3 steps to connect people to effective climate action

“What can you do to help address climate change?” The top answer for most people is “Recycling.” Unfortunately, while recycling is good, on its own, it ranks fairly low on impact compared to other actions people can take. Simply put, we won’t be able to recycle our way out of the climate change crisis.

The good news is that the highest-impact climate actions individuals and households can take have been curated and are publically available. Better yet, we increasingly know how best to talk about them in campaigns, how to present them on Climate Action Platforms, and how to integrate them into products and services. Combined, these insights are set to increase public engagement and, ultimately, significantly reduce carbon emissions and influence at-scale solutions.

So, if you’re interested in encouraging high-impact, engaging action among your employees, customers, or community, this guide is for you.

Step 1: Start with credible criteria

For individuals and communities to do their part in addressing the climate crisis, the climate actions they take must lead to demonstrable climate impact, meaning the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Not all actions are equal in this regard. While in your efforts to engage your audiences with climate action, you can find and create long lists of actions that feel right, or have notable positive impacts beyond climate change, it can be hard to make the case for their substantial effect on emissions reduction— even if taken on at scale.

And some actions could be counter-productive. You must be careful not to promote behaviors that are low-impact, as they could distract from or serve as an excuse to not take more substantive climate actions. For example, liking a social media post about climate action might seem useful support to an individual, but the positive feeling from that like might provide the excuse they needed—or moral licensing—to not feel the pressure to take a higher-effort, higher-impact action.

You must be careful not to promote behaviors that are low-impact, as they could distract from or serve as an excuse to not take more substantive climate actions.

To help you identify actions with impact, we recommend you follow these considerations:

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  • Does the action influence future, higher-level emissions reduction? Actions like signing a petition, calling a politician, or advocating for climate solutions at your place of employment may not result in immediate emissions reduction, but such actions make persons at higher power levels in society (like politicians or business leaders) pay attention to the issue and act on it.
  • Does the action encourage others to take action? As Dr. Katherine Hayhoe says, talking about climate change is critical to creating broad awareness and support to do something about it. First, individual climate actions that are visible or social give individuals a means to talk about why climate change is important to them. Second, this type of peer influence spreads the sense of a changing, or dynamic norm, that can drive more rapid change.

Step 2: Identify your best levers and tailor your call to action

Every relationship, campaign, and designed experience has some advantage, a lever you can apply to help tailor the climate actions you ask of the audience. For example, a campaign tied to a movie about outrage can better channel emotion towards climate actions that are about engaging and advocating. That same set of actions might not be as relevant or accessible for an audience at a sporting event.

Once you’ve identified your levers, you can use the following parameters to tailor your call to impactful actions.

  • Less is more, so offer fewer choices. Providing a choice of a few highly-relevant climate actions is far more powerful than a comprehensive big list, because you’ve removed friction from the decision-making process: there’s simply less to have to comprehend. Knowing the audience, their context, and where the climate actions are intended to be taken can guide you to a tighter, higher-engaging list of choices.
  • Relevance increases the uptake of the actions. A food-themed campaign probably won’t see much engagement on switching to an electric vehicle, but actions like eating more veggies (and less meat) or electrifying kitchen appliances are likely to start a conversation. Seasonality and geography are also key considerations for selecting relevant actions. Asking someone to take on installing solar in the rainy fall of Seattle, Washington is perhaps a low percentage bet.
  • Doability makes actions more probable. Does your audience believe they can take the action(s) you’re inviting them to? Do they believe they will get the benefits promised? Can you remove aspects of the effort or pains to take the step? You can make some actions appear more doable by pairing them with recommended solutions, services, and capabilities that turn motivation into immediate action.

Step 3: Connect audience, objective, and actions

We have examined Climate Action Platforms, campaigns, and integrated experiences, and it reveals a common pattern of actions tailored to fit the audience and the objective.

A good fit engages the right audience on the right objective by connecting them with the right, relevant actions—each component aligns to create greater engagement. A good fit needs:

  • Aligned audience and action: The audience believes they have the ability to complete the actions and that this is relevant to their lives.
  • Aligned objective and audience: The objective is relevant and evident to the audience and the messages they are receiving.
  • Aligned action and objective: The actions are relevant to the objective and can be begun, if not completed, within the space and timeline of the campaign.

In contrast, a poor fit would ask an audience to engage in an action that doesn’t match their ability and isn’t relevant to the objective of the campaign. Offering such actions results in poor engagement with that action, and could significantly affect a campaign’s overall impact.

A good fit engages the right audience on the right objective by connecting them with the right, relevant actions—each component aligns to create greater engagement.

Below, we illustrate a pattern of alignment, we’ll use the Wild For All, Don’t Look Up, and Sky Sports campaigns, noting the similar formula—but different climate actions— seemingly employed in each case.

But there’s more…

Having a relevant, relatable set of actions for your audience is a great start to engaging people in reducing emissions. But coordinating your audience, objective, and actions is not all that’s required for success. Your messaging needs to be frequent and align with key principles of climate communications. And when your audience is motivated by the opportunity to take an action, equipping them with the resources to help them take it will result in a much higher uptake.

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Rare is a non-profit focused on inspiring change so people and nature thrive. Rare is part of the Count Us In leadership team. Together, we are working to share data and insights as part of a public good, intended to help anyone who sees themselves as part of the movement to address climate change, the biggest challenge humanity faces.

Count Us In harnesses the power of popular culture to inspire and engage mainstream audiences to take climate action – driving wider systems change. We reach the moveable middle through their passions and interests. We deliver impactful popular culture campaigns, facilitating unexpected partnerships in sports, music, social media, entertainment and gaming.

Get in touch to learn more.

This post is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

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