How can business help people to take action on climate change?
At the United Nations Climate Summit in January, Sir David Attenborough told delegates from almost 200 nations, "Right now, we're facing a manmade disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon."
In February, Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist whose school strike last fall became the catalyst for a global movement on climate change, told the European Union, "You cannot just wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge."
As we are approaching a tipping point for the climate in the very near future, there needs to be a massive global mobilization to take action and reduce human impact on the climate.
A research study conducted by IKEA and GlobeScan that involved 14,000 individuals across 14 countries shows that even if climate change is widely acknowledged, it remains a distant, complex issue. People know about it, but they cannot deeply understand how the issue will affect them personally and they do not know what they can do about it.
In fact, not knowing what to do (41 percent) and how to do it in a meaningful way (26 percent) represents a significant barrier to climate action, along with the perception of inconvenience (22 percent) and high costs associated with environmentally friendly behavior (40 percent).
However, the biggest obstacle that prevents people from doing more is the belief that government (56 percent), businesses (44 percent) and other people (34 percent) are not putting in enough effort when it comes to climate change.
This result emphasizes that climate change is a collective problem and requires a joint effort rather than solitary actions. But the question is, how do we overcome the roadblocks that prevent people from doing more? Understanding what prevents people from changing their behavior is the first step to unlocking opportunities to reduce human impact on climate change.
Three main motivators can be leveraged to overcome the barriers and encourage people to take action:
- Benefits — People will be more willing to change if it will save them money (41 percent), benefit their health and the health of their family (37 percent), make their daily lives easier (34 percent) and if it is more convenient (15 percent). People can be encouraged to adopt new habits and take action on climate change when they know how it helps their lives.
- Enablers — Many people are also eager to receive clear information on what to do and how they can help (34 percent). When they can see how other individuals, companies and government are making an effort and that there are no free-riders, the public is more likely to do the same.
- Positivity — People would feel more motivated if they could see a direct link between their actions and helping the planet (40 percent) or helping future generations (40 percent). Demonstrating how the world can be better and showcasing a positive vision can be highly motivating for people.
How can businesses help their customers to engage in greater action to help mitigate climate change — and what are the benefits of doing so?
First, there is no single solution to this challenge — one size does not fill all. Some people feel empowered to take action when they can see the positive effect of their actions on the planet but still need reminders and advice, while others may not have enough confidence that their actions will make a difference. However, once they see that they are part of a collective effort (for example, seeing what companies are doing on climate change) they would be more likely to take action.
Second, businesses can leverage four common ingredients to encourage and inspire people to take climate action:
- Paint a positive vision that balances the negative facts about climate impact with a positive vision of a climate-friendly future.
- Prove the personal benefits (financial savings, health benefits, convenience).
- Share solutions in terms of tips and information about specific personal actions and support from business.
- Create a community where people can feel part of a movement where everyone contributes.
Businesses have the opportunity to build stronger relationships with their customers and develop long-term trust by helping them address climate change and by being more transparent about their commitment to climate change. Being environmentally friendly is one of the most important drivers of trust where businesses are underperforming, according to the 2016 GlobeScan Radar).
Making people feel part of a joint effort will help inspire action, strengthen relationships and build a deeper level of trust. It is the result of strong long-term relationships with consumers and stakeholders that allows information flow, engagement and collaboration.
While the perception of a lack of effort from business may discourage us from doing more on climate change, an engagement strategy that leverages these motivators and common ingredients may empower consumers and mobilize more action. This also represents an opportunity for businesses to renew their commitment to climate change through a global movement involving many stakeholders worldwide.