In an era in which attention is often only ever partial, puncturing the collective consumer inertia with a complex message is no easy feat. Yet it is a challenge which Extinction Rebellion have risen to.
The peaceful mass protests orchestrated by Extinction Rebellion have been nothing short of transformational, catapulting the crisis to the top of the media agenda. While a firm line from business leaders including former Unilever CEO Paul Polman and the governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney has underlined the responsibility of business to make tangible changes.
The scale of the climate crisis might make it easy for brands and businesses to believe themselves inept at making an impact. Yet according to the Carbon Majors Report only 100 companies are responsible for 71% of the world’s carbon emissions.
Polman issued a stark warning in The Guardian that “we are about to commit the biggest intergenerational crime in the history of mankind”. Noting that if business fails to address issues of inequality and climate change, a lot more people are going to be dissatisfied, feel not included or left behind. A state of play which means, according to Polman, business leaders must step up and move outside of their comfort zone to take personal risks.
Finding this willpower isn’t always easy. For the advertising industry, reaching the tipping point when it comes to acting on the climate emergency often comes second place to the urgency of hitting the next quarter’s targets. Yet there are signs that overlooking the important in pursuit of the urgent is no longer a long-term business strategy.
Business leaders must increasingly look beyond short-term profitability to address the pressing need to reduce emissions. For an industry based upon the success of its people, the increasing propensity of those people to speak out, boycott and opt-out of working for brands which don’t reflect their own personal values means that maintaining the status quo is no longer an option for ad agencies seeking to build a creative competitive advantage.
With this in mind we asked a selection of industry leaders to have their say on how the industry can address the climate crisis: