Blue Earth Summit 2023

The Climate Crisis is the Most Important Marketing Campaign of our Time

It’s been two weeks since the first day of the Blue Earth Summit. In that time, London saw a peaceful Rosebank march in protest to the oil exploitation spelling disaster for our UK seas and climate. Rishi Sunk came under fire from his climate advisers and the UK public for making net zero even harder to achieve in Britain after his recent policy retreats. Even though the Prime Minister says that he’s trying to protect consumers navigating out of double-digit inflation, the independent Climate Change Committee said the changes risk sapping enthusiasm at next month’s United Nations climate talks.

Storm Babel descended on the UK, violently affecting parts of Northern Britain and even many Summit-goers attempting to navigate roads and railways out of the city. It’s also become even tougher to greenwash (good). Companies that buy carbon offsets from the voluntary market to counterbalance their greenhouse gas emissions now have to adhere to strict guidelines describing what they can and cannot claim. Published by the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative, the rules are designed to tighten the climate claims brands are making in the face of boasts and illusory credits. I claimed another birthday and all the celebrations that entailed, my little brother got married, and thanks to extreme weather events, I spent enough time on trains to have been able to fly to the Caribbean.

For the third Friday in a row, I’m writing from a train, except this time, there’s not a storm, nor a flood, in sight. We might even arrive on time. As the sun shines and the dog sleeps soundly on my foot (astoundingly cute but physically quite uncomfortable, I’ll take the pins and needles though), it’s about time that I shared my thinking on an incredible three day Blue Earth Summit experience.

It certainly feels like a very different world that we are living in now, and the sense from the business and activist community is one of connectedness, accountability, and action.

I’ll break that down a bit further.

My resounding take is that the climate crisis is the most important marketing campaign of our time.

It’s become abundantly clear that the responsibility now lies with business to drive forward positive change, to answer to the demands of discerning consumers, and to navigate an increasingly complex environment. Where net zero is still very high on the agenda, business leaders have realised that there are more dimensions than that. With biodiversity also taking the spotlight, there is very little clarity in terms of how to build an effective and responsible approach into corporate structure, but there are organisations and advisors in place to help out. They weren’t at the event, but I’d recommend speaking to a good friend of Boulder, Biodiversify , to get started on that journey.

The Blue Earth Summit boasted an even more impressive speaker roster this year. Every single person on the stage, whether sharing knowledge and thinking on greener brands, cleaner business initiatives, more compelling athlete and organisational associations, or pitching live for investment, shared a connection with the outdoors and a compelling mandate to do more to preserve it.

The outdoors can mean different things to different people, and access comes in many guises – in many respects this is an element we need to fix for underprivileged subsets of society, too – but it’s our connection to the natural world and understanding of its importance in keeping the world turning that will drive our focus on sustainable living forward. As Hugo Tagholm said, ‘There’s no good business on a dead planet’.

What struck me most was Deborah Meaden’s compelling opener, which, amidst bleak and spiralling environmental headlines, did instil some hope in the ability that people and business have to drive positive change. Business is more compelled than ever before to act faster, and better, than government.

Deborah said that if things can change this quickly, then we don’t have much time. But, the empowerment lies with people. Humans are amazing.

Which brings me back to my sweeping statement that the climate crisis is the most important marketing campaign of our time.

As marketers, we have the power and the influence to drive forward impactful messages for business to drive change, shift behaviours, and inspire people to put the planet first.

It harks back to a quote from Barack Obama (no, he wasn’t there – maybe 2024?) who said:

“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”

Barack Obama, Former US President

It’s in our hands now to do something about it, by changing our consumption habits, our attitudes to government, by giving our brands more accountability in their production, and ultimately give back to the natural environment in every which way possible. That empowerment lies with people, with human creativity, empathy, and a connection with the outdoors.

That’s why the Blue Earth Summit is a powerful platform to connect the very change makers we need to drive this campaign. From Seed start-ups pitching for investment to VCs and crowdfunders looking for the next generation of impact brands, Deborah also drew on the important point that the funds are there, investors just need to be pointed in the right direction.

As many businesses look for direction, whether in terms of investment decisions, growth strategies, sustainable practices, B Corp journeys, responsible marketing and branding, or how to navigate the new world of biodiversity in corporate decision making, there is no clear cut path to success, but there is a firm commitment to finding it.

That drive is based on the demands of a more discerning customer in a world where, ultimately, customer satisfaction is at the heart of business success and revenue growth. Customers are asking questions of the businesses they buy from, and regulators want evidence of greener operations, too.

This boils down to three essential factors.

  1. Connection

As all marketers know, every single piece of content shared, every communication, every campaign, every output, is driven by connection. We want our audience to connect with our message. As humans we are driven by our own interpersonal connections. In terms of The Blue Earth Summit, we are all connected by our love of the outdoors, and that connection to the natural world is the essential ingredient to understanding the urgency behind climate activism, challenging policy, and encouraging more planet-focused business practice. Most importantly, connection is how the world turns (don’t quote my science here, though!). Putting the right people together and making the right links is how business drives forward, how start-ups build new audiences and the very ethos that the Blue Earth Summit thrives on. It’s the recognition of the importance of opportunities to connect in every sense of the world that is the very bedrock of any kind of impact-focused work.

2. Accountability

Every business under the sun is focused on net zero and, encouragingly, increasingly, more enterprises than ever are thinking about their carbon footprint. However, the new kid on the block is biodiversity and our corporate impact on the natural world, which is no new phenomenon, but there is now a renewed focus on better understanding our impact which has also been embedded into regulations and industry standards. It’s a new landscape to navigate, with accountability demanded from regulators, and consumers too.

The discerning audience of 2023 wants to know that businesses care about how they operate and understand their impact. Even if that’s not clear yet, many business leaders are taking strides to make that happen. It’s also really important from an athletic perspective, and the panel held by Dan Yates of Protect Our Winters was revealing in that respect. Athletes of today are very aware of their influence and accountability, and ensuring that their behaviour, sponsorship and consumption habits are reflective of their personal brand and values.

3. Action

This probably goes without saying, but the impetus now is with businesses to drive the sustainability agenda forward. And the way that businesses influence people is with marketing. So, really, it’s on us. We have to lead by example, find creative ways to implore people to act differently, and work with impactful messages to help people understand their impact on the planet, and how they can fix it. This isn’t a side issue. This is on all of us. I think actually that’s quite empowering and we can rise above the headlines and start getting meaningful work done.

So, let’s go.

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