How Brands Can Use Their Power to Accelerate the Climate Movement & Build a New Generation of Climate Activists

April 26, 2021

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The year 2021 brings with it a unique opportunity for the development and growth of the climate movement in the UK. For the first time in history, the UK will host the United Nations’ annual climate change conference (COP26) – and all eyes will fall on us. Audiences will be watching how discussions address the climate emergency, and ways in which they too can play a part.

Last week, Purpose held a virtual panel entitled ‘Brands and Climate in the Year of COP26: From Audience to Activist II’. Together with climate experts, campaigners and brand professionals, we considered the role brands can play in the fight against climate change and how brands can use their power to support consumer participation, empowering a new generation of climate activists. 

Purpose was delighted to host this conversation alongside our panel of experts:

 

Missed the event? Watch a recording of “Brands and Climate in the Year of COP26: From Audience to Activist II” here.

 

5 Key Takeaways on Climate & Brand Activism

 

The Race is On: Now is the time for brands and businesses to act

Climate scientists have made it very clear to all of us that what we do in the next 3-5 years will determine humanity’s future. Now is the time for us all to act and brands and businesses must play a part, as without their commitment to net-zero, we will struggle to meet the scale of the challenge. Globally, it is clear that consumer demand for businesses to take action is strong. Consumers are already purchasing sustainable products and services, with 65% claiming that it is important that the products or services they buy do not harm the environment*.

The Race to Zero – a call to arms for firms, cities, businesses and organisations to make commitments to decarbonize by 2050 and take bold action in the next decade – was launched last year by the Climate Champions. The race is on, and businesses must commit to net-zero and the development of sustainable products. If they do not, not only will they risk losing consumers, but more significantly, the weight of our warming planet will lie on their shoulders.

*Consumers demand greener products in wake of pandemic Circular Economy, October 2020.

 

Brands hold the power to accelerate the clean energy transition

The key solution to climate change is to keep the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground. Though governments hold the vast majority of power to enforce change, we have known for decades that the largest oil and gas companies are the ones who are blocking this change, utilising clever communications that deny and challenge climate warming, whilst simultaneously lobbying to make it harder for brands to produce and sell products that are better for the environment. 

To achieve systemic change, we must undermine the people who are blocking it. This is where brands and businesses come in. If brands and businesses can make voluntary commitments to distance themselves from those companies which are blocking the energy transition, we can begin to imagine a future free from fossil fuels. Brands should not wait for governments to phase out fossil fuels; rather they hold the power to develop their own alternative products, campaign for legislation, communicate accurate information on climate change and empower their consumers to join them in taking action.

 

Brands have the communication tools to elevate the climate conversation and scale the voices of grassroots organisations

The climate movement alone does not have the reach or resources to engage everyone. At Purpose, we believe that 90% of climate communications reaches just 20% of all people and that there is a big role for brands to play in supporting and expanding conversations on climate. 

Brand communication platforms have the ability to shape and expand climate conversations, ensuring that they welcome as many people as possible and scale the voices of communities, activists and grassroots organisations. Furthermore, brands hold the marketing budgets that NGOs and grassroots groups simply do not have. This provides brands with the opportunity to support the climate movement through the creation of accurate and compelling communication campaigns, that cut through the noise of climate denial messaging and showcase the actions everyone can take to aid the movement.

 

Your employees can amplify your actions

Knowledge building and consistent commitment to educating employees on the topic of climate change gives them the opportunity to participate in the climate movement. Brands hold the power to directly support activism; for example, with brands such as Patagonia, giving people days off to go and protest and offering bail funding and legal support for more disruptive activism. 

Furthermore, brands can create clear pathways of action for their employees, providing them with the tools and resources to campaign on climate, by connecting them with the grassroots organisations that are leading the change and can help support and amplify employee engagement.

 

Brands do not just have to fight to contribute to the climate movement

A key issue related to the climate movement is that it fails to resonate with many marginalised communities. We recognise that many of these audiences experience a disconnection with nature and that there are a number of factors that can explain this. Many of these communities reside in urban areas; there has been a significant increase in modern technological advances (in particular the burgeoning of indoor and virtual recreation options); and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left a vast majority of us confined to our homes. This disconnection with nature, therefore, leaves this group feeling detached from environmental issues and thus the climate movement.

Brands can offer these audiences experiences to help them encounter the joy of nature and the importance of protecting it, ultimately converting passive audiences into active ones. Brands can create a platform for new groups to join the climate movement and build a community of diverse voices to support environmental justice and diversify the movement beyond its existing monochrome exterior.

 


Feeling inspired? At Purpose, we help brands to integrate these lessons into their organisation. If you would benefit from guidance on defining and implementing climate action, we’d love to help. 

Get in touch with the Purpose team at weare@purpose.com.