‘The time is now for organic’ says unified Organic September campaign

Organic September

Soil Association Certification will lead a ‘joint approach’ for this year’s Organic September, teaming up with the Organic Trade Board (OTB) for what the organizations are calling ‘a unified campaign’.

This September, the organic food sector will be joined by beauty, wellbeing and textiles, making this the biggest Organic September effort yet. By combining the sectors, it is hoped that the public will hear the message loud and clear that ‘one small swap really can make a world of difference’ via what the SA calls ‘one organic voice and one organic message’.

The annual campaign is always a key moment in the calendar for the organic industry, but this year’s celebration is set to be all the more relevant as consumers connect with food quality and provenance on a deeper level as a result of the pandemic. “As citizens we are appreciating the world we live in, and the fragility of our existence in it, more than ever before. All the research shows that people don’t want to simply let things return to the way they were – but to continue making choices that will support people, animals and our environment,” says the Soil Association (SA).

Joining forces with the OTB, along with many brands and retailers (both online and physical), the SA will be bringing the campaign to all organic businesses in efforts to ramp up consumer awareness of the benefits of choosing organic. The SA reports that 86% of shoppers ‘already choose organic at some point in the year’.

Between the end of February and mid-April the UK saw a rise in sales of veg box schemes by at least 111% (source: The Food Foundation, the Banc CSA Network UK and Better Food Traders) due to the coronavirus crisis. With many Brits having discovered a new way of shopping, from veg boxes to farm shops and local independents stores, the SA is confident many will stick with their new habits beyond the pandemic. “With citizens shopping in new and different ways, many will stick to these new choices … and many more are making conscious efforts to buy more sustainably.”

The time is now for organic

The online space, it adds, will play ‘an even more central role’ in the 2020 campaign, providing tools, content and ‘some great new assets’ for SA licensees. The campaign will feature hosted webinars, virtual pop-ups and further promotion of the SA’s listings pages, which the certifier says saw ‘record traffic’ during lockdown.

Clare McDermott, business development director at Soil Association Certification, comments “Citizens are more in touch with their food, where it comes from and how it’s been produced than at any time in recent history – and it shows in the choices they’re making. They want simple changes that truly have a positive impact for the planet. This Organic September is a chance for everyone – from farmers to box schemes to online operators, high street retailers to farm shops, brands small and large – to come together and get the message out that choosing organic can make a world of difference, helping to restore nature, health and a safe climate. The time is now for organic.”

In a newsletter address to members, Harriet O’Regan, marketing director for the OTB, adds: “Sustainability strategies and action plans have been paused, for now, but the importance of us caring for the world we live in is likely to come out of this phase with a new found zeal, loaded with a new desire to look after humanity within the world.

“As we face the economic hardship ahead, I believe that this recession will have a new face, one that cares. One that recognizes the values that we must maintain and a new normal that has to more deeply respect the world we live in. So within this new context, we can continue to be confident that, for organic, the time is now. There is no better time for a system that is based on a fundamental respect of nature, to be noticed and valued. ‘A small swap that can make a big difference’ will become the platform on which we base the industry activity this year. Together I believe that we can make the choice of organic feel an accessible and tangible step towards making a difference.

There is no better time for a system that is based on a fundamental respect of nature, to be noticed and valued

“I am enthused and excited about what we can still achieve as a sector this year, despite having to be more resourceful with budgets and a little more limited on our options. We have been working in the background and the marketing committee remains dedicated to delivering materials, events and joint activity that members can get behind in 2020.

“We have created a messaging hierarchy which we have adapted to the current context and it will enable us to have a clear voice. We continue work to develop a cross-industry toolkit which be available in June and we are also finalizing plans for a programme of activity leading up to September which you will have the opportunity to get involved with.

“I am also energized to continue to feel the interest in organic by UK retailers, many of whom I have been in touch with and are keen to mobilize around organic. We will work with them to ensure they are offering a visible, accessible, extensive range of organic products in their stores and deliver events to inspire new organic purchases.

“We are committed to supporting both the major multiples who want to be one stop shops for organic and independents who want to use their organic range as a point of difference; we will be delivering a bespoke programme of activity for retailers who are interested. We will provide details of how you can get involved with our retailer breakfast seminars and our independent summer event in the next newsletter.

“For now, I want to say a huge thank you for the support of the passionate members on the committees who are dedicating their time and helping keep the momentum. I look forward to working with you all in the coming months. In the meantime, stay safe and thank you, all, for doing your bit to make a difference.

Image credit: The Soil Association