Climate Change, Sustainability and Our Role In It
14th October | Matt de Leon back

Climate Change, Sustainability and Our Role In It

I’ve always worked in consumer PR and have been lucky enough to work with some of the world’s best brands, from Coca-Cola, Reebok and Samsung, to Shell, Ford and Estrella Damm. And I’ve worked with those brands in environments that many could only dream of, including the Olympic Games, UEFA Champions League and Formula One.  

I’ve been lucky, worked very hard, and for the most part, had a fantastic time doing it.

But. And isn’t there always a but? Fulfilling, fun and rewarding as it’s been, one thing has always niggled me. One question that’s been with me throughout.

Is what I’m doing making a real difference to people’s lives?

I’m not a nurse, a doctor, a policeman. I’m not helping people come to terms with grief or educating the nations’ children, and I’m not helping innocent people fight for their rights or their freedom. I’ve not even been working for clients that do any of the above. Sure, there have been a few campaigns over the years that have ticked the CSR box. But nothing world-beating or life-changing.

I appreciate these views are based on my own career, but from speaking to peers, I know I’m not alone. Our industry is phenomenal, filled with some of the most creative people on the planet. Creatives who are also superb strategists, writers, publicists, content creators and client consultants. Creatives who do brilliant work to help increase clients’ bottom lines. But I don’t believe we’ve had the opportunity, as an industry, to use those skills to help change the world.

Until now.

Yes, COP26 is coming, Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain are blocking roads (I agree with their message, but not their tactics), and we can all make choices in our personal lives to help save the planet. But it’s what we’re doing and can do for our clients that interests me.

At Richmond & Towers, we’re working with amazing brands that are all over this.

Like Estrella Damm, who are working hard to protect the oceans, particularly The Med, which has been its home for more than 140 years. We’re working with them to highlight the damage being done to the seas and to inspire people to make more sustainable choices.

Or ‘Best For Environment’ B Corp brand, Alpro, cheerleading the positive benefits of plant-based eating for both the health of the nation, and the planet, last year launching the brand’s five year strategy, ‘Feeding our Future with Plants’ – a health and sustainability pledge to promote a measurable dietary shift towards more plant-based eating.

And the Confederation of Paper Industries, where our ‘Beyond the Box’ campaign focuses on extolling the virtues of cardboard to consumers, including its unsurpassed recycling rates and versatility.

Or even our work to support the work of drinks brands Irish Distillers and Whyte & Mackay, who are instigating programmes to use sustainably grown indigenous oak within their maturation processes.

But it’s not just our clients. Brands are falling over themselves to do their bit, and this time, it isn’t just CSR. This time they mean it. It doesn’t matter whether they’re doing it because they want to, have to or because their customers are demanding it, the point is they’re doing it.

But what’s key, is how they communicate it.

The world is awash with climate change, sustainability, and environmental messaging, and very often it’s just wallpaper. White noise that no longer gets heard.

This is where we come in. Our job (as it’s always been) is to ensure our clients’ brands are heard and seen above the noise, to ensure their message gathers momentum, pace, and scale. To avoid it becoming wallpaper, we need to continue to tell the same story, but tell it differently. Every. Single. Time. From different angles and different perspectives, with different audiences in mind so that over time, they all hear the same message, but through a vocabulary and in a tone that resonates with them.

The messaging needs to be authentic. Not pretending to be what it’s not or making grand claims about small things they should be doing anyway. If nothing else, Covid has shown us that brands need to be real, to have humour, and to talk to their customers like real people, celebrating the highs, and being honest if they get it wrong. This is when brands gain respect, and their messages are believed.

For years, we’ve used our creativity and skills to tell the stories of brand and product benefits. Now is the time to use those talents to tell the world about the changes these brands are making to ‘do their bit’, encouraging purchase as a result.

And the more we can encourage purchase of products that aren’t damaging the planet, the more we can reduce the purchase of those that are, to the point that they either fall away, or are forced to change.

We can help create momentum, speed up the virtuous circle, and bit by bit, play our part in reducing emissions or keeping plastic out the ocean.

This is our moment, where we too can hold our heads up high, and know we’re helping to bring about change.

It won’t make us nurses, psychologists, or neurosurgeons, but it will certainly be making a real difference.

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