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Five things brands can take away from COP26

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Being a world leader is a thankless task. In the eyes of many, you can never do anything right. So when over 100 of them joined forces at COP26 responses were hopeful if not a little cynical. By the end of the conference one thing was clear: it is already well within our means to slow, if not altogether halt, climate change. But corporations and the leaders that benefit from them don’t always want to. Fortunately, the things brands can take away from COP26 are a little more positive.

A quick overview of the conference: a ‘deal’ was struck, many countries agreed to end deforestation, the private sector promised to slash its emissions and facilitate energy transition, and China and the US have said they’ll work together on their climate issues. But this is all big-picture (read: abstract) stuff and it’s left many of us – brands and individuals alike – wondering what we do next.

Here are the five key takeaways that brands can glean from COP26.

1. Use the cause to make an impact

Of course, grabbing onto the coattails of a big issue in an attempt to market your brand is a fuzzy area, ethically. But that didn’t stop some from making a splash in Glasgow this year. Scottish Brewer Tennent’s took the conference coming to its homeland as an opportunity to launch  its campaign highlighting a commitment to sustainable brewing. 

Hellman’s partnered with Israeli-Dutch artist Itamar Gilboa on The Food Waste Effect: an installation underlining the damage that food waste does to the environment. And Burberry unveiled its biodiversity strategy that should see the brand become ‘climate positive’ by 2040. 

We optimistically await the results of these strategies, but one thing does seem certain: getting your brand name aligned with climate positivity can’t be a bad thing for your reputation.

2. Make the switch to green energy

More than 40 nations agreed to move towards cleaner technologies in line with new worldwide standards and policies that are set to be imposed. First, the high-carbon sectors will be targeted with hopes to attract investment into climate-positive movements.

Ethically-dubious powerhouse Jeff Bezos also announced that Amazon’s operations would be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025, with all its vehicles upgraded to electrics. He didn’t comment on his atmosphere-destroying adventures into space, but perhaps he likes to keep work and play separate?

Even if your brand isn’t in the agriculture, hydrogen, steel, transport, or electricity industries it’s still a good time to start thinking about the wider impact your operations make, and how it can be reduced.

3. You’ll get called out for green-washing

With global climate action comes protests. Greta, the unofficial face of climate change, was present along with the Extinction Rebellion and other organisations hellbent on holding these world leaders and corporations to account.

One protestor told The Drum: “The big polluters use the same marketing companies that told us cigarettes don’t kill you, and now they’re telling us they’re not responsible for the climate crisis.”

COP26’s own sponsors Hitachi, SSE, and the National Grid all came under fire for their ‘tokenistic solutions’ which serves as a reminder to brands that, if you’re going to align yourself with a cause you really need to make an effort to mould its values – or risk being revealed as disingenuous.

4. Transparency is always key

Among the predictable lip service and tokenism, some unexpected breakthroughs did occur at COP26. One such example was the UK Treasury’s proposal that all large UK firms with shares on the London Stock Exchange should outline their plans to move to net-zero in line with the UK’s 2050 target. The UK Treasury wants to see these low-carbon plans made public by 2023.

Also looking towards a more transparent business experience was The Vegetarian Butcher, who have teamed up with Sainsbury’s on a ‘Carbon Footprint Personal Shopper’ service in select stores. It aims to guide and educate customers around the small changes they can make to reduce the carbon footprint of each grocery shop.

Though net-zero targets and carbon footprint transparency are likely to cause a stir among some larger corporations, it’s advisable for smaller brands to follow the same target. Show what your brand is doing to step in the right direction and you’ll find that your investors, as well as your customers, thank you for it.

5. Accept your part

A Trustpilot report in Australia found that half of the country’s shoppers will take a brand’s social, political, and environmental stances into account before buying products or services. Similarly, 94% consider brand honesty and transparency when making purchasing decisions.

This could be good news for brands like Ben & Jerry’s, O2, and Sky who were among the household names that signed an open letter calling out the links between lucrative ad spending and accounts that promote climate misinformation. Brands in support of the letter, organised by Conscious Advertising Network (Can), demanded that COP26 address the universal definition of climate misinformation which has become a business in itself for those that capitalise on conspiracy theories and alternative information. 

Advertising in itself is a sticky area which, if handled by the wrong platform, can actually increase carbon emissions. We know: it’s a minefield. But if you’re going to hone in on any of the key takeaways from COP26, let it be this one. 

If you accept the part that you and your brand plays in climate change and the move to net-zero then you’re guaranteed to be better equipped when it comes to making positive switches. To find out more about how your brand can promote its green messaging, get in touch with OggaDoon today.

Author: Ella WhiteContent and Communications Freelancer writes about social media trends, environment & sustainability, and more.

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