How marketers and advertisers can prioritize climate change

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This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Last month I got to attend a Climate Reality Leadership conference here in Minnesota. Organized by Al Gore, it was attended by lots of the usual suspects, the people we usually count on to protect our world. But as I listened to Gore speak about the solutions in our grasp, I realized who the audience should be packed to the gills with: marketers.

Now I know the world of marketing and advertising isn’t where your mind instantly goes when you think of climate activists. We’re unlikely candidates to be environmental warriors, but while individuals can make an impact, businesses and industries can make an impact at scale.

Soak that in.

As marketers, we’re professional persuaders, storytellers and problem solvers. We should be the first people in line to pour gasoline over climate solutions. We need to be sharing the stories of what brands are doing and trying, fueling more ideas and pumping our collective pom-poms for anyone that gives a damn and helping to tip the conversation from fear to hope.

We’ve all got ways we can make an impact, both large and small, but here are a few thoughts on what marketers or leaders in the advertising and marketing industries can be doing, asking and pushing for to bring about change.

Brand experience can be environmentalism

There are endless moments in the brand experience to help be a climate solver. Are you a food brand and want to chip away at food waste? Are there packaging or sizing tweaks that could limit spoilage? Do you include recipes for leftovers on the package?

The sweet spot in the experience might not be obvious. For instance, a group of incredible scientists have listed the 100 top solutions to reverse global warming in Project Drawdown.

Don’t hide your efforts three pages deep on your website

If you’re a brand doing some amazing things, be loud and proud about it. You don’t have to have it all figured out to help inspire consumers and other brands. This isn’t greenwashing; this is giving consumers a chance to get behind you and champion your efforts.

Make regenerative farming sexy

Do you want to talk about climate efforts, but think the specifics are too nerdy or complicated? 

That’s where we really shine, isn’t it? Interesting storytelling is our jam, so get in there and tear it up. I want to be made to cry or laugh watching a piece of content about soil preservation.

Work outside of the communications silo

Can you scrum with the innovation divisions of your companies? They’re probably already doing incredible things that just need to be brought into the daylight. You also might be able to offer fresh eyes and problem-solving through the consumer lens.

Don’t wait for a corporate social responsibility initiative

Climate efforts by brands shouldn’t be a side piece of marketing. If you’ve got a great idea, big or small, don’t keep it in the social responsibility box. Think about this stuff before annual planning or make it part of holistic conversations about the brand.

Find the way you want to talk

We love to talk about brand purpose. Well, there will never be a more important one than this. Do I care that a shipping company has great logistics? Not passionately. Do I care if they’ve committed to 100 percent electric vehicles by 2025? Hell yeah. Positioning could help save the planet. Can you make a climate forward stance part of yours?

Be a creepy fangirl or fanboy

Let’s loudly obsess and fawn when we see brands that are doing their part. Minneapolis brand Askov Finlayson has created a Keep the North Cold initiative, designing its entire business model to be climate positive.

Let’s put these brands into the spotlight so others get jealous and start asking to "be like Askov" just as much as they ask to "be like Apple."

Marketers love solving problems, and there’s no bigger problem to solve than this one. It will require us all to be our most awesome.

This isn’t just good for our planet, it’s good business and partnership. Climate activism is good capitalism: It’s making companies more bulletproof for the future and creating a stronger economy driven by climate-forward brands.

As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman reminded us at the conference, "If you don’t have power, you can have all the good ideas in the world. You need to grab the highest lever of power you can and pull." 

As marketers and brand leaders, we have access to powerful levers, and this is our moment to step up and pull them. I have faith in my collective community of marketing climate activists. Let’s get busy.

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