Aphria shifts its CSR platform to get people outside

The cannabis producer aims to help people access nature, which they've realized the importance of during the pandemic.

By Justin Crann

The pandemic has made a lot of Canadians much more aware of just how important it can be to get outside and enjoy nature. With that in mind, cannabis producer Aphria is shifting focus for the second phase of its “Plant Positivity” CSR platform, placing greater emphasis on helping people access nature and plant life.

Education had been the primary focus of the campaign’s first year, which included a partnership with Toronto’s Evergreen Brickworks to showcase six “Plant Positivity” gardens, featuring instructional podcasts, guided tours and workshops on-site that educated visitors on functional plants, such as one with medicinal properties or vegetables that can be grown in urban environments.

After education, impact followed: in follow-up surveys, Aphria found 91% of participants were motivated to establish green spaces in their own homes and neighbourhoods.

But now, Aphria is placing an even greater emphasis on giving people physical exposure to nature, which triggers what it calls the “green effect.”

“It’s that feeling that washes over you when you step into a giant forest or wherever you may be,” says Tamara Macgregor, Aphria’s chief corporate affairs officer. “Our focus is helping Canadians access the nature that is right outside their door.”

Aphria has planned a national rollout of its second phase in January, and while details – including a new partner in the program – remain to be revealed, it has taken a first step by working with agency Sister Merci on a redesign. Its online channels feature natural hues and bold fonts in a bid to convey the sense of optimism and well-being the company is aspiring to promote with Plant Positivity, Macgregor says. It also features its “pathfinders,” influencers who use their platforms to demonstrate how people can live green – both by maintaining plants and green spaces locally, as well as eating green and exploring.

Macgregor saying helping people live their best lives has been a brand value core to Aphria, be that in terms of the situations its cannabis products are well-suited to or in accessing nature. The latter plays an important role in improving a person’s well-being, particularly amid a global pandemic that has limited how often people leave their homes.

“Plants help us to live and perform better, physically, emotionally and socially,” Macgregor says. “We know that plants and nature can improve our well-being and that can have a real impact on our mental health, especially during this pandemic.”

But the challenge for many, especially in an urban setting, is finding ways to make meaningful contact, Macgregor adds.

“People don’t know how to do it, so a lot of them are still underexposed,” she says. “Part of our goal has always been bridging that gap … I think access would have always played a pivotal part in this platform, but it has been elevated by the pandemic.”

The coming winter also doesn’t mean Aphria can’t help people get the benefits of plant life. After launching with Evergreen, 48,000 people came to a pop-up garden at Toronto’s Union Station around “Blue Monday” in January this year, which was designed to improve moods during a week that is widely accepted as one of the most difficult of the year.

“If we’re injecting a little bit of happiness into a person’s life by making them feel a little more confidence when it comes to introducing plants or nature into it, that’s a win,” Macgregor says.