GOOD COP, BAD COP: HOW TO CUT THROUGH THE NOISE AROUND CLIMATE CHANGE
As new PM Rishi Sunak deliberates over whether attending COP27 will fit into his schedule this year, the voices of those who do attend should bear greater significance. Unfortunately, cutting through the noise continues to be a challenge. David Willans, sustainability director at Bladonmore, discusses how corporate communicators can make an impact when addressing climate change.
The harsh reality of climate change has impacted people worldwide. Legislation is barrelling through the necessary bureaucratic steps, opening new business opportunities, and forcing more transparency and action from corporations. As a result, how corporate communicators approach climate change is increasingly complicated and nuanced and, at the same time, has never been more important.
Bladonmore communications consultancy has carried out in-depth research to provide valuable insights for business communicators to maximise COP27 and subsequent UN climate change meetings.
From our research, here are four of the main insights:
Communications as a strategic tool
When it comes to our climate, like nearly everything else in life, we achieve our objectives through collaboration and cooperation. Approaching COP in this way earns you attention and respect. Simply thinking ‘what can we get out of it?’ just adds to the noise and doesn’t help anyone, including yourself.
“You must be clear about what’s helping to accelerate your company’s climate action and what’s constraining it. Where you face constraints, identify where collaboration - both in and across sectors - and government policy changes are needed to remove the systemic barriers you face,” Hannah Hislop, global sustainability senior manager at Unilever, added to the report.
To avoid merely creating noise, your objectives and tactics for COP should align to your net-zero or climate strategy so your COP efforts are helping move your climate achievements forward. Consider which objectives you can contribute most to, and which are most important in helping you deliver your strategies.
Reputation: don’t put yourself first
Even though it’s probably the first thing that most companies think of, reputation shouldn’t be top of the agenda. It’s not about what you can get, it’s about what you can bring to earn respect.
“For us, it’s about being smart about the engagement. It’s not a marketing exercise. We want to come out with stronger partnerships with governments, business and cities – because we can only achieve our climate goals, if we do it together,” Adam Elman, head of sustainability at Google, explains in the report.
In our report, Matthew Phillips, communications director at UNFCCC Climate Champions, says: “This isn’t about a corporate PR moment, it’s a conversation about systems change. It’s noisy, so be smart.”
Whether you are an established and well-recognised business, or an unknown brand, if you have something valuable to say, say it strongly, with conviction and creativity.
Don’t say small actions make a big difference; if they did, we wouldn’t be in this mess. You don’t want your communications to look like your understanding is out of date.
Don’t make the consumer the hero
Tactically and technically, the individual consumer cannot solve the problem by changing their purchases. It’s unfair and irresponsible to suggest this. Yes, their decisions can make a relatively significant difference to their individual impact, but don’t equate this with changing the world.
Systemically and strategically, the hero narrative isn’t how systems change. Of course, a hero helps, but what people need is to know there’s a lot of things happening. There’s a bigger movement that people, business, and governments are contributing to; it’s a lot easier to join in than to start afresh.
COP27 will be held in Egypt on 6-18 November 2022.