COP21: axes to grind but opportunities too

COP21 has created a feeding frenzy for brands, says Alex Benady.

COP21: axes to grind but opportunities too

The Paris Climate Conference, aka COP21, this month may be mankind’s best last chance to save the planet but it has also created a comms feeding frenzy for brands, NGOs and anyone else with an axe to grind. The opportunities for sponsorship and conspicuous do-goodism have turned it into a cross between a promotional day and a major global sporting event.

Green electricity supplier Good Energy is quite open about the fact that it uses its eco-credentials to push its message. It will be running a campaign around COP 21 asking ‘Why should we care?’ and ‘What can you do?’

Many of the big PR agencies will be there in force, encouraging their clients to see it as a commercial opportunity. "While challenging times are set to remain, the opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves as leaders of that change
remains undiminished," says the energy division of FTI Consulting.

In addition, numerous side events such as The Sustainable Innovation Forum have attracted sponsorship from a multitude of brands, including BMW, Santander, Moody’s and Delta Airlines. Is it a strength or a weakness of capitalism that even the demise of the planet can be co-opted as a commercial opportunity?

Does the Paris summit need a sprinkle of celebrity sugar?

It is hard to overestimate the importance of COP21, which takes place from 30 November (see above). If it fails, there is a very real chance of catastrophic weather changes, which would adversely affect the entire planet. So you would expect social media to be buzzing with excitement and anticipation.

Yet according to analysis by social media monitoring company Brandwatch, despite acres of reportage, it has failed to capture the public imagination: it found just 26,000 mentions of the climate summit on social in the last week of October. Compare that worldwide figure with the 75,000 mentions of The X Factor in the UK alone over the same seven days.

The conclusion has to be that it is hard, perhaps impossible, to build widespread engagement with dry, technical and procedural messages. Clues to a better approach come from Barack Obama’s recent visit to the Arctic with his new bessie Bear Grylls, which prompted 63,000 mentions in seven days.

Ironically it seems that the more serious the issue, the more spoonfuls of celebrity sugar are needed to make the message go down. Could it be that only the likes of Kanye West and Taylor Swift have the cultural clout needed to get climate change on the popular agenda?

Who’s too hot in perception terms?

Clean energy investment in Australia fell by 31 per cent under former PM Tony Abbott, despite a record US$320bn of global investment in the sector. The Abbott government sought to scrap targets for renewable energy after winning the 2013 election.

The car maker is in even deeper trouble after finding "irregularities" in the carbon dioxide levels emitted by 800,000 of its cars. This raises the prospect that VW cheated not only on diesel emissions tests but CO2 and fuel consumption, too.

Travel operators
Three out of 10 tourists, and 37 per cent of young people aged 25-34, would choose a travel company because of its green credentials, says a survey by the Association of British Travel Agents.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme says farmers, manufacturers and retailers need to overhaul food production systems, with greener supply chains and smarter technologies.

The real estate manager aims to certify around two-thirds of its property assets with sustainability labels by 2030. This is to help with energy use and emissions.

The global asset manager has issued a report about how climate change affects the investment community ahead of the COP21 summit. It has also launched an environmentally focused investment fund.

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