According to Edward Maibach, a professor whose work centers on public health and climate change communication, public concern about climate change hasn't diminshed even as the novel coronavirus continues to dominate the news cycle and social media conversations.
"The COVID-19 crisis is unfolding at unbelievable speed ... but the devastation that we are currently experiencing will relatively soon be past us," Maibach said during a recent Climate Collaborative webinar entitled "Communicating Climate Action to Consumers Amid COVID-19."
"The climate crisis, on the other hand, is unfolding slowly, but its devastation will be much worse and it will continue to play out over decades and centuries unless we act now," he says.
While it might seem difficult to believe, Americans' capacity to worry isn't limited to one overarching subject, and many consumers still want to know that their beloved brands are keeping climate-related commitments. Read on for four key ways to go about advancing the fight against climate change in these uncertain times.
1. Avoid fearmongering and strive to raise hope.
A hugely influential (and largely underrated) aspect of engaging consumers is by giving them a sense of hope. Brands can do this by communicating across the board that a company's climate action plan isn't on hold because of COVID-19, and by being transparent with the steps the business is taking to reduce environmental impact. In doing this, Maibach points out, more brands and other members of the supply chain are likely to follow suit.
2. Incorporate pandemic-related actions into long-term climate goals.
Gagan Levy, a Climate Collaborative partner and founder of marketing agency Guru, says that it's important for brands to look for the silver linings of COVID-19 and uphold them even after the world recovers from coronavirus outbreak. The fact that remote work is now the norm for many people, for example, has reduced air pollution. So, while acknowledging that the flexibility to work from home is a privilege, it should be readily allowed in the long term for those members of a company who can.
3. Equip consumers with tools to take action.
Bringing like-minded people together to work toward a common goal is a powerful way to enact change in the world. One example Levy brings up is Sambazon's #purplefortheplanet Earth Day initiative, which encouraged social media users to dye their hair purple and share the results on social media; for each participant, Sambazon purchased 5 acres of rainforest through Rainforest Trust's Conservation Act Fund. These types of endeavors are a very real way to get consumers to take action while helping your brand reach its environmental impact goals.
4. Be inclusive and considerate of socioeconomic and geographical factors.
Many consumers are living on tight budgets right now, so it's important to incorporate free ways for consumers to interact with your mission. Levy highlights dairy brand Clover Sonoma's outreach to consumers to encourage them to share their inspirational stories of local heroes during these unstable times. Clover Sonoma then gives out gift certificates from struggling local businesses to these heroes to support the community.
Watch the full webinar below.