How the advertising industry can drive demand for a low-carbon lifestyle


This year’s Climate Week came at a time of turmoil – a year that saw communities ravaged by devastating droughts, wildfires and floods, a war in Ukraine, soaring oil prices energy and a cost of living crisis. We get used to adapting to change – we had to.

But with experts predicting that the Earth will exceed the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold within 20 years, we can no longer react. We must take bold action to tackle the climate crisis.

Today, 90% of the world’s economies have Net Zero goals and hundreds of companies are making the same commitment. However, climate strategies to date have underestimated the critical role humans play. The Anthropocene, the ecological period in which we live, was caused by human activity. Demand-side mitigation and activation are critical. We must wean our global population from fossil fuel-intensive lifestyles and create demand for climate-friendly alternatives, including plant-based foods, electric vehicles and reusable packaging.

There’s no time to waste getting it right. The collective efforts of the advertising and marketing industry – and the consumer brands we support – must unleash our superpower: the ability to influence the way people think, feel and act.

Climate change is a communication challenge

Sir David Attenborough summed it up well when he said, “What we do over the next 10 years will have a profound impact on the next few thousand people… This is no longer a scientific challenge; it is a communication challenge. Of course, finding solutions to climate change is highly dependent on science, technology and innovation, but it also requires the creativity and influencing skills of marketers.

We must create a compelling vision of an alternative, sustainable future and inspire people around the world to a new way of life. We need to work with brands to change people’s actions, habits, routines and behaviors. This is where global advertising and marketing talent can play an extremely important role. After all, that’s what we do. Our industry attracts strategic thinkers and creative talents who can communicate compelling messages that create empathy and move people to act on it.



momentum matters

The seeds of a low-carbon, people-powered future were planted during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Along with a reduction in commuting and air travel, many people have become more aware of their spending habits. For example, a circular economy brand Saving (a platform for reselling unwanted clothes and accessories) gained popularity when people realized they didn’t need a wardrobe full of smart workwear when working at residence. To understand this shift, the Center for Climate Change and Social Transformation (CAST) undertook widespread research to examine the impact of the pandemic on the lifestyles and behaviors of the British public. He found that in October 2020, concerns about climate change remained high and that measures to combat climate change had even stronger support than that recorded in May of that year.

While this is a promising sign, now that the threat of COVID-19 has diminished, that support has diminished. Many global markets have reopened and CO2 emissions have rebounded from the temporary pandemic-related dip, according to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on mitigating climate change. This is why a renewed focus on demand-side mitigation strategies is so urgently needed. If enough consumers change their habits quickly, the IPCC estimates emissions could be reduced by up to 70% by 2050. It’s an opportunity the planet can’t afford to miss, and marketers are well positioned to seize it.

Make sustainable living a hassle-free option

To successfully marry profitability and sustainability, brands need to do the heavy lifting for their customers, especially as today’s consumers face rising prices and an impending recession. In a recent global report, management consultancy Accenture identified that people allow themselves to be inconsistent in reconciling personal values ​​around sustainability with practical realities (cost, ease, convenience). His Studies show 60% of consumers say their priorities keep changing due to everything going on in the world, and 88% of business leaders believe their customers’ needs are changing faster than the business can keep up .

When a company is truly purpose-driven, with sustainability as its North Star, consumers don’t have to choose to be sustainable – they are in class durable just by buying from this brand. Patagonia is a prime example. Sustainability is woven into the fabric of the company, from the production of its durable and comfortable outerwear to its circular economy platform – Worn wear – for second-hand clothes, which encourages consumers to “buy second-hand and not new”. Last week, as widely reported, Yvon Chouinard, CEO and founder of Patagonia, has “given” the company to the planet by creating a trust that he hopes will give up to $100 million a year to environmental causes. This is a clear message to consumers: if you buy anything from Patagonia, you are directly fighting climate change by making that purchase.

IKEA is another pioneer of sustainable consumption. The company has launched an ‘Activists Without Knowing It’ campaign, which combines actions people take at home – like taking a shower instead of a bath – with environmental data to show how easy it is to live sustainably. They also “hacked” Black Friday, which is known to lead to excessive consumption, and turned it into “Buy Back Friday” by encouraging customers to be part of the circular economy on that day and to return or purchase items. used IKEA furniture.

It is now

Our industry exists to help change minds and influence behavior – and we’re good at it. We have an incredible opportunity to drive change. We need bold and courageous business leaders to seize this opportunity – leaders who are willing to balance the needs of businesses and consumers with the needs of the planet. Only then can we rise to the challenge that the IPCC and Sir David Attenborough have set before us: to accelerate behavior change and create demand for sustainable low-carbon lifestyles.

Anna Lungley is Director of Sustainability at dentsu international. She is responsible for embedding dentsu’s ambitious ‘Social Impact’ strategy at the heart of the business, operations and culture to deliver shared value to dentsu, our customers and society. Lungley is a member of the Dentsu Group Sustainable Business Board, Senior Associate at the Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership, and sits on the advisory boards of Sustainable Brands and AdNetZero.

This story was first published by the World Economic Forum and is republished under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License.

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