Brand Audit Training

Thank you for signing up for a brand audit! Everything you need can be found in our brand audit toolkit. Please review the following training videos to learn more about our brand audit initiative and how to start planning your own.

Background to the Plastic Pollution Crisis

If you are new to the issue of plastic pollution, this short animated video is a great place to get started. You can also watch the full version, an award-winning documentary! Brand audits are featured at the end of the documentary, so we recommend hosting a screening before your event to get your participants inspired.

Brand audit goals, impacts, and demands

6 minutes

Start by learning about our goals, what we’ve accomplished so far, and what we hope to change by holding corporations accountable for plastic pollution.

Overview, Timeline, and COVID-19 safety

14 minutes

A brand audit requires some logistics and advance planning. Here’s what you need to know to prepare your event, while keeping safety a priority.

How to record your data

3 minutes

This 3 minute video tutorial is available in 16 languages by clicking Settings → Subtitles/CC!

Practice BA activity

17 minutes

Watch a virtual brand audit activity to practice the steps needed to sort your plastic waste and record your data.

Submit your data

10 minutes

We have three different data submission options. This video can help you determine which platform is right for you. Please note that for the 2021 global brand audit, the deadline to submit your data is September 20, 2021.

BONUS: Brand Audits led by youth, for youth 

Teenage brand audit organizers from the global Heirs to Our Oceans network prepared this fun secret agent themed training designed specifically for youth leaders! Learn all about greenwashing, false solutions, and how brand audits can help us achieve REAL solutions to hold companies accountable for youth futures.

Got any questions after viewing these training videos? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions below! If you need further information or assistance, drop by our brand audit office hours to chat with our coordinator and meet other brand audit organizers around the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Definitions

▪ What is a brand audit? The process of identifying, counting, and documenting the brands found on plastic waste collected at a cleanup to help identify the companies responsible for producing plastic pollution.

▪ “Branded” – A plastic waste item whose brand name is clearly visible.

▪ “Unbranded” – A plastic waste item whose brand name is not visible.

▪ What counts as “plastic”? Sometimes items are made up of plastic and a mixture of other materials, like plastic, metal, paper, etc. So how do you know whether to include an item in this plastic brand audit? If the item is at least 50% plastic, you can include it. For example, a plastic yogurt container with a thin paper film for a lid is overall mostly plastic, so you would count it. On the other hand, aluminum soda cans have a thin layer of plastic inside. This small amount of plastic makes up less than 50% of the total item, however, so you would not count it.

▪ What counts as an event? A brand audit event is composed of one person/group, gathering & recording data on plastic waste from one place, at one time. For example: (1) a student club gathering plastic on their school campus over one weekend, (2) an individual collecting plastics in their neighborhood on one day, (3) a family collecting their plastics disposed of in the household over the course of one week. A network overseeing multiple events would need to submit a separate dataset for each event.

What is the purpose of the brand audit project?

Brand audits are our way of gathering evidence to hold corporations accountable for plastic that is not manageable or that may be recyclable but is ending up where it shouldn’t be. If we only clean plastic up, it will keep coming back. The only way to combat plastic pollution is to stop it at its source. Brand audits help us do just that! Through a combination of civic action and citizen science, we are recording data to find out which corporations are polluting our communities with single-use plastic. When we show exactly who created the plastic pollution problem, we can better hold them accountable to solve it.

What will the data be used for?

Volume III of our “BRANDED” report, where we’ll expose the world’s top plastic corporate polluters! You can read Volume I from 2018 here, Volume II from 2019 here, and Volume III from 2020 here.

Can I join an existing brand audit event, instead of hosting my own?

Yes, you can! Check out the event map on our online toolkit page to find registered events near you.

What are the deadlines?

The final deadline to submit brand audit data is September 20, 2021. Please be sure to use one of our official data submission platforms: TrashBlitz, BFFP Online Form, or the Excel Sheet. Failing to use one of these platforms will result in your data being unusable for our annual report.

What resources are available?

An online toolkit with resources available in over a dozen languages.
A series of recorded training videos to help prepare leaders with everything they need to know to organize a brand audit.
This 3 minute animated video tutorial on how to fill out your brand audit data card. Subtitles are available in 16 languages by clicking on the settings icon.
A social media toolkit full of promotional materials to recruit participants to your brand audit event.

