In discussing the new 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and Climate Change with my colleagues, we kept coming back to the same question: What does this data mean for our clients, many of whom are businesses and brands?
The message is clear: Business must step up to close its trust deficit. Historically, our research shows that in general, business is the most trusted institution to do what is right. Yet on climate, business trails NGOs and government, and is 9 points less trusted than it is to do what is right in general. Almost two in three people (64%) globally say companies are doing mediocre or worse at keeping their climate commitments. If business can close these gaps, then it has the potential to inspire significant change at scale.
People are more worried about climate change today than ever — a remarkable finding given the range of concerns facing our world, from food shortages, inflation and a looming recession due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. And these worries are becoming entrenched, with 57% of people globally saying there has been little to no progress made in the fight against climate change.
To rebuild trust in their ability to combat climate change, businesses should approach the challenge as a joint endeavor between themselves and individuals — providing the information, inspiration, and infrastructure to make green decisions easier and not at great personal cost.
Here are three key steps every business should be considering: take action, educate, and inspire with solutions.
It’s critical to get your own house in order. When business is seen as doing well on adopting science-based climate targets and ensuring suppliers reduce their climate impact, it is 4.5% and 4.3%, respectively, more likely to be trusted to address climate change. And innovation remains essential: When business is seen doing well on investing in climate-friendly products and technologies, it is 4.1% more likely to be trusted to address climate change. Our respondents cite a lack of institutional support — be it better insulation in homes or more accessible bike lanes — as one of the biggest barriers to having the more climate-friendly lifestyle they want, so use the power of your organization to make more carbon-friendly lifestyles and choices easier for individuals.
When business is seen as doing well on educating people on how to reduce their own carbon impact, it is 5.6% more likely to be trusted to address climate change. This makes sense when you consider that across the board, there is a significant information gap on climate change. Sixty percent of respondents globally say it is too difficult to find trustworthy information about climate change (a 6-point increase from last year) and almost one in two say it is nearly impossible to find information about climate change they can understand (45% — a 5-point increase from last year). Businesses should educate their employees and their customers about what exactly is at stake and how they can make a difference.
Inspire with solutions
People are not only craving information, but they want solutions: 59% say there is not enough reporting in the media about solutions to climate change (4-point increase year-over-year). And 40% of people globally believe that reducing their personal carbon footprint would translate to a life devoid of joy. Business has the unique potential to combat these fears by leading with tangible solutions and using the power of their brands and platforms to inspire people to adopt more carbon friendly behaviors, products, and lifestyle choices. Let’s double down on the message that climate-friendly action isn’t a tradeoff to personal joy but additive: It’s healthier for your environment, your community, and your own life.
The time is now for business — alongside other institutions — to rally individuals to drive positive change on a larger scale. This will only happen if business earns people’s trust and thereby the right to lead through action. We know business has tremendous potential to innovate, adapt, and inspire change. This makes me hopeful that if we act now, business can meet the moment and lead on climate before it is too late. The world is depending on us to do so.
Helga Ying is Global Chair of Purpose.