It is no coincidence that President Joe Biden chose to hold his Leaders’ Summit on Climate on Earth Day. The initiative, now entering its second half century, has become a focal point for environmental action and activism around the world, and with climate change higher on the global agenda than ever before, it is the perfect launching pad for one of the president’s key policy focuses.
Climate awareness initiatives like Earth Day are incredibly important in elevating the status of the issue, says Jamie Crummie, co-founder of Too Good To Go, an app that helps people to fight food waste.
“Earth Day itself was born out of an oil spill in 1969 with the intention of sparking discussion to highlight the importance of conservation and our environmental impact. By bringing awareness of the climate crisis into mainstream culture we’re reminding individuals of the power of their own voice and recognising the effectiveness of mass participation. Since its inception billions of people have taken part in Earth Day activities.”
The first Earth Day brought people out in huge numbers to call for real action to tackle our environmental challenges, agrees John Oppermann, executive director for the Earth Day Initiative, but the movement remains just as relevant today. “With each passing day, the urgency for climate action grows, and we are running out of time. This is a pivotal year for our global community to acknowledge and respect the science of climate and COVID. We hope that the Earth Day 2021 Virtual Stage and Festival sets the tone ahead of the Biden Administration’s global climate summit to be held this coming Earth Day.”
Events like Earth Day give ordinary people a platform, says Marie Stafford, global director at Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. “It’s an opportunity to come together and have a voice on climate change and environmental justice. People are anxious - afraid even - and channelling concern into action with others can be powerful. While climate summits and net zero pledges are the preserve of world and business leaders, events like these give people a say in the future they want, especially those too young to cast a vote.”
Events like this contribute enormously to the momentum of public opinion, says Dave Craft, managing partner, Good Karma Media. And as public opinion shifts, businesses are forced to respond. Investors, employees and consumers alike are galvanising around the social and environmental impacts that governments and business create, and this is increasingly affecting how they engage with brands and what they buy, a trend that has only been accelerated by the pandemic.
But Earth Day also highlights to people just how far we still have to go to meet climate targets, says Duncan Grierson, founder of Clim8 Invest. “It's essential that we deploy every opportunity to make climate action a priority in our citizens' minds. They must deploy the power they hold through their wallet, their purchases and their votes, and in order to effect that change, they need to be aware of the climate crisis as the single biggest challenge we have ever faced. Earth Day is an important part of this process.”
Jordan Brompton, co-founder and CMO at myenergi, an energy control products company, says that climate initiatives are important for two major reasons. “From what we eat and what we wear, to how we travel and how we live, ensuring there’s a planet left for our great grandchildren requires fundamental change – and it’s up to all of us to take up the gauntlet. Regulation, legislation and political guidance are important, but so is awareness, understanding, commitment and highlighting an emotive cause to inspire widespread buy-in from society.
“Secondly, and this is a point that I think we all sometimes forget, is to celebrate the numerous positive steps being taken to change the world for the better. It’s easy to highlight the problems, barriers and challenges, but this shouldn’t overshadow the outstanding progress being made. Climate awareness initiatives showcase growth, improvements and communicate, direct to the consumer, about how we’re all contributing to a brighter tomorrow. This is an essential part of maintaining buy-in and driving widespread global momentum.”
On top of that, says Grierson, “in order to maximise impact and engage a diverse and extensive number of citizens, the climate change messages need to come from a wide range of different voices. Climate awareness initiatives are essential to double down on these messages, and lean into citizens by adding a more relatable dimension, translating to even more people on board with the crucial need for change.”
It's essential that we deploy every opportunity to make climate action a priority in our citizens' minds
At the same time, business needs to make it easier for people to make those changes, says HP’s MD of the UK & Ireland, George Brasher, “As businesses, it is our duty to make it as easy as possible for consumers to make sustainable purchasing decisions.”
Tom McGillycuddy, cofounder of tickr, an app that lets people invest in companies making a positive impact on the planet, as well as offset their carbon footprint says that “consumers feel helpless about what they can do. We try to make having a positive impact as convenient as possible.”
The message from this Earth Day, above all, is very clear. “If you want to future proof your brand or business model and remain competitive over the next decade you need to take positive steps to adopt a Net Zero policy and effectively communicate your actions to your stakeholders,” Craft says. “Generation Z and Millennials are the future, and they are increasingly demanding change at all levels of society thanks to comprehensive global initiatives like Earth Day.”