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    Communication matters: engaging consumers on brands’ actions to tackle climate change

    As we are trying to find more sustainable ways to live, customers and company stakeholders are increasingly demanding ethically sourced sustainable products with low environmental impact. Beyond individual practices, such as slightly lowering the heating or unplugging devices instead of leaving them on stand-by, people consumption habits are making it imperative for companies to embrace sustainability and follow climate-conscious actions. Sustainability has become a market driver for innovation and growth: electric car sales and the demand for locally-grown products are on the rise; companies from all sectors are reducing packaging waste, using biodegradable materials, and switching to renewable energy sources to power their facilities; the clothing industry, a significant contributor to climate change, is increasingly using more eco-friendly production methods, including low impact dying, ethically sourced and more sustainable materials, or recycling fibres and plastic bottles. Overall, it is evident that consumers’ preferences are encouraging companies to practise more responsible use of resources and energy.

    Building on a receptive market

    The market is receptive and interested in what companies are doing to tackle climate change, but consumers’ involvement resides mostly in relatively easy activities that are intuitively linked to carbon emissions and also have potential to save money through reduced energy use. Generally, there is a lack of active involvement and engagement in what companies are doing to reduce their contributions to climate change. Sometimes consumers show their support by choosing a product or service, or avoiding it, based on the brand’s environmental practices. Nevertheless, the support towards brands tends to be distant, in the shape of respect and admiration, recognizing these as leaders and marketers rather than facilitators in whom to trust.

    This disconnection is fostered by consumers’ concerns regarding costs, not knowing what to do and not trusting nor believing businesses are doing what they preach. Moreover, most people are not entirely aware of the environmental leadership that many brands are currently offering and seeking to offer, neither entirely sure of how to play a bigger part, despite their willingness to do so. Communication, through informing and building trust with consumers, is essential to improve public engagement with brands’ actions regarding climate change. Although the strongly divided market imposes a great challenge for building consumers’ trust, its recognition and definition provide the ideal framework for targeted propositions that increase consumers’ engagement.

    A targeted approach to build stronger connections

    For businesses to meld their climate change actions with the consumers’ passions and priorities they need to address what people are doing in response to climate change and what is driving them to do it. The degree of consumers engagement with climate change and the nature of this engagement can be defined by four core factors: personal change (the readiness to make changes that help mitigate climate change), acceptance (of climate change as an urgent issue that is everyone’s responsibility), optimism (in that the problem can be solved) and knowing what to do (how an individual can help). From these, six types of consumer profiles can be defined: campaigners, optimists, followers, confused, unwilling, and rejecters.

    Defining the segmentation of the market provides a simple framework for more effective communication, which can be based on three approaches: rational demonstration, emotional involvement, and respectful facilitation. The campaigners and confused are a worried audience looking for functional benefits, such as reducing the transportation footprint by using the public transport, investing in electric vehicles, or buying local and seasonal products. Communication needs to be based on rational demonstration: deep but clear, simple and easy to understand; rational solutions based on facts and evidence to earn their trust. Contrarily, optimists and followers are seeking emotional benefits, like participating in marches, protests, and local clean-ups. They are a socially driven audience that wants to associate with the cause and be recognised for doing the right thing. Thus, the approach should be emotional involvement: warmer messages and marketing tangible products that are visible to others and services to foster the feeling that they are contributing. Finally, the sceptical audience of the unwilling and rejecters are looking for functional benefits without compromising (through reducing energy consumption at home, for example, consequently saving money). These need to be approached from respectful facilitation, making it easy (highlighting no extra cost or effort) whilst respecting their point of view.

    Engaging people on actions tackling climate change will bring substantial benefits to brands, consumers, and the planet. At Intellync we have the expertise and tools to help your company better recognise consumers’ needs and priorities concerning climate change. 

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