A significant gap has developed between what the public want businesses to do about the climate crisis and what companies are communicating about their approach to tackling climate-related issues.
In exclusive research conducted by Hanover’s Strategy and Insights unit in advance of this year’s COP26, to be held in Glasgow in November, we have found that while as many as 2 in 3 people agree the climate crisis is as serious in the long-term as the Coronavirus pandemic, just 0.6% of online communications from leading companies focused on the topic.
The COP26 Gap reflects a significant shift in the balance of issues that matter to people. The vast majority of the public recognise the importance of the climate crisis, driven by the prominent climate activism from figures including Sir David Attenborough, and they see the Government as key to driving real discernible change (54% ranked the Government as the number 1 most responsible actor for addressing climate change).
The businesses who get it right in the minds of the general public will be those who proactively communicate what they are doing early, instead of reacting to Government pressure.
With less than eight months to go until COP26, businesses should expect Government to pile pressure on them to make firm commitments to driving action to help tackle the climate crisis. The businesses who get it right in the minds of the general public will be those who proactively communicate what they are doing early, instead of reacting to Government pressure.
While they expect Government and business to lead, 78% of the people we spoke to told us that it was important that the general public did their bit to respond to climate change – with 85% of those telling us that they were willing and ready to do their part, be it by starting or continuing to recycle (87%), by trying to limit their use of fossil fuels (73%) or looking to change their diet (66%).
However, almost 2 in 3 people surveyed agreed that it is hard to know what to do to help the environment, leaving a clear opportunity for proactive businesses to lend their expertise to help close the COP26 Gap.
But our analysis of tweets from the accounts of FTSE100 companies in the last two years showed that not only did just 0.6% of them mention sustainability and climate-related topics, but that they drove little to no engagement, with three-quarters of these posts (73%) receiving no replies at all.
Of those social media posts that did drive engagement, almost two-thirds of the replies were negative and highly critical of the ambitions that companies were aiming to showcase, further reflecting the gap between the actions the public believes that businesses need to take and the commitments themselves.
Companies in the energy, mining, and FMCG sectors attracted most of the negativity, while energy and banking businesses attracted almost no positive reactions at all.
Teodora Coste, Hanover’s new Strategy and Insights Director said: “Our analysis marks an extraordinary opportunity for business to recognise, and work to close, the COP26 Gap. Those businesses who get it right in the minds of the general public will be those who proactively communicate what they are doing early, instead of reacting to Government pressure.
“This is an invitation to really interrogate the role they play, and whether they truly want to be the leaders that consumers want to partner with to deliver a better future for all of us.”
Gavin Megaw, Group Managing Director – Corporate, Brand & Strategy, said: “As pioneers of innovation, and as drivers of our economy, businesses must play a key role in tackling climate change, taking responsibility, leading the debate, and delivering on their purpose. However, as our research demonstrates, there is clear gap between what the public expect from business, and what businesses are saying on climate change.
For smart business leaders, there is an opportunity to both drive change and elevate corporate reputations by ensuring that customers and the wider public are bought into their vision, helping them understand their role in the process, take action and make it easy to make a difference.”
We believe this creates an opportunity for businesses to build a partnership with consumers in bringing to life their climate commitments, and perhaps it marks a new era of communications where informed consumers are engaged with and invited to contribute to a common goal.
At Hanover, we help our clients drive behaviour change to support their business strategies, build innovative partnerships, and get the right messages to the right people at the right time.
Teodora Coste joined Hanover as Strategy and Insights Director from Portland Communications where she was a Senior Strategic Planner and New Business Director (maternity cover). She previously led the strategy and analytics function for Burson-Marsteller (now BCW) across EMEA. Teodora is an honorary editor of Data Journalism: Mapping the Future (2014), and she has advised numerous clients over the years on their marketing and communication strategies, including Unilever, Diageo, YouTube, Generali, AstraZeneca, Pfizer Global Health, GenesisCare, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UN Development Programme.