Why we need Climate Comms Champions

Ahead of Mumbrella360: Reconnected, Communicators Declare co-founder Belinda Noble highlights the importance of speaking up on climate change.

If you missed former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rip into News Corp’s Paul Kelly on Q&A recently, do yourself a favour and watch it.

He told The Australian’s Editor-at-large that his employer’s “campaign on climate denial … has done enormous damage to the world, to the global need to address global warming.”

He implored Kelly to take a stand.

“How offensive, how biased, how destructive does it have to be, Paul, before you will say – one of our greatest writers and journalists – ‘It’s enough, I’m out of it’?”

No matter what you think of Turnbull’s performance as a Prime Minister, he was speaking for all of us that care about the climate crisis. Because it’s not just an environmental problem – it’s a communications problem.

A majority of people in the creative industries want to see action on climate but, as far as I’m aware, few of the big ad agencies or sector leaders have publicly taken a stand. This has allowed those who oppose action to confuse and politicise the issue in the public’s mind.

And if you’re staying quiet on climate, or even accepting the status quo, you are inadvertently enabling greenhouse gas polluters and deniers. As Craig Reucassel said in his ABC program, Fight for Planet A, “Delay is the new denial”.

At the beginning of this year, a small group of volunteers started Comms Declare. We try to find and promote those who put climate front and centre of their communications work.

This follows similar movements in law, engineering, health, education, building and many others.

One of our major actions has been the survey of more than 200 of Australia’s top marketing, PR, advertising and media agencies to create a baseline of climate attitudes and actions.

Figuring out what constitutes meaningful climate action in the communications industries is not easy, and the results are not perfect. But we have discovered that the issue is important and becoming more so.

A significant 87% of respondents agreed climate action is needed to attract employees, 67% were aligning business strategy with climate action and 67% were committed to net zero emissions by 2040.

Over the past year, nearly two thirds of agencies had worked for clients that support emissions reduction, such as renewable energy or conservation groups. Another 54% of agencies want to increase such work in the future.

And around half said they would not work for big fossil fuel companies such as Adani (now Bravus) and ExxonMobil.

We are super pleased to have identified a Climate Comms Champion, who will be revealed at Mumbrella360: Reconnected. The winner is an agency that has gone above and beyond in reducing its own emissions, emissions along the supply chain and working with ethical clients.

Some of those that did the survey are among the 40 organisations and 240 individuals that have already declared for the climate at Comms Declare. Tellingly, 27 of our members want their details to be kept private.

Over the year, I’ve heard countless stories from people who are really worried about global warming but feel they can’t speak out or do anything about it. This includes staff from big creative agencies, government employees and even celebrities.

They often lack confidence in how to talk about climate science, or are concerned that going public means all their business (or even personal) environmental actions will come under unfair scrutiny.

They’re also worried about being labelled as ‘social justice warriors’ or being ‘too political’ or losing their incomes.

These are completely understandable and justifiable concerns, but each one can be tackled.

The great news is that the economics have shifted, and the smart money is flowing to renewable and sustainable businesses.

You don’t have to be an expert on climate to be worried about it, and we can all have conversations that help others understand how we feel or think about the issue.

And global warming is not political. It is a scientific fact.

I hope our Climate Comms Champion will inspire more in our industry to say, ‘It’s enough’.

Belinda Noble is a communications strategist at BeNoble Communications and co-founder of Communicators Declare. Mumbrella360: Reconnected takes place next week, November 17-20. Tickets are available here


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