Hotter days, higher stakes: Key take-aways from London Climate Action Week

Jul 4, 2024 |3 min read
Climate protest

After months of "sad girl summer" with rain and cold weather, summer is finally here! While I love feeling the sun on my face, this drastic weather change is a stark reminder: climate change is here.  Now. It’s making headlines daily, from Just Stop Oil to The Wildlife Trust, and people are increasingly worried about our planet's future.

It was recently London Climate Action Week, and I attended events like Reset Connect and Wonderworks’ Raising the Bar on Sustainability Webinar. Here are some key takeaways:

Sustainability is for everyone

Climate change impacts everything and everyone. Paddy Loughman, an Extinction Rebellion activist (previously market researcher!), emphasizes that it's the setting for every story we tell. David Attenborough calls climate change a “communication challenge.”

We can't sell sustainability without the right language and connecting with people. Environmental issues aren’t just for activists; we need to engage everyone, especially those who are less motivated.

We need to connect the dots

People and planet are intrinsically linked, but this connection is often overlooked. Our decisions have rippling effects. Affordability is the biggest barrier to sustainability; people don't see the real cost or value of what they buy – they just see the product on the shelf; not the environmental or social trail behind it. For example, climate change threatens coffee production, causing prices to skyrocket.

Changing packaging or menus to nudge people is a good start, but real impact goes beyond this. An interesting trial in the Netherlands with Albert Heijn introduces a ‘true price’ initiative to raise awareness of the social and environmental costs attached to products.

Storytelling to inspire

Marketing needs to be done right. Climate change often feels like doom and gloom, making it seem unachievable. It turns people off. We need to present it as a positive challenge, inspiring collective action both big and small.

Patagonia consistently promotes the message of protecting our planet. As my colleague Becca noted, “total transparency ignites hopefulness.” Marketing can educate and inspire, challenging how people think about their purchases.

Building and maintaining trust

In a world of mistrust, climate change is no different. Greenwashing and greenhushing are major issues. Brands use various accreditations to signal they're doing good, but without clear rules, skepticism prevails. Greenhushing, where brands fear backlash and don't talk about their positive actions, is equally problematic.

Genuine brands have an opportunity to build deeper relationships with customers by demonstrating their actions and impacts. Brands with strong sustainability DNA will benefit as sustainability and financial performance strengthens, and climate action becomes a competitive advantage.

 

At the heart of all this is the classic say-do gap: we want to avoid destruction, but the path feels difficult. It's easier to continue with our lives and avoid the required changes. As a society, we need to get comfortable with this, and brands can help. Understanding the real price, real action, and real opportunities can build confidence and drive action. Climate change is here, now, and should be the backdrop of every story we tell. Let’s make it a story of hope, action, and positive change.