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Marketing and Comms
‘The Climate Crisis Is, in Part, a Communication Crisis:’ Brands Must Walk Their Talk to Galvanize Consumers

A new study by Magna, Teads and Project Drawdown confirms consumers are relying on brands to create a clear, tangible and compelling vision — backed by substantive action — to guide them toward more sustainable lifestyles.

Today, MAGNA — the investment and intelligence arm of IPG Mediabrands — released a study conducted in partnership with Project Drawdown and cloud-based, omnichannel advertising platform Teads to better understand consumer perspectives on sustainability, especially as it relates to the continued barriers that prevent more sustainable lifestyles.

Sustainability Speaks: Breaking the Barrier of Climate Communication explores how brands can help bridge these barriers and how advertisers can more effectively communicate their sustainability goals while also supporting brand growth.

MAGNA surveyed 9,112 people in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, and held five focus groups in the US. Along with echoing recent research from Sustainable Brands® and Deloitte on the most common, ongoing barriers to consumer adoption of more sustainable habits and lifestyles (expense and lack of access), the study found that despite these barriers, people remain motivated to ensure a better future — with 99 percent of people agreeing that they can be motivated to take sustainable action.

"The climate crisis is, in part, a communication crisis," said Jonathan Foley, Ph.D., Executive Director of Project Drawdown. "We already have the solutions we need to turn things around; but we are still paralyzed by misinformation, fear and the lack of will to act. We need a clear and compelling vision to move forward — a vision of a better future, where we come together to stop climate change, and build a better world for all. That could change the world."

Additional key findings confirm the imperative for brands to be part of the conversation: 77 percent of respondents said they wanted brands to take a stance on sustainability. Furthermore, 75 percent somewhat or strongly agreed that if brands took meaningful action on sustainability, it would have a tremendous impact on the environment; and 35 percent would be motivated to act, if they see brands have, too.

A brand that offers tangible, relevant data in advertising — such as a statistic on how much water was saved in manufacturing — scores better than ambiguous messaging. Defining sustainability itself, a broad term that can vary by product category, makes a difference in helping consumers align around a company’s actions.

The study also ranked which channels consumers favor more when receiving sustainability messaging. Advertising, at 66 percent, was the optimal channel; followed by social media (62 percent), newsletters (57 percent), and influencers and other brand representatives (52 percent).

But advertising itself is also in the hot seat, thanks to its until-recently-unchecked carbon footprint — initiatives such as Scope3 and Ad Net Zero have emerged to help ensure the climate impacts of the messengers no longer undermine their sustainability messaging.

“Sustainability practices are good for business, with innovation, transparency, and information key for brands to strengthen their customer relationships long term,” added Neala Brown, SVP of Strategy & Insights at Teads. “While brands should ease customer hesitations toward adopting a sustainable lifestyle and given advertising as an optimal channel for that messaging, we are simultaneously working with our brand partners to reduce their own digital carbon footprint with supply chain and media optimization via direct publisher relationships.”

Going forward, in addition to reining in the physical impacts of ad production, brands would do well to focus on two aspects of their messaging:

The full study can be found here.