Inspiring social change: LoyaltyOne’s journey

Loyalty OneLoyaltyOne owns and operates Canada’s premiere coalition loyalty rewards program, called the AIR MILES Reward Program. Collectors simply shop for every day necessities, such as grocery, gas and pharmacy, at participating top retail brands and earn reward miles. With over 10 million active Collector Accounts in Canada, representing two-thirds of Canadian households, LoyaltyOne is in a unique position to influence consumer behavior.

Leveraging the reach of the AIR MILES brand naturally became part of conversations as LoyaltyOne integrated sustainability into its core business in 2007. With increased media attention around the subject, there was a passionate group of employees who were making small changes around the office, such as eliminating Styrofoam cups and implementing double-sided printing. They caught the attention of LoyaltyOne’s President and CEO Bryan Pearson, who prompted the Executive Leadership Team to take a serious look at the company’s performance and deliberate on what corporate responsibility meant to the future of the business.

Their decision was easy to make and within a year, Debbie Baxter was hired as the Chief Sustainability Officer to oversee the integration of corporate responsibility into all core business functions.

The first step was launching at the time Canada’s largest solar rooftop panel installation on its new, eco-friendly Mississauga Call Centre. Today, LoyaltyOne is considered an environmental leader and has been acknowledged for its work, including being recognized as one of Canada’s top Green 30 companies and Top Employers.

“Becoming involved with sustainability and in community building presented an opportunity for staff to get even more engaged with the company. Corporate responsibility is really a key driver of employee engagement, recruitment and retention,” says Baxter.

Corporate responsibility helped the company build its internal competencies but the Sustainability team wanted to explore ways to effect change in the Canadian marketplace. In Canada, LoyaltyOne’s reward program was very popular among consumers and effective in its ability to influence consumer behavior. But could LoyaltyOne “do well by doing good?” Could the AIR MILES Reward Program encourage Canadians to make non-transactional behavioral changes that benefitted themselves and their communities, such as healthier lifestyle choices?

Enter AIR MILES® for Social Change (AMSC), a program designed to leverage the incredible popularity and reach of the AIR MILES Reward Program and drive positive social change around key healthy living and environmentally friendly behaviors.

AMSC enables AIR MILES partners with health and environmental organizations in Canada – including energy utilities, NGOs, nonprofits and local governments – to create incentives that inspire consumers to make decisions that are good for their health and the environment.

By making more socially conscious decisions such as taking public transit, reducing energy usage, buying healthy groceries or exercising more often, consumers can earn redeemable points to use toward appealing rewards such as merchandise and travel. “People want to live healthier lives and want to help the planet,” says Angela Simo Brown, General Manager, AIR MILES for Social Change. “AIR MILES for Social Change gives them a little nudge and reward to do so.”

LoyaltyOne started the program in partnership with two large nonprofit organizations, and a government agency -- the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada , the World Wildlife Fund, and the Ontario Power Authority. After piloting, evaluating and incorporating improvements, AMSC demonstrated that it is a cost-effective and socially impactful program.

And there is no shortage of partners who want to work with AIR MILES for Social Change. In 2012, the program developed partnerships with more than 25 organizations from both the public and private sector, enhancing its ability to maximize social impact.

Beyond increasing customer loyalty, LoyaltyOne’s partners also benefit from saved marketing and customer acquisition costs. Traditionally, governments use mass marketing campaigns to generate awareness for certain services or programs. By using the extensive reach of the AIR MILES Reward Program, LoyaltyOne’s partners share costs and leverage its strong reputation and marketing channels.

The use of public-private partnerships has also helped LoyaltyOne achieve its corporate responsibility goals with access to AMSC partners’ socially conscious programs, services and products. Aligning core competencies with corporate responsibility efforts and making corporate responsibility part of LoyaltyOne’s bottom line has enabled LoyaltyOne to increase its operational efficiencies, deliver a consistent message to its stakeholders, and increase its impact within the community.