Earth Day 2022 is this week, and as we all slowly return to the usual routine of our normal lives, it's undeniable we have been forever changed by a global pandemic to think about the world on a much larger scale.
Talk to any creative professional especially, and a lot will have a renewed interest in social good, sustainability, purpose and anything that comes with it. So how do you use your work, your skills, the creativity that drives your career, to deliver that positive change and join the fight in the climate crisis?
You may have heard of Earthtopia, a TikTok community offering to educate its audience on sustainability and climate topics. Their founder, the folks at comms agency 33Seconds, are uniquely placed to discuss the ways in which creativity can make a difference for the planet. So we reached out to Dominic Cook, CEO and Co-Founder of 33Seconds, to hear his views on the topic.
How creative campaigns can help fight climate change
Climate change is constantly in the headlines – with Earth Day on the horizon, there’s no shortage of information out there about the scale of the issue and how companies are often found wanting when it comes to taking action. Earlier this year, an advert from Innocent Drinks was banned by the ASA, after receiving criticism for trivialising the issue of recycling and making false claims.
Such high profile disagreements are common - in fact, recent reports have shown that the number of ads banned for ‘greenwashing’ has tripled in the last year. But while it’s of course critical that businesses are held up to scrutiny, the fallout is that the average consumer remains confused regarding what they can actually do to help. Stop buying Innocent’s products could be one answer - but then that begs the question as to which brands, if any, can truly be trusted?
However misguided its ‘Little Drinks, Big Dreams’ campaign is perceived to be, Innocent did get something right – its acknowledgment of people’s desire to help, engage and play a part in the fight against climate change. In our work with brands - both household names and startups - when it comes to sustainability issues, this is certainly a consumer shift we’ve seen: a drive not only to understand the problem, but to participate in the solution.
There are a number of ways creatives and marketing experts can help people do this, to inspire and facilitate positive behaviour change.
Build creative communities
This was the thinking behind the creation of Earthtopia - which is now one of the largest eco communities on TikTok. As a creative communications agency passionate about the fight against climate change, we conceived Earthtopia as a way of taking meaningful action, alongside our client work, which has included environmentally focused projects for WWF, Greenpeace and Sky Zero among others.
The platform, which is fast becoming a trusted voice for young people who care about the planet, offers bite-size, easily digestible videos, providing a range of tips and tricks encouraging small but tangible lifestyle changes that will add up to a big difference. The content covers everything from water usage hacks, to sustainable food swaps, to advice on buying, selling and updating second-hand clothes.
In contrast to the doom and gloom climate crisis stories dominating the headlines, Earthtopia aims to offer an injection of humour, fun and personality into the discussion - not because its followers don’t take the issue seriously (quite the opposite) but to acknowledge that taking action can be a hugely positive experience.
Social media platforms such as TikTok have vast potential in this area, as they enable engaged global audiences to form communities and meaningful connections - with other individuals, brands and organisations - based on the issues and approaches they feel passionate about.
Facing the fight against climate change alone can feel isolating and impossible - joining a ‘tribe’ and working together towards shared goals can turn it into a progressive journey. The beauty is that the process becomes collaborative and creative, built on not only the content itself, but the comments, discussions and shared viewpoints it instigates - all of which can help build conversation and drive innovative ideas and ultimately, actions.
Encourage small daily steps
The idea of collective will and incremental changes amounting to a larger impact isn’t something new in itself but the way in which companies, platforms and brands execute and facilitate this, continues to evolve. Startup companies are particularly well placed to offer creative, agile solutions for consumers who are looking for ways to become more sustainably-minded, or supporting other businesses on their path to giving customers greater choice and agency.
One such startup, Ecologi, focuses on the funding of carbon reduction projects and tree planting around the world, by providing a subscription service to help reverse environmental damage. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee per week, subscribers can become climate positive and - according to the company - by encouraging action in manageable, relatable terms, change is more likely to happen.
In doing so, individuals and businesses are given the opportunity to take personal responsibility, joining a collective movement to create real results. To date, the company has planted over 38 million trees on the behalf of its members and funded climate solution projects that have reduced over 1.6 million tonnes of CO2.
Focus on the joy of positive change
Making lifestyle alterations to become more sustainable can range from taking small steps, to embarking on more sizable change - like switching to an electric vehicle. This type of decision can be daunting, but creative thinking can help highlight the fun and positivity a transition like this can bring about.
As part of our work to promote the all electric Vauxhall Corsa-e ‘Switch It Up’ campaign, we challenged 24 of the UK’s best up-and-coming artists to produce a collaborative animation. Inspired by the joy of making a change for the better, each artist was given a single frame featuring the Corsa-e at a different angle to ‘switch up’ with their own unique style. When all of the frames were edited together, it created a seamless animated loop, showcasing the eco-friendly design of the car, highlighted by the bold, fresh and colourful creative.
The video, as well as the individual designs, were displayed across Vauxhall’s social channels, with each artist also sharing via their own networks, creating widespread positive awareness and engagement.
In an age where ‘climate anxiety’ is a recognised condition and the scale of the issue can often seem overwhelming and insurmountable, agencies, creatives and brands have a duty to support consumers in navigating these challenges and empower them to adopt positive behaviours.
Of course, many fundamental shifts do still need to be government and policy led, but in the meantime, people need to feel they can make a difference in their everyday actions and choices, working together toward a shared purpose. The companies and brands that help them to do this, will be the ones that win trust, create tangible change and forge a progressive path into the future.