Tim Hortons brings its CSR under a unified platform

From the C-Suite newsletter: The QSR wants customers to have a cohesive view of its sustainability, diversity and food efforts.

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Tim Hortons’ past efforts to do good have been piecemeal, making it harder for Canadians to understand that being forward thinking and sustainable has long been a priority for the Restaurant Brands International-owned coffee and donut chain, says Hope Bagozzi, the company’s CMO (pictured below).

So, last week, it launched “Tims for Good,” a new platform aimed at giving customers a better and more cohesive understanding of its CSR efforts.

Tim Hortons is calling “Tims for Good” a “sustainability platform designed to promote continuous improvement” that incorporates three key parts: people and communities, food and beverage quality, and the planet. It was put together with the help of new creative agency Gut Toronto and its recently named PR AOR Craft.

“By housing [these pillars] together… and putting them under one platform and one umbrella, it’s hopefully easier for Canadians to stitch it together that Tims is a brand that actually cares about communities and our wellbeing,” Bagozzi says.

Under its “planet” pillar, the chain has tucked in new and existing sustainability commitments. It will work to eliminate one billion single-use plastics this year, including phasing out plastic straws – a bête noire not just for environmentalists, but also for consumers. According to recent Oceana Canada/Abacus data insights, two-thirds of Canadians polled think the federal government should expand its plastic ban – which is set to come into effect this year – to include additional harmful single-use plastics beyond straws and other common packaging. 

Hope - Headshot 2020-09-22_9-14-21More than 85% of Tims’ 4,000 restaurants have already converted to paper straws, and it expects all locations will offer them by early summer.

Moreover, in October, Tim Hortons announced it would bring Loop containers to restaurants through a partnership with the TerraCycle recycling program.

The circular economy venture will include giving guests the option of paying a deposit and receiving reusable and returnable cups or food containers with their order. When guests are done, they can return cups or food containers to participating restaurants and have deposits refunded.

Roll-out of the Loop pilot, initially limited to Toronto, will depend on how the public health situation evolves in response to Government of Ontario restrictions. Feedback from customers will inform future messaging and give Tims a better sense of how its distribution network will need to adapt to meet demand. “By the time we can scale, we’ll have lots of learning under our belts,” Bagozzi says.

And while the brand is touting 100% recycled fibre napkins and is going to emphasize that customers bring reusable mugs to help reduce waste, it’s not just “green” initiatives that undergird the new platform: the people and communities platform plays an important role, too.

According to Bagozzi, Tim Hortons messaging is starting to better reflect the demographic reality in Canada. She cites its “We are all made of the same snow” holiday ad by Gut Miami as a showcase of its efforts to reflect more of Canada’s diversity.

The ad features multicultural snowmen dressed in ethnic garb – from Nathori nose piercings to Sporran Gaelic purses and various veils and ponchos – as well as a woman with a disability helping her son decorate a snowman in a wheelchair.

Diversity is something the brand fully embraces, she says, and this style of messaging is something it tends to do more of in the upcoming year.

The launch of “Tims for Good” follows the QSR’s March decision to invest $80 million dollars this year to boost ad spending, highlight menu improvements and support its omnichannel experience, including Tims Rewards. It also comes around the same time the company decided to close its “innovation cafe” in Toronto’s financial district as a result of the pandemic emptying office buildings that brought customers through its doors. The cafe was originally launched as test-and-learn space for menu items in 2019.

Bagozzi says some of the extra spend will go towards product-specific initiatives and letting Canadians know about its sustainability and charitable efforts, but also messaging regarding its new, streamlined simpler menu items designed for broad appeal and what Bagozzi calls “craveable taste.” For example, she says it’s already received positive reaction to recently launched fresh-cracked eggs, which it introduced to its U.S. stores in March in a campaign based around daylight savings and offering up Tims Rewards.

The company is even directing some of its “Tims for Good” messaging internally with plans for webcasts and lunch-and-learns with team members and owners so that everyone across the organization understands its work under around packaging, clean label and sustainability, which may not be top of mind as franchisees deal with operational issues.

Through social and bigger campaigns, Tim Hortons will “keep the platform front and centre,” Bagozzi says. “As we make new commitments and make traction on goals, we want to keep the platform living and breathing and to keep feeding it.”