The climate crisis might be the marketing industry’s defining moment

WorkForClimate director Lucy Piper looks at how marketers can - and should - use their influence to make an impact on the world's hottest issue.

In our lifetime, climate change has gone from being conceptual to experiential. To paraphrase former US President Barack Obama: we are the first generation to experience the effects of climate change, and the last generation who can stop it getting worse. Whether we like it or not, if we aren’t doing everything in our power to turn the tide on the climate crisis every single day, we are complicit.

It isn’t our fault that we’re in this predicament, but what happens next is up to us. And while that’s an intimidating prospect, we have the potential to build something new and brilliant. And for those who work in the creative and communication industries, I can’t think of a more exhilarating or important brief.

It might feel like a lot, but if you break it down, solving the climate crisis (AKA ‘shifting the entire system’) comes down to three very tangible things: individual action, community/corporate action, and political action.

As communicators, you have a disproportionate amount of influence on each of those three areas: you can influence individuals through their spending choices: what they buy, who they buy it from, and who they vote for. You can influence corporations through their procurement choices: what they buy, who they partner with, and who/what they advocate for. And you can influence politics by helping the companies you work for to lobby governments for progressive climate policy. (And of course, by voting for climate action yourself).

So if you’re prepared to use your influence and help catalyse a generation to take action and shift the system (and maybe save the world in the process)…

Use your superpower. Human beings are ideas-machines. And if you’re somebody who gets to come up with ideas for a living, you have a process you use to harness your imagination and churn out creative campaigns. Whether it’s filling fifty boxes, writing a hundred headlines or connecting unrelated objects, you’re masters at divergent thinking. So now is the time to harness that superpower and start creating a vision for people to grab onto.

We need to catalyse mass behaviour change, and we are selling an enormous carbon emissions diet. But nobody ever sold a diet by focusing on the sacrifice. We need to put Jane Fonda in leg warmers and paint the picture of a much more attractive version of our lives.

Sell the idea of transformation. You either have clients, or you are a client. Either way, you know how to influence stakeholders to get buy-in or to get work up. Use your influence to move the needle on climate and start selling the idea of bold climate initiatives: how might switching to 100% renewable energy be a great story for our consumers? With household brands such as Woolworths, Coles and Aldi all committing to sourcing 100% renewable energy, the blueprint is there. And with brands like VB putting renewable energy at the centre of their campaigns, it’s clear there is the potential to create great work to bring the story to life.

Be an anti-greenwasher. If a corporation is under pressure to take action on climate, and they want to release some of that pressure (and look good in the eyes of their consumers, employees and the general public), they might make a public statement, or commit to a long term target like, say, net zero emissions by 2050. But most of us are well across the basics, and know that if we don’t reduce our global emissions by 50% by 2030 then our future is looking very bleak indeed. So when a company wants to be seen to be green, it’s down to us – the marketers, the communicators, the creatives.

If they didn’t have us, they would have to write their own copy about how they are going to somehow meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement, despite their business model relying entirely on the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Don’t be complicit. Interrogate the policies and commitments you’re being asked to sell. Don’t roll the ‘corporate net zero 2050’ turd in glitter. You’re better than that.

You don’t have to be an expert on climate science to start doing this work. You just need to roll up your sleeves. You’re the kind of person that people listen to. Time to use your influence and start moving the needle, and start making some ads that might help save the world.

Lucy Piper is the director of WorkForClimate.


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