The Climate Catalysts embody these four key macro trends:
Insisting on a more systemic approach to climate change
Expecting brands to go beyond conveying their values to “walk the walk”
Reinventing businesses to greener operating models
Maintaining individual efforts to avert a climate catastrophe
The Climate Catalysts don't believe businesses and governments are taking adequate steps to address climate change and have taken activism into their own hands. Time is short, and inaction is catastrophically unacceptable. Climate Catalysts skew older (35+) and are those who have been committed to recycling, buying carbon offsets, and writing to their government representatives since awareness of climatic shifts first appeared as a blip on the collective radar. They may not be front and center in the media, but they are the ones walking the walk and putting their dollars behind it. They intimately feel what is at stake, both for themselves and their descendants, with increasing urgency. Operating at the "human" scale (recycling those cans, writing those letters) when what's called for is drastic mobilization at the "humanity" scale is futile. To face the global climate challenge requires a Herculean coordination effort. Covid-19 has demonstrated that cooperation of this magnitude is indeed possible, accelerating the Catalysts' resolve to create positive change.
The interruption of the pandemic ground our day-to-day routines to a halt. It contained a hidden benefit of forcing everyone — at least for a time — to operate thoughtfully rather than on autopilot. It left us with no choice but to confront the fragility of our lives and the speed with which what we've previously known as the uninterruptable every day can come unraveled. It forced us all to look up. The Climate Catalysts apply this new perspective to the environmental context they've always known. And they're holding governments and businesses in their gaze.
No longer the purview of researchers or environmental crusaders, the effects of climate change have become palpable, affecting 85% of the global population, according to the Nature Climate Change journal. And these effects have started to tangibly affect the way people, especially the Catalysts, position themselves as consumers. Covid has provided opportunity and inspiration for this group to steer the rest of society onto a safer path by effecting bolder strokes.
“I’ve been doing my part by recycling, riding my bike, everything I can do on my own. It’s time for companies to step up.”
The Catalysts shoulder their share of the burden as individuals but expect businesses and governments to carry more weight. They expect companies to use their brand to engage in social issues and believe they should be transparent and explicit about what they value and how they show support. They are generally dissatisfied with how governments and businesses are combating climate change, with only a quarter believing world leaders are doing enough.
“Climate change used to be this vague, existential threat. Now I feel it on a personal level.”
The realities of climate change have begun. Weather is harder to predict, and shifts are beginning to affect people’s lives in noticeable ways — some winters are getting milder, some summers buggier. Power outages and floods are becoming more frequent and more extreme. Air quality continues to decrease in major urban areas. Climate Catalysts are almost twice as likely to report that they personally feel the negative impacts of climate change. The existential threat still looms, but it has entered their more immediate circles. They fear how it will affect their own lives, both short and long term, and the lives of their children and grandchildren.
“We need to drastically shift the type of energy we produce and how we use it.”
Catalysts have varying ideas about how to address climate change. One-third believe improved energy and fuel sources will most effectively accelerate the global response to the crisis, and a quarter think the heaviest lift falls to improvements within specific industries. The lack of strong consensus indicates Catalysts recognize no one solution in particular will provide a quick fix. They are looking for a multi-faceted approach. In addition to improved energy efficiency, they will have a keen eye for adaptations in the processes and materials used to create products.
“I won’t give my support or my money to anyone who doesn’t think this is the critical issue of our time.”
Almost 60% of Catalysts are disappointed with the lack of progress proffered by world leaders in recent years. This disappointment has already affected how over a quarter of them vote, and a smaller percentage have reached out to elected officials or joined protests. But these numbers will significantly jump if things don’t change, with at least a third of the Catalysts saying they plan to act if leaders remain as inactive as the Catalysts perceive them to be.
And they’re communicating their expectations of businesses with their dollars, refusing to patronize those that do not value climate change and actively seeking sustainable options. Almost 75% actively avoid companies they know do not value climate change. 68% seek out sustainable brands and over half would purchase sustainable products more often if they were less expensive, easier to find, and clearly labeled as sustainable. They demonstrate a clear desire to support sustainable products and a need for those products to be more affordable and commonplace.
They’ve reconsidered how they use every energy source, including how they fuel their bodies. They travel less frequently, both daily and for leisure, and rely more on their own two feet, with many forfeiting the luxury and excitement of taking flight. They even factor sustainability into their investment decisions independent of their return expectations. And over 95% of them across each category (energy use, food, travel, and investment) insist these behaviors are their new norm.
With an invested effort to modify how they live, they will accept nothing but the utmost sincerity from companies in offering products and services that will cater to these shifts.
Innovation is non-negotiable. Many are convinced the old way of doing things will not continue to work. Only 7% of Climate Catalysts, and 8% of non-Climate Catalysts, believe global systems are currently structured in a way that will allow us to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. There is also agreement that all of us, in every single country, bear the responsibility of combating climate change. New ways of thinking and working together will be inevitable. The organizations that proactively lead this shift will cement their position as global leaders for centuries to come, while those who refuse to adapt will struggle.
The demand is ubiquitous. A hefty 84% of Climate Catalysts say they are willing to pay a premium for sustainable offerings, yet 65% feel companies are not providing the sustainable products they want. Climate Catalysts are not the only ones searching for sustainability, either. Nearly half of non-Climate Catalysts say they proactively seek sustainable brands, while 71% say they are willing to pay a premium for them. Organizations that provide easily accessible sustainable products will have an advantage as calls for climate action grow louder.
The more impact, the better. When climate-conscious consumers look at businesses and brands, they are not looking just at what the businesses are doing for themselves, but whether they can help an individual with their own personal footprint, also appreciating the ability to measure that footprint. Wary of greenwashing, where marketing misleadingly suggests a product is environmentally friendly, specific information is key for encouraging consumers to reach for eco-friendly products. This data can be integrated across consumer facing industries. For example, some travel platforms display the carbon footprint alongside flight options. Helping customers feel better about their choices builds brand loyalty.
Understanding their expectations will help earn their trust, while building yours.
Over the coming year, we anticipate climate activism taking on a new urgency, practicality, and strategic organization spurred by this clarity and resolve. Climate Catalysts will engage in collective action as consumers and demand that businesses take responsible action and play the leadership role they must. Understanding the Catalysts' expectations will help earn their trust, while enabling businesses to understand how to build their own.
As Climate Catalysts continue to insist the world change its consumption habits:
- To what degree should you incorporate climate goals as part of your corporate (and community) mission?
- What responsibility do you have for enrolling policymakers and other business leaders toward a greener future?
- How will you create value for your customers, and capture value from them, through your climate actions?