We have seen the news and posts about how the earth finally takes a breather while we are in lock-down. Air pollution values have declined significantly. Clear waters in Venice, people in North India can see the Himalayan peaks
again, and in Los Angeles fog has been swapped with blue skies.
I am a big believer that every crisis and everything negative can bring along a positive change and outlook. It certainly keeps me sane to look at the positive side of things rather than focusing on the negatives and things I cannot control.
Kantar has done a research piece about consumers’ attitudes towards sustainability and resilience during the crisis. They claim that the current situation is seen more as a disruption rather than a disease and can clear the way for underlying trends to become mainstream.
While sustainability discussions have gone more mainstream or at least have gained more space in the news and public discussions in the last year, there is still a gap between having the desire to change and actual action taken to change.
One driver of this gap is feeling helpless as an individual and believing that one person cannot have any impact on such complex negative trends. And this is exactly where the current crisis can help turn that thinking on the head. Collective action by individuals such as social distancing can have a significant impact. In a space of just a few weeks it had and has a significant impact on limiting the curve of new infections, but also on the environment as the examples listed at the top.
I still want to acknowledge here that a pro-longed lock-down has negative effects on the economy and its consequences for a lot of industries and individuals are not being ignored. However, if this concept of collective change gets understood and applied to address the desire of individuals, we can use this in the sustainability sector and help shorten the gap between desire and action.
Overcoming barriers in people’s minds
When it comes to communication it is worth to recognise that for individuals change is initially a barrier. It is associated with loss. There is also the widespread perception that inaction of an individual has no negative impact overall and responsibility is put on to others such as the government or companies and corporations. And while companies, corporations and governments do have a key role to play, there is potential and appetite from individuals for doing good, especially now. To highlight a few statements and attitudes from consumers around sustainability (Kantar, April 2020):
· 50% of consumers pay attention to environment and societal issues in the news.
· 37% have actively stopped buying products and services due to their impact on the environment.
· 42% believe buying sustainable products is a demonstration of who they are.
· ‘I am prepared to invest my time and money to support companies that try to do good’
– Strongly agree up from 6% to 12% between February to April 2020
· ‘I prefer products and services that offer ways to offset their impact on the environment’ – Strongly agree up from 5% to 16% between February to April 2020
This increased awareness for sustainability and willingness for action, is the chance for companies that have sustainability at their core.
Making the impact tangible
Talk to your consumers about the positive change and highlight what individual action can do collectively. As change can be quite abstract, making that change tangible is key to be understood immediately. Help your customers to visualise the change and their individual contribution. And tap into the human needs of connecting and purpose with what you as a company do best, your service or product.
You can encourage your consumers and clients to join and be part of a wider community. Translate their individual action into a tangible collective impact visually. For example, you could say, by buying this product you save this amount of waste, water, plastic and overall, in the last 3 months we have collectively saved that amount. Show it on your website, social media platform and continue talking about the collective impact to keep the motivation up.
Be with them on their journey and encourage the change your consumers and clients want. Show them that they are part of a larger community that does have an impact.
If you want to talk about how to adapt your communication, or revisit it in general and be all set for when the crisis is over, please do get in touch. I'm here to help.
Kantar - COVID-19: The role of sustainability in building resilient organisations (April 2020)
WARC - The difference two weeks make: McCann tracks COVID-19 attitudes around the world (April 2020)