"Saving our planet is now a communications challenge.” David Attenborough, 2020
This month, we hope to see accelerated conversation, communications & action for climate and sustainability. April 22nd will mark a global ‘Earth Day’, and this year’s theme is ‘restore our earth.’ Since its beginnings in 1970, many important and unifying environmental events have happened around the timeframe, including the recent signing of the Paris Agreement. This year, US President Joe Biden plans to convene a global climate summit.
This week’s 52INSIGHTS is the first in a four-part series over the month of April, addressing topics related to protecting planet earth. Today, we set up youth’s climate concerns and some notes on where we're at with sustainability today.
COVID-19 & PLANET EARTH: YES YOUNG PEOPLE STILL CARE... AND THIS CONCERN WILL RISE
“55% of consumers believe brands play a more important role than governments to create a better future.” Havas Meaningful Brands Study 2018
Concern for the climate consistently ranks top or very highly in research among young generations. Deloitte’s 2020 Millennial survey showed climate change/protecting the environment as the top concern for Gen Z and Millennials. Youth are willing to pay more for more environmentally friendly products and are more loyal to brands/companies that are responsible.
It’s true that for many, other issues have an increased sense of urgency in a Covid-19 world - health and wellbeing for one. We only have so much capacity for worry. However, many young people are not only holding up concern for the environment, but starting to connect the dots between our current realities, climate, and a healthier way of living together. One of our ‘Youth Culture Uncovered 2020: Emerging in an Emergency’ participants spoke about how she's had more time to think about her environmental efforts and where her money is going:
"I think that being in lockdown has given me time to think more about my impact on the planet and the people who create the things I buy. I make all of my own food and I’m so much happier with that, reducing packaging waste and food waste. I’ve saved money by not taking transport or getting coffees. I’m trying to buy less and more consciously - so I'm buying fewer things but spending more on them for them to be from better sources." Emma, 29, London
And it’s safe to say it’s not just youth. According to Netflix’s new sustainability report, in 2020, 160 million households around the world watched at least one sustainability show (like Our Planet or My Octopus Teacher. Seaspiracy is the latest hit, featuring in top 10 lists). That’s 160 million families seeking sustainability content!
Revolt London’s ‘Causes That Count’ index also found that 44% of people globally felt climate change was one of the most important issues even in the midst of a global pandemic.
What we can only expect coming the tracks is that post-Covid-19, concerns for the planet are going to gain more and more momentum, at pace.
TRENDING NOW: RE-EDUCATIONS & SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP
“No matter what industry you are in, this is all of our future work. We need to fight to make sure we have a more sustainable future and that can only happen if we do it together. We need spaces like this [Purpose Disruptors] where we can share, reflect, support each other through this… We need to lean in, learn and tool ourselves.” Ali Sheridan
An online gathering our PLANET team co-facilitated last week as part of The Great Reset by Purpose Disruptors, saw sustainability expert Ali Sheridan present on the sustainability story today for business and what that means for sustainability leadership. What did we learn?
Where we're really at with sustainability:
- Consumption is still going the wrong way. The world consumes 100.6bn tonnes of materials per year. The more eco-friendly behaviours (eg. not travelling frequently by plane) adopted during Covid-19 are not being sustained as countries emerge from lockdowns.
- There are huge gaps to close in terms of what people are saying (eg. communicating Net Zero targets) and what they are doing right now.
- There is confidence to be found in the EU’s Green Deal being a way to move forward in how we buy stuff, what we build and how we invest.
- The action we take now needs to be truly transformative and not just ‘business as usual but a bit greener’.
What's coming down the track:
- Consumer need for environmental credentials is getting stronger - we’ve already seen an increase in the call-out of brand greenwashing. However, there is still a need to enable green behaviours and create sustainable social norms - we should see brands and businesses start to help ‘choice edit’ and engage audiences in solutions.
- From a brands and comms perspective there is a labelling revolution on the way (tapping into the importance of transparency and accountability). We’ve started to see the significance of carbon labelling on products - ‘carbon is the new calories.’
- In terms of reporting and managing carbon impact, scope 3 emissions (from activities not directly owned or controlled by the organisation) will need to be addressed by everyone.
- We will need to see companies who are committed to Net Zero, updating on their short-term progress towards these longer term goals.
- We will see a shift from shareholder value and shared value to systems value - where business ‘addresses societal challenges in a holistic way while not hindering the progress toward a flourishing future’.
More to follow next week!
Brands need to be ahead of the curve here and be prepared for heightened consumer expectations - especially as we’ve all had the time to re-connect with nature and re-appreciate its connectedness to so many wider social and cultural issues.
This month is a great excuse to embrace a re-education or further education on how you as an individual or how your brand or organisation can accelerate a response to the climate crisis and enhance life on earth in a sustainable way.