wool can be great in loads of ways – it’s the bread and butter of the campaign, after all. Just to play devil’s advocate, since you asked, lots of people have got in touch with us to say they’re concerned that if wool’s being sheared and produced at a huge industrial scale, it gets more difficult to guarantee the sheep will be treated as you’d like. Since it’s not our area of expertise, we don’t know how common the stuff shown in PETA’s video is, but we have seen it, and we do know how it makes people feel, which understandably can lead to them not wanting to buy or use sheep’s wool. That said, we totally agree small farms are great, and it sounds like your local ones are absolute gems, so it’s just a matter of giving people details of trusted suppliers.
That’s a great point about landscape, by the way. Coincidentally, I was listening to a piece on the radio recently about sheep being reintroduced to Hampstead Heath for the first time in 60 years as a sustainable alternative to machinery, and thought it sounded like a brilliant solution to managing vegetation and encouraging wildlife.
At the end of the day, the Big Knit isn’t just about the money we make for Age UK (although it’s become a really important, reliable source of funding for them). It’s about the community it’s helped to build. For example, we often have the knitters from our local Age UK centre into Fruit Towers for lunch, and see first hand how the campaign itself brings older people together with a shared purpose. Preventing loneliness, isolation and poor health in older people is a cause very close to our hearts, and statistically, close to lots and lots of other people’s, too. Whilst we know there are plenty of worthy causes knitters and crocheters can donate to, we simply can’t support them all – however much we’d love to. In order for us to work with Age UK, we had to find something which physically came along with the drinks people were buying, because and that’s where the little hats came from. Age UK love the idea because it both funds activities, and has created activities for people knitting together (Big Knit clubs are a big hit in centres across the UK). If you haven’t seen it already, this is a little video we made a couple of years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1b854BDX7w
That said, the Big Knit’s brought together groups of skilled crafters on social media and in real life, who spend the time between Big Knit campaigns collaboratively making huge contributions to other charities and causes. We’re part of a Facebook group created by our crafters themselves, and we’ve seen those legends egg each other on as they made hats for premature babies, blankets for the homeless, and knitted toys for kittens recovering from abandonment (to name a few causes).
Thanks for passing on the stats from your surveys – that’s really interesting. From our point of view, we see data that shows our drinks do really when hats are on bottles, which allows us to donate generously to Age UK, as well as a huge spike in positive contact, so that’s enough for us to know it makes people happy.
We have to invest in marketing to tell people we make healthy little drinks anyway otherwise we’d be rubbish at business, but we’ve chosen to focus one of our campaigns on a great charity and cause – just like we do with the Big Grow and getting kids to grow their own veg (https://innocentbiggrow.com/). We could easily spend all our money just blowing our own trumpet, but we’d rather not. Last year, we ran a ‘call to knit’, to get people knitting, but this year, there’s been absolutely no marketing spend – no posters, no advert, and no print. Aside from operational costs like collecting and tagging hats, and popping them on bottles, all the rest of the cash in the budget goes towards our Age UK donation.
What we’re trying to say is that we think the Big Knit is an amazing campaign doing a lot of good, and we think it’s the right thing to do. If there’s a way we can do it better then we’re very much up for it, and you’ve presented some very good challenges. We also want our knitters to be using more sustainable and ethical materials. Our sustainability team have spent over 20 years researching the circular economy, and we’d hate to think we’re responsible for anything ending up in landfill. We always want to be held accountable for this stuff, and we’re grateful to you for lending your expertise and nudging us about this. While this year’s campaign is already underway, we’d love to shout more about sustainable materials with the next campaign, and help our knitters to source better alternatives – and if you’re up for it, we’d love your help with that. We already request hats back and re-use them continuously when we get them, but we’ll be sure to make much more of a ‘thing’ of that next time, to incentivise people to send them back to us so they can raise even more money.
Hope that answers your questions for now, and we hope it’s okay if we get in touch with you next year when we start working on these bits.
Thanks again for the thorough info you’ve sent us, and we hope to chat to you again soon,
Let’s pick out a few especially interesting points
“if wool’s being sheared and produced at a huge industrial scale, it gets more difficult to guarantee the sheep will be treated as you’d like”
That would be a no. Sheep still get sheared individually. They don’t get put some Wallace and Grommit style machine on larger farms. Also isn’t it hypocrital of one of the largest multinationals to be concerned about sheep farming on an industrial scale when they mass produce?
“Since it’s not our area of expertise, we don’t know how common the stuff shown in PETA’s video is”
Let’s not forget how big Coca Cola is. It could hire an expert. It could hire a whole team of experts. It could take a few minutes and read up about the PETA ad claiming wool is cruel as fur being banned for being misleading. But maybe that’s too much to expect. After all they have lunch to organise………
” For example, we often have the knitters from our local Age UK centre into Fruit Towers for lunch, and see first hand how the campaign itself brings older people together with a shared purpose. “
Are we really meant to think that’s sweet and helpful? One thing that would be really helpful in preventing loneliness in older people would be better services. Services which could more easily be provided if companies paid their tax fairly. Coca Cola who own Innocent are notorious for this. The link below is to an article showing how much tax as a percentage of turnover huge multinationals pay. In 2011 Coca Cola paid 2% of their turnover. 2%. That was a tax bill of £ 39,144,000. Imagine how many austerity cuts could have been avoided if Coca Cola and the other tax dodgers on the list had paid fairly. So some tax deductible lunches don’t really balance things out.
” it’s money from sales that turns into a donation “
So there’s still no recognition that asking people to work for pennies an hour making things that most people don’t want isn’t smart. Innocent could put a hat sticker on bottles and say that they’ll donate for every bottle sold. But that’s not such a good story for a multinational which wants to pretend it cares.
” this year, there’s been absolutely no marketing spend – no posters, no advert, and no print”
Now call me picky – but the poster I saw in the window of our local age concern came from somewhere. It cost money to print. So unless Age Concern are being made to fund advertising in order to get donations the no marketing spend doesn’t sound right.
That comment also ignores all the staff costs of the people working on these promotions. Maybe Coca Cola could sack them and donate their salaries instead. It would probably be more than was donated last year.
” Our sustainability team have spent over 20 years researching the circular economy, and we’d hate to think we’re responsible for anything ending up in landfill. “
I can’t quite believe that Tilly managed to type this – or that she believes I’m stupid enough to fall for it. If the sustainability team really believe they aren’t responsible for anything ending up in landfill then I’d question how effective they can be. I’ve seen hats swept off bottles and left on supermarket shelves. When I asked if people would keep or bin hats on Instagram more than half said bin them – and that allowed for people who didn’t want them but would try to find a way to recycle them. So it’s just another pile of empty words.
It’s not just about landfill though – so many resources get used to put a little hat on a plastic bottle and those resources could be so much better deployed.
So for now I’m going to do a couple of things. I’m going to support my local Age UK. I’ll shop there. I’ll donate things to them. The second thing I’ll be doing is continuing to talk about this. I’ll be sharing photos of the hats I see abandoned on supermarket shelves. I’ll be reminding Innocent that if they would hate to be responsible for anything ending up in landfill they need to do better. Much better.