Brands must seize opportunity to act on climate change

While world leaders see the Copenhagen summit as a talking shop, brands can take a lead by showing consumers what can be done to tackle climate change. By Marketing Week reporters

The climate change summit will see more than 85 national leaders gather in Copenhagen next week (7 December).

But the high-profile event has attracted plenty of negative coverage in the media, while sceptics have also seized on leaked emails from researchers that raise questions over some of the science involved in the call for action on climate change.

Alongside this, the public is apparently “fatigued” by pressure from government campaigns.

However, businesses should not be distracted by this negativity from pushing their green credentials, say marketing experts. They should use the opportunity to act, offer leadership, communicate it to consumers and restate the case for sustainable business while avoiding accusations of “greenwashing”.

“Media coverage in the past few days has flagged up the gulf in communications terms between the science of climate change and the public’s understanding of it,” says Stuart Singleton-White, partner at communications agency The Message Hub. “Brands are a fantastic vehicle for showing consumers what they can do and they should make the most of that.”

The Prince’s Mayday Network has just released a short film featuring business leaders from Adnams, 4energy, Continental Clothing Co, Kingfisher and Lloyds Banking Group that aims to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to seize the opportunity to address climate change.

High ground
Marketing experts believe now is the time for businesses to take the high ground as the Government loses credibility. “It is a golden opportunity, just when the public is turning away from Government messaging,” says Chris Arnold, author of Ethical Marketing.”

Meanwhile, the Government this week launched the second part of its own campaign to encourage action. Following on from its TV campaign, it launched an outdoor push for the Act on CO2 campaign.

But Iain Patton, managing partner at communications consultancy Green, warns: “The Government’s Act on CO2 campaign was doomed to failure due to the disconnect between marketing spend and real action.

“Although everyone is competing in the same space, there’s a real opportunity to focus on identity campaigns and look at consumption rather than just green products.”

Singleton-White sums up: “The likelihood is that we’ll get some top-level political agreement at the Copenhagen summit, followed by a year of further negotiations. So while governments continue talking, brands could be acting on environmental concerns.”

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