“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” - IPCC
Yesterday, Earth Day 2021, THINKHOUSE hosted an event for courageous marketers entitled ‘DELAY IS THE NEW DENIAL: COMMUNICATING FOR PLANET EARTH.’ This week’s 52INSIGHTS gives an overview of some of the insights and learnings shared.
MARKETERS ARE TRAILING BEHIND AND NEED TO CATCH UP
“Climate is not like a footy match where you lose and it is game over...The climate game continues, so even if the 1.5C game is lost, it is still game-on for 1.6C and 1.7C….The new mantra is that every fraction of a degree, every year and every choice matters.” -Dr Glen Peters, research director at Norway’s Centre for International Climate Research
Net Zero awareness and ambitions have never been higher - a recent report by UNFCCC that the number of commitments to reach net zero emissions from local governments and businesses has roughly doubled in less than a year, as many prioritize climate action in their recovery from Covid-19.
However, we’re not moving fast enough - research by World Federation of Advertisers reported this week said that just 10% of marketers claimed to be ‘well advanced’ in their sustainability journey, compared to 29% who said that their wider business was already at this stage (read the full WFA report here). As an industry we’ve a lot of catching up to do.
Carbon dioxide emissions are also forecast to soar this year by the second biggest annual rise in history. A report released this month reinforces our industry’s role in the bigger picture - a whopping 72% of GHG's result from consumer behaviour. Our actions, words and stories that act as important influences on public opinion; through them we have the power to make the difference between making net zero lifestyles aspirational and normal (and hitting increasingly ambitious targets!) or driving the culture of unsustainable consumption.
MEANWHILE...CLIMATE CULTURE IS HEATING UP
“We celebrate a movement for climate justice that is expansive + intersectional because climate justice is health justice is housing justice is racial justice is gender justice is immigration justice is queer justice is reproductive justice is economic justice is criminal justice is disability justice is labor justice is climate justice.” Bad Activist Collective
Climate Culture is about much more than the rise in ‘green trends’ and love of nature. We’re seeing a growing culture of climate justice literacy. With this, there’s a growing understanding of the intersectionality of issues and challenges that the world - and brands - are facing. We’re seeing this come to life in the likes of Black Lives Matter activism and backlash to the unequal vaccine rollout. As a result of Climate Culture, we’re witnessing more brand-related Cancel Culture - people demanding accountability from brands deemed to be greenwashing or wokewashing.
THE DELAY TACTICS IN COMMUNICATIONS
Climate deniers are becoming rarer- if anything during this pandemic we have learned the importance of scientific evidence and the evidence surrounding the climate crisis is plentiful and irrefutable. ...However the outright denial of global warming is being replaced with more subtle ways of downplaying the need for urgent and far-reaching action.
'Discourses of Delay' that are stalling our response to addressing the climate crisis, obscuring essential conversation and progress, include four key problem areas:
- Redirect responsibility (did you know BP oil popularised the term ‘carbon footprint’?)
- Emphasise the downsides
- Push non-transformative solutions
We shared lots of solutions on how to identify, understand and overcome these problems including some below approaches:
- Embrace Distributed Leadership
- Utilise tools that are designed to address or speed up positive action
- Begin from the inside out
- Celebrate progress & transparency
- Make your job Green
- Create your own rulebook
If you missed the session and would like to understand more, you can watch the recording back here.
For brands aiming for making positive action in 2030….that’s 9 years away. It only takes 9 seconds to switch to a ‘better’ brand alternative today.
David Attenborough said ‘saving our planet is now a communications challenge.’ We know this - and we have witnessed how, since the launch of our PLANET services over 2 years ago, brands and businesses are increasingly aligned on the need to achieve a net zero world as soon as possible. The picture is clear in terms of our audiences too - there is a big gap between what businesses and brands are currently perceived to be doing in terms of acting on climate and what young people expect from them.
As an industry, we believe, we have a responsibility to address this climate crisis not just through the lens of “ambition” but through the lense of “acceleration”. To reach our goals and remain relevant, our industry must step up to tackle the problems of communications that are misaligned with a net zero world and/or not working within the Sustainable Development goals. Education is critical to the journey of change - by empowering ourselves to identify, understand and refute delay arguments we are driving accelerated action. Because the better educated we all are the more confidence we will have to move faster.