PETCO (the PET Recycling Company) was established in 2004 as an industry-driven and financed national recycling initiative. It acts as a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) that financially supports recycling activities along the waste PET plastic value chain, assisting reclaimers at grassroots level while representing some of South Africa’s most powerful brands.


PETCO and its members and partners needed to communicate their message to stakeholders and consumers alike,  but in a manner that appealed to (and was understood by) each of these vastly different audiences. Despite an abundance of success stories, the brand was relatively unknown outside its membership circle.

Because of its niche and sometimes complex message, PETCO’s public relations efforts had often been unsuccessful. Outside of its social media channels, it lacked a way to talk directly to sustainably-minded consumers and stakeholders. This avenue is key to garnering support for its members’ sustainability efforts.


Having been introduced to PETCO in 2017 for once-off regional public relations work, GNL subsequently landed the organisation’s full PR portfolio.

In 2019, GNL pivoted to provide PETCO with a far more targeted communication solution – email marketing – to supplement our public relations work for the organisation.

Direct email offered PETCO an uninterrupted communications channel to its members, partners and sustainably-minded consumers without the interruptions (and sometimes inaccuracies) of having to rely on newsrooms or the social media algorithms to get its message conveyed to the public.

The first step was to grow PETCO’s (then non-existent) consumer email database, using a carefully tailored online lead generation campaign.


With a limited budget, GNL launched the lead generation campaign in early 2019, targeting a particular consumer in South Africa – one interested in PETCO and its partners’ message: PET recycling and sustainability.

Because social media users react differently to the same message, GNL set up a series of lead generation adverts to ensure maximum buy-in by consumers. Each of these had a different touch-point, but targeted consumers countrywide who would want to receive national PET recycling news.

Garnering these consumer email addresses was not enough, though. PETCO and its partners’ messages had to reach these new recipients eager to hear their news. This was rolled out in the form of a monthly e-newsletter crafted by GNL.

These emails needed to be of assistance to recipients, rather than merely push PETCO’s information at them (which would result in recipients unsubscribing from the database).

From careful content generation to strategic subject lines crafted to ensure high email open rates, GNL set about creating consumer communications in the form of useful monthly email newsletters for PETCO.


By 2021, PETCO’s consumer email communications and lead generation spending overshot its spending on public relations. While GNL achieved an average return-on-investment for PETCO’s public relations of over 2 500% (*based on the value of the achieved media exposure), our lead generation campaign for PETCO saw its list of consumer email recipients grow to over 40 000 nationwide within two years of commencing.

The average CPL (cost per lead) of growing the database equated to R3 – a tiny fraction of the global industry average cost per lead for a non-profit organisation, which is US$31.

This direct and “uninterrupted” straight-to-consumer form of messaging meant PETCO’s clearest message could reach its desired audience at the click of a button. The email database contained purely opt-in consumers eager to hear about PET recycling news and who wanted to get more involved in PET recycling and sustainability in their communities.

The email newsletters also received a high “read” rate, averaging 35% of all recipients per month – well above the 21% industry average.

An added benefit was that the stories crafted for the monthly newsletters by GNL were housed on PETCO’s website (pushing more unique visitors to the site) and subsequently profiled on its LinkedIn channel (growing that channel organically by over 20% in 12 months).

Thanks to GNL, PETCO no longer needs to rely wholly on social media platforms or the news media to convey its message to its audience (channels which are not free of trolling or the frustrations of inaccurate reporting).

Thanks to GNL’s effective digital solution, PETCO continues to enjoy a growing public profile while its members benefit from their purest messages reaching an engaged and PET-conscious consumer audience nationwide.