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Communicating Climate Action vs Greenwashing

We’ve all heard a lot about Greenwashing and the negative effect it has on climate action, but how do you communicate and encourage action to better our environment that actually speaks to people? This is what the Communicating Climate Action in Cumbria virtual conference was trying to answer.

Greenwashing is a marketing tactic used by companies to make their products or brand appear more environmentally friendly than they actually are. This can involve misleading or false claims about a product’s sustainability, energy efficiency, or environmental impact.

Greenwashing is harmful in design because it can deceive consumers into believing they are making environmentally conscious choices, when in reality, they are supporting companies that are not truly committed to sustainability. This can lead to a false sense of security and prevent consumers from making more informed decisions that would have a positive impact on the environment.

Additionally, greenwashing can undermine the efforts of genuinely sustainable companies and products, as it dilutes the meaning of sustainability and makes it harder for consumers to distinguish between truly eco-friendly options and those that are simply using green marketing tactics. This can ultimately slow down progress towards a more sustainable future.

I think we can all agree that when communicating real advice and devices with genuine sustainability at their heart, we need to differentiate our communication strategies to get through the greenwash.

Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS), together with Zero Carbon Cumbria, Climate Outreach, and the Centre for Sustainable Energy held a conference yesterday about how meaningful messaging can help reach your audience. They did this through the medium of the seven segments devised by Britain Talks Climate.

Coined ‘Communicating Climate Action in Cumbria‘, they discussed not only the national spread of segmentation, but on a much more local scale, specific to Cumbria. These are based specifically on how different people think about and engage with climate change. The seven segments are defined as:

  • Loyal nationalists (around 25% of Cumbria)
  • Disengaged battlers (around 30% of Cumbria)
  • Disengaged Traditionalists
  • Progressive activists
  • Civic Pragmatists
  • Established liberals
  • Backbone conservatives

With a greater understanding of who these people are and what their priorities are, we can tailor an approach to better communicate and inspire them into action. Language, priorities and emphasis were discussed, but to give you a brief overview, to allow people to listen, we need to speak about climate in the following ways:

  • Give hope
  • Build efficacy & confidence
  • Make using their power common sense.
  • No-nonsense and talk pride in British achievement.
  • Rely on trusted messengers and bring out other benefits.
  • Address their sense of unfairness.
  • Hone in on the local.

While working on the lowest common denominator may ensure the majority listen, it may not be effective in inspiring each segment to take individual action, so designing a full engagement strategy is paramount.

What I am interested in particularly, and will be doing further research on, is how we can engage with these segments visually. What graphics and why may resonate with people and attract the widest audience to make a difference. Verbal communication is only one aspect, if the visual does not bring them in in the first instance, the words will be lost on deaf ears.

Watch this space as I dig deeper into this, and look to design strategies that work both verbally and visually to make the world a better place. Worth a try, no?

If you have any thoughts, do feel free to get in touch.