Monthly Archives: July 2021

Designing a Sustainability Campaign Linked to Behaviour Change

Sustainability can mean different things for different people. For organisations wanting to prove their sustainability credentials, the motivations could vary from wanting to attract ESG (Environment, Society and Governance) focused funding, to meeting compliance requirements, to attracting talent wanting to work with organisations that care about planet and purpose over profits.

For grassroots organisations or brands wanting to encourage more sustainable living, success graduates from raising awareness levels, to shift perceptions to ultimately changing habits and behaviour. In this article, we’re going to focus on the latter. We’ll cover storytelling for corporate sustainability separately.

Here’s how we can design a sustainability campaign that meets desired objectives:

  1. Start with clear (and ambitious) goal-setting –This will help define what success looks like and focus the effort on meeting defined targets. For e.g. getting 1 million households in Goa to adopt segregation at source for more sustainable waste management. While measurability is important, it’s also important for the goals to be ambitious (and sometimes even audacious!) to inspire the people and communities we want to reach and engage.
  2. Understand the barriers and motivations to act –It’s critical to develop empathy for the audiences we’re trying to reach and engage. This is done through processes of immersion, exploration and discovery of the audience’s lifestyle and factors that influence decision-making. It puts human beings at the centre of the campaign and helps us get a deeper sense of their challenges and how they consume content. It also helps us anticipate and counter reasons to ‘not’ act through the campaign messaging.
  3. Establish a compelling ‘why’ for the audience – Changing habits formed over years of conditioning is difficult. Especially, if the change in lifestyle we’re seeking requires people to do more, or do things differently, or in some cases even pay more for more sustainable alternatives. A strong, emotive narrative can help make the problem more relatable by focusing on three core arguments: how it’s impacting me and my loved ones, how it’s impacting us as a community and why we need to act now and with urgency.
  4. Innovate in message delivery – How do we take a clear and compelling message to an audience in a new and exciting way that will get them to care and encourage them to share? The answer lies in a mix of compelling emotive content that either entertains, educates or creates a sense of urgency delivered on platforms that are trusted by the recipient. This could be traditional news channels, or social media platforms where people consume and engage with content shared by friends, influencers and organisations that align with their value systems.
  5. Make it easy for people to act – And celebrate them when they do! Successful sustainability campaigns have clear calls to action that allow people to engage through small steps. After establishing the cost of not changing a habit and the benefits of doing so, the campaign narrative must provide specific actions on the path to change. Incentives (personal) and accountability (towards community) also helps; so regular updates on progress and celebrating milestones will create momentum for the campaign through a sense of shared success.
  6. Show, don’t tell –Telling people how they must act or behave is less likely to yield results than showing them how others are doing it and the positive impact it’s having on them and their loved ones. By using relatable ‘archetypes’ i.e. people in roles that others can easily relate with, as role-models, we’re tapping into people’s emotional core to act smartly for themselves and those around them. When we show, rather than tell, we make people active participants in the storytelling. By using ‘trusted messengers’ we can help overcome barriers, such as fear of stigma and address social norms that conflict with the desired behaviour.

Successful sustainability campaigns need to be multi-dimensional bringing together different elements to work together. From a communications perspective, it requires a holistic, experiential effort across channels to create credibility and reinforce messaging to normalize desired actions.


Girish Balachandran

Managing Partner, ON PURPOSE

4 Years of (living) ON PURPOSE

This year we are stronger. We have lived and fought through a first and second wave. We carry some scars – the anxiety of discovery of a positive diagnosis for a family member, the loss of loved ones and the burden of carrying on – the stresses of our time.

And yet, work continued. Giving us something to hold on to.

As I reflect on our 4th year as an organisation, here are some lessons that might help others learn from our experience.

