By and large – particularly in agencies – we like to think that we are problem solvers. We regard ourselves among the solution orientated, using creativity to address the biggest challenges that society faces one brief at a time. We know that in most instances brands have the greatest power in addressing these issues, and so as creative partners we look for these new solutions to create positive change.
If we, as marketers, are all indeed aligned to this vision – helping brands solve the world’s problems – the one problem we should all be aiming to address is the one that affects us all: the climate crisis.
While not a subject that requires much introduction, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Climate Report has made it abundantly clear: climate change has been driven by humanity, and the actions we take today will inform the overall health of the planet in the coming decades.
The fact that the very language has shifted from ‘climate change’ to ‘climate crisis’ is indicative of the how dire the situation has become. While the report highlights a number of modelled outcomes based on varied degrees of action, the resounding truth is that global temperatures will rise by at least 1.5°C above pre-industrial averages. This means that even if some of the most drastic measures were actioned today, some effects are simply unavoidable.
Just as the language around the climate has shifted from change to crisis, so too has the concern by global society grown from passive to active – particularly among younger demographics who will have to deal with the consequences.
In one of the world’s most ambitious studies to investigate young peoples’ sentiments towards the climate crisis – published in Lancet Planetary Health with 10 000 participants spanning across 10 countries – the results show a key theme that young people are afraid, angry, and anxious.
Some key data points indicate that 45% of 16-25 year olds say climate-related anxiety and distress is affecting their daily lives and ability to function normally; 56% of respondents agreed with the statement “humanity is doomed”. 75% agreed with the statement “the future was frightening”. And when it came to government action and implementation, the underlying theme is that many believe they could be doing more.
Locally we are not immune to the threats of the climate crisis, and leading studies by the Global Change Institute (GCI) at the University of the Witwatersrand show that South Africa is at risk of decreased food and water security due to more frequent droughts, flooding, extreme heatwaves and catastrophic cyclones. The knock-on effects include increased levels of poverty, social unrest, job security amongst many other factors.
All of this does not create an excuse to do nothing. As dire as the situation may indeed appear to be, there is still hope to limit environmental devastation based on the actions we, governments and brands, take today.
As we continually grapple with operating in the ‘next normal’ it is imperative to stop and realise the important role that brands play in leading the fight against the climate crisis.
Over and above the efforts that brands are making to get greener across their own operations, there is an inherent need for purposeful brand activism in communication as well. When it comes to the climate crisis this means going beyond simply getting consumers to change in their own personal capacity, but so too involves creating wider change in government policy.
As marketers this means finding the profound human truths around the climate crisis that are relevant to society, to assist in removing the barriers to shift in behaviour. It means creating long term solutions that allow society to make better, greener decisions in convenient ways. As agencies it means collaborating with clients in helping them build better, greener businesses and supporting the right causes in relevant ways. And as clients it means making the brave decisions.
There are already a number of brands taking active steps towards implementing more climate positive solutions in both their operations and communication. Sportswear juggernaut Nike has the “Move to Zero” initiative which intends to reduce carbon emissions by 30% across its entire supply chain by 2030.
Tech firms such as Alphabet (parent company of Google) and Apple are leading the fore in powering their entire operations with renewable energy as well as becoming completely carbon neutral by 2030.
Others like outdoor goods retailer Patagonia – which has a longstanding commitment to environment causes – closes its stores every year on Black Friday for ‘Buy Less, Demand More’ to highlight the environmental cost of buying new fashion. Even the likes of Johnnie Walker have explored new paper-based packaging for its celebrated Black Label blend as a part of its limited edition run.
The time to act is now and we now need to make the decisions today to create a tomorrow we all want to be a part of.
Jordan Major is a senior strategist and writer who believes in the power of collaborating with culture to connect brands to their customers. In his role at RAPT Creative he works alongside the creative studio to ensure all work is informed by insights and data to ensure that the work is executed holistically in unique territories and across the relevant channels.
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