Four ways your organization can still support Earth Day this year

by Apr 8, 2020

Shelton Stat of the Week

71% say a company’s stance on things like employee wages and working conditions have moderate to very strong impact on their decision to buy its products.

For many corporate sustainability leaders, Earth Day is the crescendo of their efforts for the year. Big campus events are planned to engage employees and send a clear signal that they work for a company that’s dedicated to sustainability. Product launches are timed to directly tie new sustainable features to the spotlight on the planet. And corporate communications folks use the moment to get their senior executives on the media circuit talking about new commitments to GHG reductions, science-based targets, etc.

The Earth Day Network, the official organizer of Earth Day around the world, has taken all of their events online, and some companies are tying in to those activities. (You can find out more here.) I’ve also heard of several organizations simply canceling Earth Day, citing the tragedy, stress and upheaval of the moment as the wrong context in which to celebrate or try to focus attention on something other than COVID-19.

If you read my post two weeks ago, you know I believe that now is exactly the moment for companies to double down on sustainability and CSR. According to a recent piece in Barron’s (and this has been posted all over LinkedIn as well) impact investing is up. In other words, investors who fund businesses focused on creating environmental and social good are investing more right now in exactly those kinds of companies. While the focus now is on organizations with a health care play, the parallels between the impact of COVID-19 on our economy and the impact of climate change are so tight that investors will continue in this direction as a way of managing risk. Why invest in organizations that don’t have a plan for climate and societal resiliency when you can invest in companies that are already focused there – companies that have made sustainability and circularity core to their business models?

While Earth Day events are only one expression of a company’s commitment to the environment, they’re an important one. Continuing with an Earth Day celebration sends a signal to your organization’s employees, suppliers and customers that your company is indeed committed to sustainability. And that will hold your brand in good stead as we come out the other side of the current crisis.

OK, so how? Obviously, your Earth Day celebration can’t be live and in person this year, so how do you forge ahead? Here are four ideas:

  1. Create a digital speaker series and invite your employees, suppliers and customers. We’re seeing lots of green-leaning cities and non-profits go this route, and it works for companies, too. The idea is to host a series of presentations from noted thought leaders in the sustainability space or live chats with those same kinds of folks. You can even crowd source this – put out a “who would you like to hear from” social and e-marketing call now, generate a list of speakers and reach out. Typically, you’d need to have speakers lined up well in advance; with so many folks grounded you might actually be able to get somebody you want at the last minute.
  2. Take your entire program online. We’re also seeing a lot of communities doing this – instead of earth friendly crafts that kids can do live, they can log in and get instructions or see videos of earth friendly crafts that they can do at home. All of your campus activities might not work in a digital platform, but you’d be surprised how many might. And you might actually get MORE employees to log in to see, say, a talk from a birding organization about how your campus is supporting migratory paths. For many of us, hearing and seeing happy birds is exactly the antidote we need now.
  3. Put all your eggs in a donation basket. You could take all the money you were going to spend on your Earth Day event and give it to an environmental cause. If you go this route, crowd source it – ask your employees to vote for the organization who should receive the money, then create lots of follow-up. In other words, get emails out to your organization about which organization “won” the vote, send “thank you” videos from that organization out to your team, and create a webinar from the organization walking through their work and the impact it makes in the world, etc. That way, you’ll still have some level of engagement and you can put a spotlight on this effort for several weeks.
  4. Postpone. We’re seeing several organizations hang on to their plans for Earth Day and simply move them to the summer. You could do this and anchor your event on a day that makes sense for your sustainability focus or category. For instance, if you’re focused on circular plastics or stopping the flow of plastics to the ocean, you could move your Earth Day event to World Ocean Day on June 8 (hopefully we’ll all be out of our shelter-in-place mandates by then); if your company is energy or built environment-related, you might push to Energy Efficiency Day, which is the first Wednesday in October.

Bottom line: don’t cancel. Once we come back from COVID it’s critical that we come back in a way that better contains our impact on the earth. You and your organization have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead the way, and you should start putting a spotlight on your commitment and efforts now.

News of the Week

Impact Investments Rise Amid Covid-19 Pandemic – Barron’s

Investment firms are leaning into impact lending and many small businesses are benefitting from the shift. Businesses need help sustaining in the middle of a crisis so communities can continue benefitting from their economic impact once the crisis has abated. Margaret Trilli, president and CIO at ImpactAssets says, “One of the cornerstones of impact investing is lending to underserved communities … — it’s something we’ve always done … While most investors might look at small business lending and see higher risks, our investors are seeing higher impact,” she continues. “You can [actually reduce risk by providing capital for a company to weather a storm.” Read the article.

Earth Day Cleanups Are Still Happening, Under the Water and For the Turtles – Forbes

Even though the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is going to be celebrated virtually this year, the commitment to maintaining ongoing conservation efforts have not waned at Loggerhead Marinelife Center. The center “has been doing diver clean-ups since 2015 and collected almost 23,000 pounds to date. And the organization works with partners in a first-of-its kind Responsible Pier Initiative, removing debris, one turtle at a time. This is just one of the center’s many initiatives that are in full swing despite the pandemic. Non-essential businesses may be temporarily closing, but conservation needs remain urgent and efforts remain active. Read the article.


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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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