It’s time to talk about climate change

by Jul 27, 2022

Shelton Stat of the Week

73% of people in America feel anxious about the impact climate change will have on their children’s quality of life during their lifetimes.
Eco Pulse®, 2020

It’s time to talk about climate change

At Shelton Group, we’ve been in “broken record mode” about the growing trend we’ve seen for a while now: people want to buy “good” products from “good” companies. We even published a report about it last year.

And what makes a good company? The top two answers are all about treating employees well. And when it comes to the environment, it’s about recycling, recycled content and eliminating chemicals of concern.

So, for the last year and a half we’ve been advising that a company’s sustainability story needs to be about what it’s doing to support its people, what it’s doing on recycling/circularity and what it’s doing to keep people healthy and safe. Shelton Group’s point of view has been that you shouldn’t anchor a consumer story on GHG reductions/Net Zero goals because it’s not a concept the average person understands, and it’s not how they’re measuring companies as good and bad.

Which means our advice has been to focus your story on what people want to hear; not on what actually matters for the climate crisis.

Until now.

As I write this, England and parts of Europe are buckling under an extreme heat wave. And we know from our ongoing research into consumer expectations and beliefs around sustainability that:

  • 73% of people in America feel anxious about the impact climate change will have on their children’s quality of life during their lifetimes
  • But 79% don’t feel in control over their daily carbon footprint
  • And, as we wrote about a couple of years ago, this is no longer a strictly partisan issue. If you’re under the age of 40 and have kids at home, you’re worried about how climate change will impact their quality of life, almost regardless of how you vote.

Ipsos conducts an ongoing study called, “What Worries the World.” The June edition shows that anxiety around climate and environmental threats is a top worry for about 16% of the world’s population – so, not as high as other big worries like inflation, poverty, crime and violence. But if you look at the trend line on Covid-19 – it was the highest worry in 2020 and it has come down steadily – I expect we might see the climate line go in an inverse direction, steadily climbing as weather continues to wreak obvious havoc on everything from supply chains, to travel, to health, to where you can live.

So, as you embark on your sustainability communications, your story should have two layers to it: the first layer should appeal to the current mental model and talk about what you’re doing at a product-level related to recycling/circularity and health and safety. The second layer should appeal to the emerging mental model and offer people comfort about what your company is doing to tackle the climate crisis.

Specifically, as every company begins to have the same basic environmental story – some version of “carbon neutral by 2050” – lean into the human impacts of the climate crisis and how your organization is supporting and helping people most impacted by it.  As our data has shown, people in America care most about people and they want to know about how companies are being good to people. And while the light bulb hasn’t lit up for most yet that this whole sustainability thing isn’t just about the planet  – it’s about protecting the human race – it is starting to flicker on. Sustainability messaging and marketing couched in terms of “what we’re doing for the planet” simply won’t resonate in the same way as “what we’re doing for the planet AND people impacted by the planet crisis.”

So, get the right programs and systems in place today to be able to deliver on that story in the near future. And start teeing up what you’re doing to fight climate change. It is indeed time to start talking about it.

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The era of climate change has created a new emotion
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The impacts of climate change are affecting the planet but are directly human. This Atlantic article details how climate change is tied to human emotions as the environments that we grew up with are no longer the same.

Read more…

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How is climate change affecting floods?
The New York Times

It’s easy to attribute all flooding to climate change, but climate change isn’t always the cause. It is affecting the severity and location of flooding, however. This New York Times piece explores the history of flooding and climate change’s impacts on flooding.

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Shoptivism: Why Consumers (& Job Seekers) Opt In & Out of Today’s Brands

Sustainability is now mainstream and it’s affecting purchase behavior.

Every year we ask Americans if they’ve ever intentionally purchased or not purchased a product or service based on the social or environmental record of the manufacturer. We then ask everyone who says “yes” to name the brand. Those who say “yes” and can give an example of a brand unaided? We call them shoptivists.

But who are these “shoptivists?”

Our latest report answers this question with three distinct consumer profiles, including details on their mental models, their shopping patterns, the messages that resonate, and where to find them.

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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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