Open office hours to ask questions, brainstorm your brand audit plans, and share ideas with other organizers.

When will the brand audit report be published?

Autumn 2021.

How are we staying Covid-safe?

We require event leaders to follow these safety guidelines.

English is not my preferred language. Can I still participate?

Yes, of course. Thanks to our translation team, our Data Card & Visual Guide are available in over a dozen languages. You can also look for this button at the top of our online toolkit as well as the social media guide to translate the page into a dozen different languages (see image below).

Where should I do a brand audit? Does Break Free From Plastic have any specific criteria for the location of a brand audit or cleanup?

Anywhere that you find single-use plastic! You can collect plastic waste in public, outdoor spaces like parks, beaches, rivers, and even underwater. While these are popular choices, they are not the only places we find single-use plastic. Consider doing a brand audit of your private, indoor spaces as well, such as in your home or office. You can even do a brand audit of an area beside a plastic production facility, since plastic pollutes at all stages of its life cycle from the moment it is created. It’s important to show the diversity of spaces polluted by single-use plastic pollution!

Questions about the brand audit data card

a. How do I know if I have participated in a BFFP online training? You have either joined a live virtual BFFP training or you have watched our pre-recorded training videos.

b. Average amount of time spent cleaning/auditing per day (hours). If your event takes place over multiple days, please take an average. This is to help us assess how much time was spent by volunteers around the world who participated.

c. Indoor or Outdoor Audit: This refers to where you collected your plastic waste. If you collected your plastic waste from home, school, or office, this would qualify as an “indoor audit.” If you collected your plastic waste from any outdoor space (parks, beaches, sidewalks, etc), this would qualify as an “outdoor audit.”

d. What exactly do you mean by “brand name” and is this the same as“parent company?” Should I record both?

Brand names are the trademark name given to a product by its parent company. A parent company typically owns and produces multiple brands – sometimes hundreds! In the data card, we require you to record the brand name. Typically, the brand name is the largest word on the item, while the parent company is in smaller print in a less obvious place. For example, Dasani is a bottled water brand, and this brand is produced by the Coca-Cola Company (click here for a visual).

We require people to record brands for a few reasons: (1) When plastics are old and worn, the labels are hard to read. Brand names tend to be much bigger and easier to find. (2) While we can usually later verify the parent company based on the brand recorded, we can’t verify the brand based on the manufacturer recorded because of the diversity of possibilities.

However, if you would like to help us build our brand-parent company database, we could definitely use your help! Recording the parent company is an extra step that we encourage you to do if you are able. The Excel template is the only data submission platform that allows you to input the parent company information. See the instructions in the first tab of the Excel template.

e. How can I tell what kind of material something is? There is often an abbreviation (ex. PET) or a number (ex. #1) that you can find, if the plastic isn’t too old. Check out our Brand Audit Visual Guide to help you categorize the different materials you might find.

f. What does “single-layer” or “multi-layer” mean? “Single-layer” means the item is made out of only one material (ex. A clear bottle, usually made out of PET). “Multi-layer” means the item is made out of multiple materials layered together, making it very difficult to recycle (ex. Tetrapaks, made out of paperboard, plastic, and aluminum). Check out our Brand Audit Visual Guide to help you categorize the different materials you might find. Labels on an item do not count as a layer.

What kind of waste are we looking for?

For the purpose of Break Free From Plastic’s brand audit, we are interested in plastic only! Not paper, glass, aluminum, or other waste materials.

What do I do if I’m not sure if a waste item is plastic or not?

When in doubt, research it online! Tricky items like cigarette butts, diapers, sanitary napkins, and surgical masks are in fact made of plastic. Refer to our Brand Audit Visual Guide for tips, and remember that an item must be majority plastic to be counted.

How do I submit my brand audit data to Break Free From Plastic?

You can report the data online in one of three ways. Please see Step 9 in the brand audit online toolkit to determine which platform is best for your needs. Any data received in formatting different from one of these three options will not be included in our annual report. This is due to the difficulty of merging databases in formats that are not compatible.

What is the difference between the paper form and the online form?

