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“Everyone wants safer food” - consumer campaigning tips from Lebanon to Lesotho

This Consumers International blog showcases advice by consumer campaigners
at the frontline of getting safe and sustainable food for all, from every continent in the world.

Green Action Week (2nd – 8th October 2017) is a global campaign to promote sustainable consumption. Each year in October, organisations around the world take joint action to promote a common cause. “Organic food and farming for all” is the campaign focus for the Green Action Week in 2013-2017. Campaigns are designed to promote organic farming free from chemical pesticides and the consumption of organic products.

Campaigners on the ground know their situation best, so we hosted webinars for participants in Green Action Week 2017 to come together and share their inspiration, challenges, and advice with each other. They had some tips to share which are useful for any consumer campaign to think about:

1. Know your target - is consumer behaviour the only challenge?

Trying to change consumer behaviour to encourage people to eat chemical pesticide-free food was the first priority of most participants in Green Action Week. But early in the process, they identified that sometimes the biggest barriers were not just how consumers acted, and that they needed to also tackle other challenges: 

  • Myths and misconceptions about what organic food is; how to recognise it; what pesticides are; and the benefits of organic food compared to non-organic food.
  • Barriers in the market - such as supply for farmers or price for consumers
  • An unhealthy national debate - either the media ignored the issue, national policy and laws were confused, or the government did not act to support chemical pesticide-free food.

What our participants said

  • I feel like consumers want organic food - everyone wants what is safer - but the problem is mainly that they cannot afford it and do not trust organic certification” - Lebanon
  • Consumers find organic produce expensive, that is a deterrent. Small scale farmers are not aware of new regulations” - India
  • Farmers could not access the market” - Lesotho
  • No national policy on organic food” - Pakistan

2. Audiences are people, not categories

Targeting ‘the general public’ could be anyone, and campaigns which try to reach everyone end up focusing on no one. Green Action Week participants went through a communications planning exercise to go deeper than categories of audiences (‘decision makers’, ‘consumers’, etc) to think about the real individuals who would be receiving their messages (e.g. ‘a young rural mother in Bangladesh who mainly gets her information from radio’).

Once they knew who their audiences were as individuals, they had a lot of advice for each other about what to say to those people and smart tactics to reach them.

What our participants said

  • We wanted to reach women, rural consumers, farmers, students, voluntary & community organisations” - India
  • Our campaign focused on improving the understanding of women and consumers of the benefits of organic farming for safe and sustainable food” - Kenya
  • We developed ‘shoppers guidelines’ for safe and organic food” - Pakistan
  • Recently India has passed regulations on Organic foods. We educated consumers on the labeling requirements of organic products.” - India

3. Paint a picture

Green Action Week campaigners recognised that media and social media were vital ways to reach their audiences, for specific reasons: they help reach larger numbers of people than possible through events, mainstream media gives credibility to the issue, and social media reassures people that their peers are also interested.

It was important to raise awareness in the media on importance of consuming organic food” - Kenya

Visuals are key to media and social media, and the lucky thing about this campaign is that organic food looks beautiful! The campaigners discussed what made a good photo and took advantage of that training in person (see photo to the right, taken by PELUM in Kenya)…

...on social media...

As guided in the last webinar, we posted images on Facebook and reached large numbers of consumers through our social media.” “We tested organic vegetables for safety in our in-house lab and shared our findings on social media” - CERC India

4) Learn from (and celebrate!) your global movement

Green Action Week involved 46 organisations from 29 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, training and planning together online before and after the week itself.

There are campaigners in every country who want to fight for consumers. It’s a global movement and a community that we can all learn from and celebrate together. Visit our Green Action Fund homepage to find out more about how you can get involved in our 2018 campaign.

My best moment? 

My best moment? The interest that the public showed at our fair’ - Malaysia

My best moment? Meeting students and being surprised by their interest’ - Lebanon

My best moment? Cracking myths about organic food’ - India

My best moment? Getting all our participants organised’ - Kenya

It was great speaking to you other participants, to learn that we are not struggling alone' - Lesotho