Most of us make small concessions for the environment every day, whether we realise it or not. Turning the lights off when we leave the house, bringing our own reusable bags to the supermarket, or even just donating old clothes to charity—all of these individual acts have a positive impact on the planet whilst minimally impacting our daily routines.
But as consumers, when it comes to making decisions that might affect our bank balance or compromise convenience, we don’t always make the conscious choice, and that is largely due to lack of awareness about where our money goes and how we can make a difference.
We surveyed 20,525 everyday citizens about climate related issues from six different markets—Australia, USA, UK, China, South Africa, and Germany—and found there is an overwhelming desire to participate more and to understand how the average person can contribute to social and environmental sustainability.
An average of 86% of participants across all markets said they believe in global warming. And only 18% of those surveyed in Australia suggested we are doing enough. Compare that to China, where 60.40% believe they are doing enough to help protect the planet for future generations despite being the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter.
Australia is not China.
But the Australian public has been trained, by marketers, to believe that disposable products, lower prices and instant convenience matters. There is a clear disconnect between CSR and marketing departments within most organisations.
It’s time advertisers start genuinely educating consumers not just about what environmental work they do, but why that work is helping combat climate change and how the public can play an active role in the organisation’s desire to contribute to sustainable practices. It needs to be in a way that makes sense to the average person as the public needs to be engaged for any communications in this sector to resonate and provide real brand value.
If the product is mass produced and for everyday use (dishwashing liquid, for example), consumers still expect the pricing to be similar to competitors, regardless of its sustainable packaging. It’s up to the brand to find a way to make that work.
Similarly, although there was a common expression of concern around vehicle emissions in our research, people don’t want to give up the convenience of driving or car ownership.
Instead, their expectation lies with the automotive industry to provide drivers with an environmentally friendly vehicle that everyone can afford.
As one UK respondent explains, ‘Ideas are great, but we need to find a better way to make them cheaper so everyone can get involved.’
Perhaps worryingly, COVID-19 lockdowns have caused a shift in people’s perceptions toward how well the environment can recover on its own from man-made problems.
Confidence lies predominantly in the power of the people, with a genuine belief that when the average person gets involved, they can make things better at least ‘most of the time’.
When it comes to government performance on climate issues, generally people are complacent, or approve only ‘a little’ of their government’s actions indicating there still an upside in countries like Australia for either major political party who runs with actionable measures Australians can adopt to make a sustainable difference.
Glenda Wynyard is the Managing Director of the Media Precinct, one of Australia’s leading independent media agency groups.