The printable brand audit data card is to help you record your data during your brand audit event. The online form is for you to submit your complete data to us digitally once you are done recording.

I’m using the Excel template to submit my brand audit data. Why can’t I edit the Parent Company column?

This column is locked because it has been programmed to automatically add the parent company of brands already in our database. If no parent company pops up, that means it is a new brand not yet in our database. We had to lock this column so that users could not override the automated function. The instructions for filling out the Excel spreadsheet are in the first tab titled “Template Guidelines.” If the brand you enter does not have a parent company auto populate in column B or needs correction, please input it in column C as per the guidelines.

If I am organizing more than one brand audit event, how do I record and submit the data?

Each event should have a separate data submission. As per the event definition on page 1 of this FAQ, “a brand audit event is composed of one person/group, gathering & recording data on plastic waste from one place, at one time.” If you are organizing multiple events in multiple locations with different groups of people over different dates, then these should be recorded as separate events with separate data submissions.

I'm overseeing several indoor/home brand audits on behalf of my organization. How do I submit the data?

Please make sure you always record indoor/home brand audit data separately from outdoor brand audit data. Do not combine locations, because these represent different waste streams so we must analyze indoor and outdoor data separately. If you are in charge of coordinating indoor/home brand audits, you have two options.

The first option would be to ask participants to submit their data digitally themselves. They can do this using one of the three data submission platforms, and can note the name of the organization overseeing these efforts in the data submission platform (TrashBlitz, online form, or Excel). This method is preferable if a) you expect a large number of participants, b) you would like participants to take ownership of their data submission, and/or c) participants speak English (since all data submission platforms are only available in English).

The second option would be to ask participants to send you their data first, and then you take the lead in submitting the data digitally on behalf of your participants. This method is preferable if a) you expect a small number of participants, b) you would like to monitor the data more closely before it is submitted, and/or c) participants do not speak English. If participants do not speak English, you will need to oversee translating the data into English before submitting. Our translation team may be able to assist you, so please reach out if you need support.

Do you advise doing the brand audit simultaneously while picking up the trash or can we do it when all of the trash is picked up?

This really depends on how much trash you are collecting and how many volunteers you have helping you. Please see Step 5 in the brand audit toolkit for recommendations.

How long does it normally take to do a brand audit?

This really depends on how much waste you collect and how many volunteers you have to help. If you are an individual doing a small brand audit in your home, it might take you as little as 30 minutes. If you are a huge group doing a brand audit of a big area filled with lots of plastic waste, it will probably take you a few hours.

I did a brand audit last year. Can I still do one this year?

Of course! It would be great to have you back. You’ll be an expert brand audit organizer now! We’d love to hear your feedback on some changes we made to the brand audit to improve from last year. Tell us what you think by emailing brandaudit@breakfreefromplastic.org.

Is there a minimum collection or cleanup area for doing a brand audit?

Nope. All brand audit data is valuable, no matter the size of your collection or cleanup area!

I’m only one person. Can I still participate?

Absolutely! You can always do an individual audit of your home, workplace, or an outdoor space you love! All brand audit data is helpful, no matter how big or small 🙂

How can I audit the single-use plastics in my own home, school, or office, rather than doing an outdoor cleanup?

If you’re going to audit your home or office, designate a container and place all plastics that you would otherwise dispose of in your trash or recycling, from Day 1 at the beginning of the day and ending Day 7 at the end of the day. At the end of those 7 days, take an audit of everything in that collection bin, and record all the waste and brands on the data card. Be sure to let your house or office mates know what you’re doing, either through a sign or just by telling them one-on-one. Not only will it stop them from throwing away your collected waste before you’ve audited it, but you can also start a conversation about solutions to plastic pollution! See our recommendations for indoor brand audits for more details.

What is the timeline for brand audits in 2021?

Our annual peak for global brand audits is July 1 – September 20. The deadline to submit your brand audit data is September 20, 2021. We will publish the results of the data in our brand audit report in October/November, 2021.

Can I do a brand audit outside of this timeline?

Yes. You are most welcome to conduct a brand audit and submit data at any time! If you submit your brand audit data after the September 20, 2021 deadline, however, submissions will not be in this year’s Branded report. They will most likely be included in next year’s report instead. Until then, social media can be a powerful space to share your own results! Check out our Social Media Guide for tips.

