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‘Together for Implementation’: The Place of Civic Branding in the Climate Crisis

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

People no longer want to be seen as consumers, but as citizens. This has given way to a new consumption culture which demands that citizenship is put before profit. Civic branding is an attitude created from this desire, which is being increasingly adopted by brands to help support, and guide people and their wallets towards purpose.

Brands therefore need to re-think how they can create value for citizens who want the impact of their purchase to go beyond the initial transaction.

Navigating COP27

‘Together for implementation’ is the strapline established to build momentum and inspire action at this year’s COP27. Citizens across the globe are failing however to invest in a strapline, which has already been contradicted by the actions of those in power.

Rishi Sunak’s hesitant want or desire to attend this year’s summit for example, has already dampened people’s perception and investment in a collective approach to implement change.

Now more than ever, brands have a responsibility to guide and support their consumers as we observe citizens turn inwards to form smaller communities – leaning into localism, away from a government which they increasingly struggle to trust in the current climate.

There is an important commercial opportunity here for brands to fill the gap of distrust and misinformation between consumers, and the climate crisis. Cutting through the fog of misinformation, greenwashing, and political narratives – brands with a transparent approach will be able to create and define a path looking forward which consumers can trust

Civic Branding in 3 Steps

1. Information

Give people the information to implement change together

Brands can help citizens act by providing them with information on why and how they can implement positive change. From different initiatives which educate and inspire – to access to platforms which raise awareness of the climate crisis.

Investment in climate education can help close what is being referred to as the ‘Green Skills Gap’. Green skills encompass the expertise required to develop and support a more sustainable society.

Green skills are especially lacking in areas with higher levels of poverty. As outlined in the UN’s list of sustainability goals on poverty - more than one in five of the UK population (22%) are in poverty: 14.5 million people.

The existing status of poverty does not just affect its victims but society at large. For example – the gap in education, more specifically green skills are shaping a work force with lower skill levels, and lower educational attainment which reduces the awareness and aspiration from citizens to contribute toward implementing positive environmental change.

The cost-of-living crisis is exacerbating the scale of poverty, making it less and less attainable for people to get the education they need to contribute to positive change. Disseminating information creates a new path, and access for citizens to join the narrative surrounding the climate crisis and COP27.

Best practice:

Iceland is pioneering an approach to civic branding with the creation of its sub-platform ‘Fair for You’, which provides people with access to resources and information on how best to save their money.

The platform also allows users to apply for “fair, flexible, affordable loans for your household essentials”. Providing people with this access to information is key in letting people in less fortunate financial positions to gain advice and education to implement positive change in other aspects of a community.

2. Innovation

Invest in a new approach to innovation to give people less wasteful products

Resource-intensive industries that do not invest in scalable manufacturing processes that reduce waste, will lose pace in a world which is approaching innovation with an increasingly subtractive approach.

Best Practice:

Nike’s new material: ‘Nike Forward’ is an example of a reductive innovation which aims to cut waste in the design process.

The material is made using a unique needle punch technique that means the textiles are not woven; the process has a 75% smaller carbon footprint than traditional knit fleece. This method was inspired by the production of surgical masks in the healthcare industry.

This is not only a great example of reductive design, but of cross-industry innovation, and inspiration. Biomaterial innovations like this are becoming ever more affordable and available, providing solutions for the resource-intensive textiles industry.

3. Immediacy

Respond to the urgency of the crisis to lead citizens in acting immediately

Kantar’s recent survey on public opinion surrounding COP27 found that an overwhelming majority of the public, 86% globally, agree there is a need for urgent action to address climate change. Not only this, but that 64% of the public holds businesses or brands accountable for helping tackle climate change.

There is appetite for action, immediate action and people no longer expect the government to lead this, but businesses instead.

Brands which exercise a civic approach to commerce can help their customers act more immediately by offering the information, and innovation required to define a path forwards.

Best Practice:

Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard has donated his company to a trust that will use the money to fight the climate crisis.

In an open letter online, Chouinard wrote: "Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we'll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth."

This is a profound example of responding to the urgency of the situation, placing the planet and its citizens before profit.

Key takeaways:

- COP27 has accelerated people’s existing anxieties surrounding the climate crisis. This coincides with a significant shift in consumption culture. Brands and businesses that act or support their consumers in a more credible, authentic, and meaningful way will be rewarded.

- Brands should look beyond their own industry for innovation, and inspiration. Cutting waste and encouraging more efficient consumption from consumers requires a collective approach.

- If brands can address issues adjacent to the climate crisis e.g., poverty by offering financial support, or a platform for advice – this will help create access to affecting environmental action, and then change.

If we are to work together to implement change as this year’s summit aims to encourage – brands must provide information for citizens, invest in innovation, and act immediately.

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