Hey, COP26: It’s about people.

by Nov 4, 2021

Shelton Stat of the Week

What’s the number one thing people in America think companies should be doing to be considered good? Take care of their people.
Good Company Report, December 20-January 21

I’m writing this post on the eve of COP26. It would make sense if I somehow connected the dots between the outcomes of that event and what companies should be doing and saying about their environmental efforts.

I’m not going to do that.

Instead, I’m going to focus on the people side of the equation. If you’ve been working in the sustainability realm for any length of time, you’ve taken the red pill and you get that reducing GHG emissions and staving off the worst impacts of climate change is REALLY about ensuring that the planet is habitable for humans. Put dramatically: We’re not working to save the planet; we’re working to save the human race.

About half of people living in America don’t see it that way, though.

In our last round of surveying, which happened December-January, we asked this:

Which of these is a more compelling reason to buy from a company?

  • Because they’re taking steps to protect people by protecting nature, natural resources, plants and animals
  • Because they’re taking steps to protect the environment by protecting nature, natural resources, plants and animals

While 52% picked people, 48% picked the environment, illustrating that they don’t get the connection between the environment and our ability to thrive. As I heard Andrew Winston say not long ago, “if the ants go, we all go.” What’s interesting about the mental model half of us have about companies protecting the environment is that people are indeed the priority for most Americans. When we ask:

In your opinion, what does a “good” company have to do (beyond take care of customers and make a quality product/service at a fair price)?

From a list of 12 options, taking care of employees overwhelmingly comes out on top: 28% choose “treat its employees well” and 20% choose “pay its employees a living wage.” The number three answer drops dramatically: only 9% say “be transparent about and actively work to improve its environmental and human impacts of its supply chain.”

Because of the pandemic, we’ve also seen concern for people shine through: 57% said they are somewhat to much more concerned about the health and well-being of people and communities as a result of the pandemic versus 39% who said they are somewhat to much more concerned about the health of the earth’s climate and well-being of all plants and animals.

So, we care about taking care of people, but many of us don’t connect the dots between the health of the planet and the health of all of us living on the planet.

Undoubtedly over the next week (and beyond), we’ll be hearing a barrage of information, hand-wringing, finger-pointing and dire predictions about our environment and the climate emergency. For any journalists reading this, please connect the dots to the human impacts. Corporates have gotten the memo from investors that they need to have their act together on climate as a way of de-risking their ability to make a profit in the future, so they’re moving forward. But we indeed need everyday people to take action as well. And screaming at them that the environment is in trouble, and they should do something isn’t doing the trick. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, most of us feel too small, too disempowered to do anything about it, and we’re counting on companies to take care of the climate emergency.

But I think people will make an effort for people. I especially think they’ll do something for their children. I’ve written about this before, on many occasions. Our messaging — whether you’re a politician, a journalist or a corporate communications person — needs to be about protecting our friends and family from the worst of climate change. We need a human connection to the environmental messaging to give it meaning, to give it punch.

Let’s hope we get that — along with some real action — out of COP26.

News of the Week

Over 100 countries join methane pledge but China, India, Australia and Russia stay out
Climate Home News

As we discover more, methane has been revealed to be an even more pressing threat than carbon dioxide to global warming. This Climate Home News article covers the new pledge to reduce methane instituted at the recent COP26 summit.
Read more…

COP26: Act now for our children, Queen urges climate summit
Newswire

As discussed in our blog post this week, tying sustainability to human impacts has never been more important. This BBC article details the Queen of England doing exactly that in a plea to the world leaders attending COP26.
Read more…

Good Company

Americans are putting their wallets where their values are. They buy brands (or those brands’ competitors) based not just on corporate behavior, but on how that behavior is perceived.

So how do you protect your bottom line and safeguard your reputation, all while making the world a better place? Well, good works. That’s the simple truth, and as you’ll learn in this report, Shelton Group has the research to back it up.

You’ll also learn how your brand can apply our insights to share your good stories in ways that captivate the public’s passion – so you can gain a market advantage.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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