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Icons of change: brand identities that champion Earth

More than ever, environmental concerns dominate global discourse. With businesses all over the globe having committed to a cleaner, greener future, it’s no surprise that in recent years, brands have turned into spokespersons for the state of the planet.

As we inch closer to the significant year 2030 milestone scientists have advocated for, many high-profile brands aren’t just talking about sustainability—they’re weaving it into the fabric of their identities.

What better way to communicate their intent to make a difference than by creating bold and strategic changes to their logos and packaging? By capitalising on a name, emblem, or feature consumers are already familiar with, some of the most influential brands are transforming their identities to champion environmental causes and drive positive change.

WWF’s vanishing panda

Source: WWF

On World Wildlife Day 2021, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched a powerful visual message—one depicting the stark reality we could soon face on this planet. The organisation debuted a new logo without the iconic panda; the dramatic change highlighting the critical issue of biodiversity loss. 

While temporary, the absence of the panda symbolised the rapid disappearance of wildlife, serving as a stark reminder of the urgent need for conservation efforts and the importance of protecting endangered species.

Coca-Cola’s ‘Recycle Me’ campaign

Source: Ogilvy

If there’s one thing we’d associate with landfills and ocean pollution, it’s the plastic bottle. To lessen the footprint of the familiar villain, Coca-Cola launched the ‘Recycle Me’ campaign, created by Ogilvy, hoping to promote sustainable behaviour among buyers. 

The company redesigned its iconic emblem into one that resembled a crushed can with the simple message “Recycle Me,” encouraging consumers not to simply toss empty Coke bottles in the trash. 

The deceptively simple tweak sent an instant message that resonated worldwide, engaging consumers in the recycling process and fostering a culture of sustainability.

Sprite’s transition to clear bottles

Sprite, another product in the company’s lineup, has embraced transparency in the name of environmental conservation. Historically packaged in green bottles, Sprite transitioned to clear plastic bottles in 2020 to enhance recyclability. 

In the past, the beverage’s green bottles posed challenges for recycling processes. Now, the clear bottles stand a higher chance of being re-used, supporting a circular economy that tackles climate change while still serving up the same, enjoyable taste.

Lacoste’s endangered species logos

Source: IUCN SOS

Think of Lacoste, and you’d picture the brand’s signature crocodile logo. To raise awareness about endangered species, the fashion brand partnered with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Save Our Species (IUCN SOS) to temporarily replace the iconic animal with ten others. 

From the Vaquita to the Sumatran Tiger, each of the limited-edition polo t-shirts featured one of the endangered animals, turning every customer into a walking billboard while financially supporting real-world conservation projects through sales.

The broader impact​

These brands exemplify how well-known identities can be used to champion Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) values. With just a single change to their overall look, companies can raise awareness, inspire action, and support eco-friendly efforts.

Publicis Norway’s climate-changed UN logo

As a creative agency, we play a critical role in developing a brand’s sustainability message. For instance, before COP28 in 2023, designers from Publicis Norway took on a passion project to redesign the United Nations logo.

At first glance, the emblem may seem no different, but take a closer look and you’ll see that it reflects the anticipated impact of rising sea levels due to climate change.

The altered logo —which is updated online in real time—depicts the familiar atlas partially submerged, conveying the urgent threat posed by global warming. By altering such a recognisable symbol in a novel way, the campaign succinctly underscores the necessity of taking immediate action.

How brands can effect change with ESG-centric branding

Source: WWF

In a world where each and every brand has a voice, companies hold power in shaping public perception and driving societal change. By embracing ESG-centric branding, companies can make a substantial impact on Mother Earth in myriad ways. 

One such option is by leveraging iconic elements, in which brands utilise well-known components, such as logos and packaging, to convey messages that effectively raise awareness.

Next, clear and compelling calls to action, like Sprite’s transition to clear bottles, can inspire consumers to adopt more sustainable practices, while collaborating with reputable organisations, such as IUCN SOS, enhances the credibility of an enterprise’s initiatives. 

By integrating ESG principles into key messaging, brands can play a pivotal role in promoting environmental sustainability and addressing climate change. Through innovative campaigns and strategic collaborations, companies can leverage their influence to foster positive change and build a more sustainable future.


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