As a result of pandemic driven lockdowns, the world experienced an unprecedented 6% dip in energy related pollution as global travel slowed and rush-hour traffic faded to a bad (albeit temporary) memory. Many hoped that this would give humanity a little extra time to avert climate emergency. Despite this considerable decline in output, however, emissions keep rising and climate change is still accelerating.
Recent excessive heat waves, droughts, fires, floods, and sinkholes have been a stark reminder to what is on the horizon if we just “go back to normal”. Research shows that public opinion regarding addressing climate change hasn’t waned, in fact it has picked up a little with many having witnessed the benefits of that 6% pollution drop. After a few months into the lockdowns social and news media alike were full of reports of noticeably cleaner waterways, animal sightings, and improved air quality, prompting many to reenergize their belief that we could return to a normal that still works to prevent climate change from speeding out of control.
34% of consumers stated that environmental sustainability affects their decisions around travel, up from 30% the previous year. Younger generations especially take the issue seriously and the pandemic appears to have reinforced this commitment. When asked to choose their top three concerns both before and during the pandemic, climate change emerged as a critical issue for both Millennials and Gen Z age groups. Our studies show that just over 65% of respondents think government and businesses need to make greater efforts to protect the environment.
Brands in all industries would do well to take this into consideration and openly improve their efforts to minimize and offset their negative environmental impacts. Companies will need to have a thorough plan in place to appease and attract consumers in the future. This means considering environmental impacts from employee commutes to manufacturing to shipping and everything in between.
For example, Walmart, H&M, Ikea, and Kingfisher have recently announced their Race to Zero Breakthroughs campaign that partners with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) High Level Climate Action Champions. The retailers have pledged their support to accelerate a movement in the industry to drive climate action and encourage other retailers to set out their plans to reduce carbon emissions and limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The goal is to set science-based targets, work to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and commit to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest.
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