  1.   Learn to let go. I find it harder to let go of a team member I really value, more than a client. It’s always been personal. A personal failure of my leadership, my ability to create a safe and welcoming workplace and exposure of my inability to teach or offer new learning. Upon reflection of this ‘fear of losing’ with my coach, we dug deep into my childhood (the answer is almost always there) and then my growing years to identify how the failure of my first marriage (we divorced after 11 years), had created a fear of failing at relationships. We also identified how this fear of rejection had made me become hardest on the people I really value, almost pushing them to reject me or prove their endurance, so I know I can trust them to be there – and never leave! When we discussed the joy and happiness I have today, with my wife, Pinky and our dog, Maya – I was able to see how my letting go had opened new possibilities for me to love and be loved. Similarly, at work too, I needed to stop operating from a place of fear and insecurity and really enjoy the relationships, without the fear of losing someone.
  2.     The power of disciplined thought and action. In his book, ‘Good to Great’, Jim Collins discusses how an organisation’s journey of growth can be likened to pushing on a flywheel. He describes how each seemingly mundane action, performed consistently, adds pressure on the flywheel to gain momentum. With each spin the flywheel gains pace, finally making the momentum self-sustaining and unstoppable. After 4 years, we can feel the ‘whoosh.’ The systems and processes are strengthening. We’re innovating with policies that inspire us. Our recent focus on refreshing our Diversity and Inclusion policy including the launch of an industry-first 6 days of period leave for menstruators, 21 days of paternity leave and the sensitisation of what it takes to be a truly inclusive workplace – is encouraging us to be the organisation we set out to be. Social change must start at home.
  3.     Sometimes, the inspiration we seek, lies within. After 4 years of average growth of 88% (shameless plug there – we’re awesome), it’s not surprising that the pace itself becomes normal. You either burn-out or re-invent yourself for the next high. In discussion with my coach, we discovered that the root cause for my frustration with average and mediocre work, was my inability to translate our long-term vision of achieving social change through our work, into action-able steps and milestones. This realisation has set us on a path of creating a 3-year product development roadmap to be able to deliver ‘research and evidence-based strategies for behaviour change’ through a focus on: data + insights, subject matter expertise, creativity and innovation in visual storytelling and a solid measurement and evaluation framework. You’ll hear more on this, shortly. In the meantime, check out how far we’ve come in this ace video by my colleague, Chandrasekhar Periagaram


This post would not be complete without mentioning the courageous, compassionate, and curious people that make us who we are:


  • Mr. Nath, my business partner. We failed together in one business and learnt a lot. Hopefully, we’ll do better here.
  • Our Founding team members – Srishti and Dhun. With each passing year, your stability and integrity make us stronger. You also keep our story of starting-up (and staying-up) alive and growing.
  • Our Leadership team – Shalini, who started and built our operations out of Bangalore in a stable, consistent way. Trigya – who brings calm confidence to the pressures of demanding briefs in our digital team. Sneha – who is setting our Delhi PR team on a growth path.
  • Shiwangi and Ashish – who run our HR. We could not achieve this sort of growth without your consistency, strategic counsel and the sheer volume of work that goes into building our team and culture.
  • Rajat ji – for managing our finances, keeping that cash-flow going and ensuring we never delay salary payments to our team.
  • Bhavika, John, Charitha and Naveen – each of you are pillars for the teams we are building. Thank you for your stability and commitment.
  • Juhi, Aastha, Anand, Uttirna, Atreyee, Jananni, Shibani, Chandrasekar, Sejal, Ayushi, Devanshi, Sonali, Harsh, Madhav, Mahima, Jinal, Jeet, Usha, Prateek, Saurav, Lourdes, Sourav, Esha, Chirag, Roshnika – thank you for your hard work, your passion, your vulnerability, and your commitment. It’s what’s building us, together.
  • I referred to my conversations with my coach twice in this post. Thank you Kanwaldeep Singh, for your innate listening skills and helping me find answers to my own questions.
  • Nandita Lakshmanan, Meera Krishnan, Shravani Dang and Moushumi Dutt – for being my go-to mentors on how to build a reputable business in PR in India.
  • To the ones we call on when we need help as freelancers and partners – Gourav, Pankhuri, Nithin, Aaruni, Mira, Diksha, Shalini Raghaviah, Supriya Balasundaram, Supriya Jain, Sid, Darshan, Dinesh, Abhishek, Priya, Komal and Akanksha Kohli.
  • To industry partners – Campaign India, ET Brand Equity, Exchange4media, Impact, PRCAI, PRPOI, Prmoment, Provoke Media, Reputation Today and SCORE for the opportunity, recognition and encouragement.


Thank you also to our clients, for your trust and partnership: Smart Power India, Micelio, Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiatives, Ernst & Young, KPMG, ADB, GIZ, Karo Sambhav, UNDP, UNICEF, Max Group, Antara, Vana, GloWorld, Zasti, Virtual Forest, Indivillage, BBC Media Action, Dasra, Round Glass, CII, FICCI and Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages. We’re going to do great things, together.

Finally, to each of our partners and well-wishers. You know who you are! For every word of encouragement, every social media post you engage with and every lead you send us. It’s dopamine and moves us on.

Thank you for reading this. As every year, here’s a link to our blog post from last year if you’re interested in seeing how we’ve grown since: 3 Years of ON PURPOSE

In the words of Om, Picture Abhi Baki Hain Mere Dost. Stay tuned on our social media for more.


Girish Balachandran

Managing Partner, ON PURPOSE