We must not waste our opportunity to build a more sustainable future

Guerillascope's Stuart Bryan looks at how to get consumers to make greener choices.

The financial concerns caused by the Coronavirus pandemic is making people less able to make eco-friendly choices despite the climate crisis still being a big worry for consumers. Guerillascope's Stuart Bryan looks at the problem and outlines how to turn awareness into action.

According to the recent Green Report by MailMetroMedia, COVID-19 has led to 1 in 4 Brits being less likely to make eco-friendly choices.

Delve further and it’s clear that price is a major factor, with a survey conducted by Nationwide Building Society finding that 59% of respondents felt they couldn’t make greener changes to their lifestyle because of financial constraints. Put simply, sustainable living is seen as a privilege of the more fortunate.

But all is not lost.

Carl Pratt, founder of FuturePlanet, an organisation committed to driving change through a community of brand activists, believes the COVID-19 outbreak represents an “unprecedented opportunity to build back better.”

"COVID has opened our hearts, expanded our empathy, and prepared us for the level of collaboration required to act on climate change and biodiversity collapse," he says, but "time is running out," with the "political landscape patchy at best."

"To win, we need to embrace servant leadership and support each other, working together to develop more circular and regenerative business practices while communicating with customers authentically and transparently. We need to empower people to be part of the change they want to see."

Knowledge is power

From FMCG to travel, sustainability will impact businesses across the board. Few – if any – brands will be immune to the choking, toxic effects of this oil spill if we do not address the problem at its source and work to purify our processes.

Knowledge is power, and brands should not forget this when communicating the merits of a greener business model. Consumers want to make informed purchasing decisions and will respond more positively to emotive campaigns that seek to educate the audience on why, for example, a product costs a little bit more because of the efforts being made to conserve an area that’s home to endangered species and vital green space.

Community action

Of course, not everybody will be receptive to something happening on the other side of the world – despite the global interconnectivity of these bio-systems and their importance to the planet’s overall health.

However, seeing a business working within the local community to help create cleaner, greener environments can stir the communal activism Carl believes we need. It’s a form of social proofing, where the ‘accepted’ behaviour of people causes a modification in the actions of others.

This brings us back to Carl’s point on servant leadership, and the power of putting self-interest to one side for the greater good. By refusing to budge on your principles and showing genuine compassion, you’re leading by example and challenging others to follow. This may not immediately translate into sales uplifts, but the longer-term brand advocacy your actions rouse will lay the groundwork for a productive future.

Timing is everything

With 65% of respondents to a recent survey admitting that they worry about the impact our unsustainable habits will have on future generations, the threat has not fallen on deaf ears. The challenge is turning awareness into action.

Timing, as they say, is everything. And there’s no better time to drive a shift in behaviour than during or after a life-changing event. It’s fair to say an unprecedented pandemic qualifies.

Certain times of the year also offer opportunities to engage people when they’re more receptive to change. Christmas, for example, is the season of reflection; a chance to look back on the last few months and focus on what really matters to you. We’re also thinking about the year to come, plotting a path towards self-improvement that will encompass none other than Veganuary.

Topicality is indeed a tool brands can use to boost engagement and add context to campaign messaging.

The value of collaboration

Partnerships can be a great way of tapping into new audiences. By pulling resources together, companies can use them more effectively, increasing the impact of campaigns that seek to drive behavioural change.

Air pollution, food waste, single-use plastics, ecological destruction and climate change are huge challenges that no business can take on alone, but together we can create alliances that leverage knowledge, experience and tools from different areas to form powerful movements consumers want to be a part of.

Media owners also have a huge role to play. We should be incentivising advertisers to take their responsibilities seriously, while making inroads to bring everyday sustainability practices into the programming itself. Competitions that reward brands doing great things for the environment – much like Channel 4’s annual diversity awards – could also go a long way in driving change. We need to make sustainability the norm.

Ultimately, if we can inspire and educate people at the right time and in the right places, then anything is possible. Guerillascope and FuturePlanet encourage you to be a part of the change you want to see.

Stuart Bryan is Content Manager at Guerillascope.

The ad industry's responsibilites in the Climate crisis were discussed in our recent Advertising Week panel. Watch it now.
Last updated 06 October 2020