We’ve just completed a major research project (sample size of over 3000 adults) into people’s attitudes to environmental issues. One of the fundamental findings which set the scene early on was that of ownership. Or, if you prefer, a great big responsibility gap. 95% of people said that the environment is ‘everyone’s responsibility’ yet only just over 40% think it’s ‘mine’.
When you think about it, this finding is at once surprising and predictable. The perception that it is the government’s role to tackle issues which effect us on a global scale is commonplace and perhaps expected, but it is the size of the gap between this and those that believe that there is a role for individual and personal responsibility which is less expected.
There was something about last weeks news that the rate at which China is building fossil fuel based power stations had been vastly underestimated, and that they are actually completing two power stations a week (each one equivalent in carbon emissions to putting 2 million cars on the road) that made doing the little things, like reusing a supermarket carrier bag, seem utterly futile. Yet this was (thankfully) balanced by the report’s author, the British environmental envoy to China, who said that it was beholden on the developed world (and those countries who were still major global polluters) to take the lead and show their own commitment through action at all levels.
You have to think that if we are to tackle these issues at anywhere near the scale they need to be addressed, then we have to close that yawning responsibility gap. We simply have to. And if brands are to attempt to make these issues real to people at a personal level, then they too have to close the gap. But how? What did the research tell us were the things that would help brands do this? Three things:
1. Make it real: And make it relevant to people’s lives and the things which are important to them. Children and future generations are a key motivator for doing something positive.
2. Make it easy: People say they’d do more if it were easier or more practical to do so. So help it to be so. Brands can help people make better choices. The one campaign which was mentioned repeatedly in this context was Ariel’s ‘Turn to 30’ campaign. It’s a good example because it is easily actionable, involves little investment, but has a clear and tangible benefit:
“It lowers bills and helps save the environment at the same time.”
3. Make it inclusive: people need to feel that what they’re doing is not in isolation, that it’s not a drop in the environmental ocean, that it will actually make a difference. People completely get the idea that lots of people doing little things can make a big difference but they don’t necessarily want to feel like they’re the only ones doing it.
“What would make me do more? Team effort. I want to see everyone else making at least as much effort as me without complaining about the sacrifice.”
Seems simple when you look at it.