3 ways to nudge social media and nudge pro-environmental behavior

Would you blame me for wondering whether Netflix’s hit docudrama The Social Dilemma was one of the most thought-provoking and terrifying films made in 2020? What if we use this dystopian picture of social media as an opportunity to drive a utopian future? In the absence of physical interaction, it has been this virtual language that has helped us navigate through the pandemic, connect like-minded people and drive various forms of grass-root climate movements. If all of us are using a version of social media that has been specially curated for us to provoke planned action, why can’t it be leveraged to drive pro-environmental behavior? To me this is a question of great importance — how do we balance societal needs of our future while driving business value?

2020 saw a rise in social media consumption to 3.6 billion users worldwide, a number projected to grow exponentially by 2025. Of course, we need more research to assess the impact that marketing has on driving green consumerism.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”- Lao Tzu.

However, building on research conducted in the domain of sustainability, behavioral marketing, and green consumerism amongst others, here are three ways we can leverage corporate sustainability to drive positive action.

#1 Derive shared value through purposeful storytelling and brand communication

Lifebuoy’s marketing and behavior change expertise is an outstanding example of purpose-driven marketing, one that increases brand awareness, drives change in consumer behavior and pushes sales. The ‘Heroes for Change’ volunteer campaign was a classic testimony of the power of young people and social platforms to push on-ground momentum and increase awareness. Unilever's vision to ‘make cleanliness commonplace’ has not only impacted billions but has also helped make health and hygiene accessible to many more. Devising a clear brand purpose helps jumpstart ownership and initiates a domino effect that inspires all stakeholders — business, consumers and planet — to derive shared value. Social media and technology have provided our society with countless ways to gain information and take action. As rightly affirmed by the great Paul Polman– “This could be our ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to rewire our economies and societies for better.” Our time to act is now.

#2 Leverage influencer marketing to drive behavioral change

To influence a change in behavior it is important to build a brand strategy that is authentic, purpose-driven and holistically meets consumer needs. Marketing post-COVID is about creating human connections, being authentic and collectively navigating through the crisis. The Dove — Real Beauty campaign is a classic example of how a brand pioneered the conversational shift about female beauty. Continuous demand for sustainable consumption requires us to build solutions and communication that consumers can trust; research conducted to investigate the impact of social media on consumers’ motivations and purchase intentions revealed that green shopping decisions are critically driven by social media advocacy. Young changemakers across platforms like YouTube and Instagram are now stepping up, taking ownership, and building a community of individuals who are aware and consciously moving beyond advocacy. Few interesting profiles you might want to start with are- Earthling Ed (A vegan educator, through his online content he has inspired millions to adapt a change in lifestyle vegan), Our Changing Climate (Essay’s series about human’s relationship with the planet), Brown Girl Green (An individual led page creating awareness about Sustainable Living), Chicks for climate (A community advocating and educating about environmentalism), amongst many others.

#3 Make sustainability personal by addressing the “what’s in it for me”

Would we change our traditional behavioral pattern unless the change is meaningful in our own eyes? A sense of belongingness to the future that motivates continuous action? How many times have we as consumers said to ourselves — why should I care if it doesn’t impact me? How can we make environmental crises, floods, forest fires in one country inspire citizens of another and make it their business? Had we not been educated about the hazardous impact of plastic consumption on our environment would we intentionally carry a reusable shopping bag? By framing what’s at stake for us as individuals and communities, we can significantly reduce the intention-action gap that influences pro-environmental behavior and makes sustainable living desirable.

We did inherit an environmentally imbalanced planet. However, what we pass on to our children remains in our control. Will we take ownership, move beyond being mere bystanders and leverage the resources at our disposal to rewire our system? This is a choice we have to make now.

Until we meet next (1st of March) feel free to share your thoughts and nominate areas you’d like me to speak or share thoughts over.

“It is our collective and individual responsibility to preserve and tend to the world we live in” — Dalai Lama

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