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 also fulfils the PET industry’s role of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

The Task

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 struggled. Outside of its social media channels, it lacked a way to talk directly to sustainably-minded consumers and stakeholders (key to garnering support for its 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 because of our successful campaign execution.

In 2019, GNL began providing a more targeted and data-driven communication solution, consumer email marketing, which would supplement our public relations work. GNL would also later take over PETCO’s stakeholder communications portfolio in the form of the quarterly PETrefresh email campaign.


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.

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 campaigns to ensure maximum efficacy. Each of these had a different touch-point targeting consumers countrywide who would want to receive national sustainability and 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 email marketing campaign produced by GNL.

The campaigns needed to strike a delicate balance of being useful to the consumer recipients (so they continue to subscribe to the newsletters and start engaging with the organisation), as well as distributing news about PETCO and its members.


While GNL achieved an average return-on-investment for PETCO’s public relations campaigns 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 45 000 nationwide.

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 40% 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’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.