Award-Winning Illustrator Uses Waste Left on Trains to tell Heathrow Express Sustainability Story in Anniversary Campaign

Illustrator and paper sculptor Rebecca Sutherland has been commissioned by brand purpose consultancy Given London to bring handcrafted magic to a 36-metre long poster campaign communicating Heathrow Express’ sustainability credentials to thousands of travellers.

The D&D Yellow Pencil winner has upcycled rubbish discarded on Heathrow Express’ trains – everything from free newspapers to discarded cups and bottle tops to hand-craft individual sculptures which tell key elements of the operator’s sustainability story over the past two decades. Sustainability achievements, from how the number of women drivers massively exceeds the industry gender average, to the work the company does in the community and the fact that trains are all-electric have been beautifully brought to life through a series of crafted vignettes.

One of the posters, highlighting the 500 hours of community work Heathrow Express has given, features a typically British plate of fish and chips crafted as a clever, up-cycled paper sculpture. Drink cans have been repurposed, cut and moulded to create salt and pepper pots and a folded knife and fork, with a ring-pull used for the fish eye. Another, illustrating how the train service has helped youngsters find jobs, comprises a collage of tiny silhouettes and figures cut from newspaper pages, showing people at work. The fact that waste was used to create the images, gives the campaign creative synergy with its content – and is closely tied to the fact that zero waste goes to landfill from Heathrow Express’ depot.

The posters, launched this week, are positioned along the arrivals walkway at Terminal Two in full view of the hundreds of thousands of passengers who make the 10-minute walk every year, and who rely on the 15 minute service between Heathrow Central and London Paddington. In the latest National Passenger Survey, Heathrow Express received a 95 percent overall customer satisfaction rating.

Sutherland, whose previous clients have included Royal Mail, Waitrose and Virgin Atlantic is known for her innovative use of paper and raw materials in creating art. She immediately understood the strength of giving rubbish a value in the way that supermarkets use the carrier bag tax to make people think about throwing them away:

“My thinking was to create things that touched that sweet spot between being seen as refuse and a visually stunning image. We worked hard on getting that right. Just enough change so we can still see what it is,” she said.

“It’s strange to say, but when I was clearing up from the project, I had around 15 cups left over. It seemed strange to throw them in the bin. This is because they had been a resource all week. They had been as valuable as my pencil or my scissors.”

Rebecca was hired by Given London, a brand purpose consultancy with a reputation for combining a robust sustainability strategy for brands with creative and innovative delivery. They involved Rebecca’s work to help bring an authentic look and feel to the campaign.

Matt Wright, Associate Creative Director at Given London explained: “Consumers are more drawn to something that is real, tactile and tangible. So something with a hand-crafted touch and a personal feel resonated strongly.

“The trick was to find a central idea that was simple, bold and a little bit off the wall, so to speak. We also knew we didn’t want lengthy word counts or complicated visuals.

“The starting point for our idea was a simple question: over the past 20 years, the Heathrow Express has dramatically reduced waste from its operations. How can we use the waste that’s left over to help tell the story? The answer was to take the waste that’s left on the trains and upcycle it.

“When we decided to go for a handcrafted style and hit on the idea of upcycling waste, Rebecca’s was the first name on our list. Much of what we see now is very, very digitized, but at Given we still love a bit of offline, analogue craft. Rebecca had been in to see us before and everyone was really impressed by her work, so we were waiting for the right brief to come along. 

“I also regularly read her book ‘Hide & Eek’ to my kids at bedtime, which I guess was a useful reminder!” 

The Heathrow Express sustainability strategy supports the Heathrow 2.0 strategy for sustainable growth. Each of the themes in the posters feed into the four pillars of that campaign – being a great place to work, a great place to live, a world worth travelling and a thriving, sustainable economy.

Chris Crauford, Head of Commercial at Heathrow Express said: “This is probably our most ambitious attempt to engage passengers in our sustainability credentials and bring our brand to life in a way that goes beyond the speed, reliability and customer service we’re known for. We’re proud of our position as a sustainable transport option with our diverse workforce, activities in the community and fully electric trains. This campaign has proved to be a striking and impactful way of celebrating 20 years of sustainable travel with Heathrow Express.”