Why sustainability is a matter of two-way education from Miele

Global marketing and sales chief shares the journey the manufacturer is on to extend sustainability knowledge and responsibility

Marketers often talk about the need to learn from their customers, and one of the clearest lessons of the past decade has been the need for brands to become more sustainable.

But when it comes to product-based brands, true sustainability is not just a question of how the item is produced, but also how it is used. And in those instances and the change needed rests squarely in the lap of the user.

German high-end domestic appliance maker, Miele, has long prided itself on its green credentials going all the way back to its foundation in 1899, through its dedication to energy efficiency and circularity. The company has been carbon-neutral for Scope 1 and 2 emissions since 2021 and is aiming to reduce the CO₂ footprint from the usage phase of its appliances by 15 per cent up to 2030 compared to 2019 levels. It also works hard to keep its appliances out of landfill and holds spares for discontinued products for at least 15 years after production has ceased.

Like many other manufacturers, Miele has noted these initiatives are becoming more important to consumers. But according to Miele executive director for marketing and sales, Axel Kniehl, for the company to achieve its full sustainability ambitions, it must embrace the idea that responsibility continues long after its goods have left the warehouse.

“We have to significantly step up in our efforts to educate the customers and help them understand how they can best contribute to a better planet,” Kniehl tells CMO. “Sustainability credentials play a central role here. Energy consumption labelling, evidence and facts are therefore more important than ever to avoid giving the impression of greenwashing and to substantiate the efforts. However, we are well on the way to proving our claims with studies, facts and results from our laboratories.”

A consumer knowledge gap

Despite Miele’s efforts, Kniehl notes many customers are not aware of the sustainability functions of their own devices. He cites the example of Miele’s washing machines: If all users employed its Eco program just 3 per cent more often, the energy savings would compensate for the assembly of all of those machines.

Axel KniehlCredit: Miele
Axel Kniehl

“Or by using the automatic detergent dispensing system for washing machines and dishwashers, TwinDos and Auto-Dos, the consumption of detergents is significantly reduced by up to 30 per cent compared to manual dosing,” Kniehl says. “Unfortunately, customers usually know too little about these functions and programs and therefore do not use them or use them too rarely. This is where we have to start. The more we enter into direct exchange with the customer, the more we learn from them.”

One of the methods Miele is employing to bring this knowledge to consumers is its app, which now includes icons enabling users to compare at a glance the energy and water of different programs. The company is also working to integrate its appliances into intelligent energy management systems, so they automatically start when green electricity is available from home photovoltaic systems. Kniehl says Miele is already trialling this capability with a partner in Europe.

These efforts will also play a more prominent role in Miele’s brand communications in 2022 as the company evolves the campaign, ‘Quality ahead of its time’, which rolled out last year.

“One important change is certainly that sustainability communication is very much focused on the future - and how we want to achieve this future,” Kniehl says. “We are therefore talking about process-oriented communication in which small steps on the way to the big goal are also important.”

In Australia, raising consumer awareness extends down through various tactical implementations. Miele Australia and New Zealand marketing director, Michele Laghezza, says this even includes educating and inspiring people to think more about sustainability when they go into the supermarket.

“We have completely changed the way we do our cooking demonstrations,” Laghezza says. “First of all, there is zero food waste. And we tend to execute recipes which are mainly seasonal, because seasonality is part of sustainability as well, and we use local sourced ingredients.”

This thinking is also reflected in Miele’s digital presence. “The way we are building the consumer journey with our landing pages is really trying to give people the information they are looking for in terms of the benefits they are going to get,” Laghezza says.

“We are selling white boxes, and when you look from the outside, they are looking exactly the same as many other white boxes.

“The point is that our white boxes cost twice or three times the other, so the consumers want to know why. It is not always easy to explain everything in point-of-sale, which is where online is becoming the main touchpoint.”

Experiential environmental

Miele’s sustainability credentials were put on display last year through an activation at Melbourne’s Federation Square. The Greenhouse-Future Food System was a self-sustaining, closed loop, two-bedroom home that provided shelter, food and energy for its inhabitants based on Miele appliances. It was developed in collaboration with sustainability advocate, Joost Bakker, and chefs, Jo Barrett and Matt Stone. Laghezza says that concept caught on in within the company and is now being expanded.

“The other subsidiaries took our concepts with Matt and Jo and Joost and amplified them in their own markets,” Laghezza says. “It’s going to be a tribute to Australia and to its fantastic examples of sustainability.

“These are all the things that we as a company are doing to fulfill new needs from the consumer. The consumer journey is changing, and the touchpoints are changing.”

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