Do I only include plastic branded waste? What if I can’t find the brand name?

While we prioritize branded plastic waste, you should still include unbranded plastic waste in your brand audit if it was part of your cleanup. Even if you don’t know an item’s brand – if it doesn’t have a brand name, or it’s washed away, or you just can’t see it – still count it. Every piece of plastic that you find was made by someone, and if they didn’t put their name on it, then they’re not being held accountable for it. So it’s important that we be able to show that, because we don’t want these polluters to continue avoiding their responsibilities. Make sure that even if you don’t know the brand, count what you find in your brand audit.

What do I do with the collected waste after the brand audit?

It is important to make a waste deposit plan. Think ahead on how to properly dispose of all waste from your clean-up or collection activity, including plastics and all other materials. For example, recyclable materials should go to material recovery and/or recycling facilities, and biodegradable wastes could be set aside for composting. Waste that cannot be recycled or composted locally (i.e. residual waste) must be put in a landfill. If you have the resources to do so, join the “return to sender” activity in Step 10 by boxing up the branded items and sending it back to the company that produced it. Include a letter to the company describing the purpose of your brand audit and urge them to #breakfreefromplastic!

How can I get access to my data after I submit it online?

If you submit your data via TrashBlitz or the BFFP Brand Audit Data Submission Form, you will receive an automatic email with a digital summary of your brand audit data. Check your spam folder if you don’t see the email in your inbox. If you submit your data via the Excel template, then you have the original dataset already.

I don't think I'll be able to audit all the plastic waste I collect. What should I do?

If you are hosting a very large cleanup, we recommend you first create a plastics team that collects plastic separately from other waste. That way, you save time separating the plastic waste from other waste at your cleanup from the start. You can also take a representative sample of the total plastic waste you collected. For example, if your total plastic waste contains 5 bags of PET bottles, 5 bags of cigarette butts, and 5 bags of miscellaneous mixed plastics, you can create a representative sample of 1 bag of PET bottles, 1 bag of cigarette butts, and 1 bag of miscellaneous mixed plastics for the brand audit.  Do as much as you can with the time, energy, and volunteers you have available – that would be just fine!

I plan to take lots of photos and videos. How can I share them with you?

Send us your best brand audit photos for a chance to be featured in this year’s brand audit report and on our BFFP social media channels!  Deadline to submit photos is September 20, 2021. Be sure to tag us: @breakfreefromplastic (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and use the hashtag #BrandAudit2021. You can also email us your favorite photos and videos to brandaudit@breakfreefromplastic.org. We’d love to see branded plastic whenever possible, as well as before & after photos to show the positive impact you made with your volunteers!

What impacts have brand audits had so far?

While our brand audit initiative is still quite new, we have already seen some exciting impacts! Major international media outlets like The Guardian, CNN, BBC and others have written about our report, amplifying the call for holding corporate polluters accountable and influencing the dominant plastics narrative. BFFP members have used brand audit data to pass single-use plastic bans, create zero waste communities and plastic-free schools, file lawsuits against top polluting companies, and advocate for policy change through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and deposit return systems. We’ve also seen top polluting companies announce new sustainability commitments – a big step in the right direction, but unfortunately still not ambitious enough, which is why our work with brand audits continues.

What can I do to drive change in my community using my brand audit data?

All brand audits contribute to the BFFP movement’s campaigns, and simply submitting data makes a huge difference in building a global dataset to hold corporate polluters accountable. But some people want to take things further and build their own campaign to leverage their brand audit to make a longer-term impact in their communities. If this sounds like you, you can get ideas and inspiration from our recently published “From Data to Change: A guide to impactful brand audit campaigning” – available in English, French, and Spanish. This guide is for everyone who has led a brand audit, or plans to do so in the future. It contains strategy guidelines, recommendations from successful brand audit campaigns, case studies, and resources for further learning. We hope this guide will offer clear advice to help you develop a focused plan for including your brand audit in a long term campaign in order to make a bigger impact.

If a question remains unanswered, you can email the team at brandaudit@breakfreefromplastic.org.
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