Despite what a certain business-man-turned-leader-of-the-free-world says, climate change is happening. Its effects are shown throughout the world, from the drying of Peru’s glacial lake to the more domestic case of the Saddleworth fire. In our last article on climate change, we discussed how people across the world share similar concerns over environmental conservation. However, despite nearly 75% of EU citizens1 believing that climate change is a very serious problem, there are still a number of environmental issues that only make it to the waste bin of decision makers.
A common argument against conservation is that while virtuous, the impact that environmental policy has on the economy is not feasible, or in fact worth it. This rhetoric is especially prevalent in the USA (and has been throughout American political campaigns in history2) and is particularly potent. After all, job losses and forced career changes are much more tangible than the stratospheric effects of carbon dioxide in 100 years’ time.
To be frank, we seem to want to help the environment, as long as it is not at our own expense. In fact, even pro-environmental attitudes do not necessarily mean consistent environmental behaviour.3 A psychological phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance allows people to be fully aware of our effect on the environment and yet show no behavioural change. It gives people the ability to protest oil-spills in the gulf of Mexico and then drive home in their new 4×4. But don’t get me wrong, I’m a ‘sustainability hypocrite’ myself.
Climate Change – Awareness for a good cause
The rise in awareness of plastic pollution in recent years has led to massive legislation changes that aim to reduce waste. Recent attempts to reduce plastic straw use is a prime example of this, demonstrating how powerful governmental intervention on environmental factors can be. It has also been shown that what drives such policy reform is largely public opinion towards such issues.4 It is therefore vital for the public to be vocal and not let governments sit idle – as relying on them to change on their own simply will not occur.
But how does the public become aware of environmental issues and embrace the need to support reform? A vital element of awareness are NGOs, such as Greenpeace, who actively campaign for policy and legislation change and bring to light the damage that we are doing to the earth. Their global marketing strategies help keep climate change at the forefront of the public’s mind. Importantly, one of the key elements of this is to understand what people care about and adapt campaigns around this. In this regard, last year, fastmap conducted a piece of international research, trying to understand people’s views on the Antarctic ocean and inform such marketing campaigns.
During the research, we asked people what environmental issues they cared about. As you can see in Figure 1, the majority of people (at least 72%) in the countries surveyed stated they care about climate change. Such a majority has ramifications for businesses beyond the charity sector. After all, which marketer among us would not want to seriously consider the opinions that hold true for so many people across the world.
Figure 1 – We asked people if they cared about climate change
Climate Change and Related Environmental Issues
The statistics above are rather unsurprising. Although, it is important to note that caring about the environment does not necessarily translate into caring about issues that cause or are caused by climate change. So, we asked people whether they cared about other environmental issues, including ending deforestation, protecting the Antarctic and fracking. By comparing their answers with the question regarding climate change, we were able to find out the proportion of people that care about climate change, who are considerate of other issues.
Figure 2 – We asked people who care about climate change whether they care about the following issues
In Figure 2, you can see that people who care about climate change generally care about other issues. The exception is South Korea, where caring about climate change as a phenomena actually has little baring on many other environmental issues. Being concerned about fracking also appears to be unrelated to climate change. There could be several reasons for this, such as not seeing it as an environmental issue, or believing that the huge opportunity for resources is too big an opportunity to miss.
Furthermore, correlation analysis in each country shows that there is a much weaker relationship between climate change and these issues, than between the issues themselves. For example, ending deforestation and protecting the Antarctic has a much stronger relationship than ending deforestation and climate change. This returns to what I said earlier about ‘tangible effects’. Because climate change is so distant and generally unobservable, its effects do not hold emotional potency. But if you show people barren fields that used to be populated with dense forests, or polar bears struggling to find space to stand on ever shrinking ice caps, people become aware of the damage we are doing to the planet. This is an important factor to consider for environmental campaigners and will carry significant weight in swaying public opinion.
So, while environmental issues are becoming more prevalent in the public eye, it does seem that we still have a long road ahead. Big business will dominate and our strong desire to live comfortable, unsacrificial lives will always be present. However, just as the public and NGOs can influence these decisions, so can businesses. For example, the Evening Standard adopted the plastic-free message in their Last Straw marketing campaign which was prominent in their early 2018 marketing strategy.5 As the public’s focus on environmental conservation seems to be shared globally, messaging like this – that explain the link between recycling, keeping the oceans healthy and climate change – are likely to be benefit everyone if included in organisations’ global marketing strategies.
This focus on corporate social responsibility is more than a tool for global marketing strategies, it is an approach that will benefit the world as much as it will help companies build business internationally. Our impact on the environment will always be on our conscience, but with charities, businesses and the public’s support, we can help ensure the Earth’s health for generations to come.
This article was written by Tom Burke, Insight Executive, at fastmap. To find out how fastmap can help you with your, international market research, marketing campaign research and more, read our Creative Testing Guide or visit www.fastmap.com. You can also get in touch with David Cole, Managing Director, fastmap on +44 (0) 20 7242 0702 or firstname.lastname@example.org.SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER FOR MORE INSIGHTS AND INFORMATION
1 European Commission, (2017). ‘EU citizens increasingly concerned about climate change and see economic benefits of taking action, survey shows’. European Commission.
2 Carrigan C, Coglianese C, (2014). ‘The Jobs and Regulation Debate’. Penn Law.
3 Burn, S, (2013). ‘Are You a Sustainability Hypocrite?’. Psychology Today.
4 Anderson, B et al, (2017). ‘Public opinion and environmental policy output: a cross-national analysis of energy policies in Europe’. IOPscience.
5 Fishwick, S, (2018). ‘Party without the plastic to support our Last Straw campaign’. Evening Standard.