For 11 days last month, Extinction Rebellion activists protested around London. The group, which launched in October 2018, has three aims: to get the government to tell the truth on climate change, to bring greenhouse net emissions to zero by 2025, and to create a citizen’s assembly on ecological and climate justice.
This week, they again got the country’s, and politicians’ attention, by positioning climate change at the top of the political agenda. The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Welsh government both declared climate emergencies. Whilst Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party plans to force a vote on declaring a national environmental and climate change emergency in parliament this week after discovering that the UK government has only spent a fraction of the money set aside for clean air initiatives. As Greta Thunberg said when she addressed parliament in April, “We cannot solve an emergency without treating it like an emergency.”
The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Thunberg has become the spokesperson for her generation after leading international school walk-outs in protest about the climate crisis. This is the generation who won’t just take businesses at their word, but instead push for change until they see it happening. A generation that are going vegan, shopping second-hand and who won’t compromise on brand ethics.
But are brands actually making the change their consumers want to see? Or are they simply using the conversation as a marketing opportunity? Where once it was OK to tell consumers what you were doing, that’s no longer enough. You need to show them. As Kevin Chesters, Strategy Partner at Harbour, has said, “it is always better to be a problem-solver than a problem-spotter.”
The reality is that we all need to buy less stuff and so ‘going green’ becomes a balancing act between ethics, profit and consumption a lot of the time, especially for brands. Patagonia has long been heralded as a genuinely brilliant example of the show don’t tell model. At the end of 2018, the founder Yvon Chouinard announced that their mission statement has become more urgent, direct and clear: “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.” Chouinard believes what’s important is to recognise and address the crisis the climate is facing rather than the change that’s happening.
As with much that happens within the marketing landscape, it’s always easy to be cynical about the declarations of change being made; to assume brands are simply paying lip service to pacify their consumers. Especially in recent months, when there seems to be no end to brands pledging their support or offering up their green credentials.
But who are those actively doing something to help? Is it all talk or are there brands alongside their agency partners that are turning that talk into action? As an Extinction Rebellion poster read last week, “Business as usual costs the earth.” Below are some of the brands forgoing the usual to work towards a greener, cleaner world.