Select your country
Make→Shift is part of TrendWatching's Free Trend Updates. Each monthly issue examines one cross-industry movement no brand can afford to ignore, answering 'why now' and spotlighting the opportunities brands can act on today.
All in a six-minute read.
As the world teeters on the brink of a literal meltdown, consumers are looking for resources that help them deal with climate change’s immediate effects. So, while you work on that five-year sustainability plan, it’s also time to think of quick, actionable ways your brand can provide consumers with physical and psychological respite from the unfolding crisis.
And in case you missed the memo, the due date was yesteryear.
Check out the audio version here ➜
Not-so-fun fact: The total number of weather-related disasters around the world has increased five-fold over the past 50 years. But consumers everywhere are wising up – tweaking their lifestyles to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. The mentality of the moment is simple. We might not be able to press rewind on the frenzied weather conditions and loss of biodiversity, but through collective adaptation we can at least press pause.
From flash floods in New York subways to tornadoes in Greater London to lightning strikes in India, it’s becoming increasingly clear that climate change is no longer exclusive to flashpoints like the polar ice caps or the Amazon rainforest. It’s the aggressive elephant in the room that nobody – consumers and brands alike – can ignore. And you don’t need to have been scorched by wildfires to feel the pain. Hot on the heels of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report, The Lancet reported that 45% of young people across 10 countries are finding that climate-related anxiety is affecting their daily life.
‘Sustainable’, ‘climate-neutral’ and ‘regenerative’ products are fast becoming the benchmark for everyday purchases, with (57%) of APAC consumers claiming they’d stop buying from a brand if they discovered it had lackluster sustainability credentials. In tomorrow’s even more fractious climate, brands will shift up a gear – offering products and services that help consumers make the most of their lives (despite the adverse conditions). Responding to the needs of a world in crisis isn’t just a way to diversify your brand’s output, it’s an opportunity to safeguard your future.
When severe flooding affected the Henan Province in China in July 2021, causing approximately 100,000 people to be evacuated, Alibaba-owned AutoNavi launched an emergency feature to assist those trapped. Users of the AutoNavi map app could click the ‘standing water’ button to indicate their location to emergency services, post SOS messages, and share nearby places of shelter and emergency rescue phone numbers.
Rising sea temperatures have radically disrupted the marine biosphere, drawing into question the livelihoods of people in coastal villages like Jambiani, Zanzibar. Rather than rely on income from low-yield seaweed farming or dwindling fish stocks, the Switzerland-based charity Marinecultures.org is training women to grow climate-resilient natural sponges. Having launched in 2009, in June 2021, marinecultures.org announced it was pulling out of daily business and giving full independence to the sponge farmers.
To help cool scorching urban heat zones, in August 2021, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (a regional planning group based in Boston, US) released a guidebook explaining how municipal governments can work with artists and community-based organizations to weave temperature reduction into urban infrastructure. Suggestions include using reflective paint for murals, designing shaded bus stops and installing water play equipment on quiet sidewalks.
To ease the anxieties of environmentally savvy consumers, on Earth Day in April 2021, the plant-based food brand and B-Corp, Silk, launched a series of 45-minute eco-counseling sessions. The campaign aimed to transform ‘climate worriers’ into ‘climate warriors’ by offering up ways in which consumers could create change – by lobbying local governments, for instance.
Climate anxiety can be paralysing, leaving the eco-conscious feeling helpless in the face of an insurmountable task. In Q1 2021, IKEA launched its ‘Fortune Favors the Frugal’ campaign, highlighting how its products can be used to further consumers’ sustainability drives and to lessen the burden of eco-anxiety. The cheerful, multi-platform campaign applied a light touch to a heavy issue; a refreshing and impactful approach.
Survive the Century is an online game, launched in July 2021, which asks players to steer the course of Earth’s future. As the head of a global media organization, players choose which news stories to publish and then watch how the world manages the consequences of their actions. It was devised by students at the University of Maryland to help consumers understand the consequences of their everyday choices.
First up, pick your camp. Will your brand follow in the footsteps of the first three innovations and help people on the ground, or do like the last three i.e. initiatives that soothe the pressures of eco-anxiety? Remember, we’re talking about short-term solutions here so stick to what you know. Perhaps you’re perfectly placed to offer disaster relief (think off-grid toolkits and emergency shelter) or you have the resources to build more resilient urban infrastructure which absorbs environmental aggressors? When it comes to managing climate anxiety, the possibilities are endless. Time is of the essence.
China, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the US together account for nearly two-thirds of all high-value climate adaptation innovations. And yet, very little of this patented knowledge trickles down to low-income countries – AKA the countries who need it most. The world is waiting for a tech-savvy brand to turn this global socioeconomic issue into the next meaningful business opportunity. Could you be a pivotal force in bridging the resource gap between the haves and have nots?
The juiciest ACCLIMATOR innovations are those that both take the edge off the more immediate effects of climate change, while reducing consumers’ environmental footprint at the same time. For example, Barcelona’s City Council created Cool Walks, an app which helps pedestrians plot walking routes which avoid UV exposure – including ‘vampire mode’ (avoid direct sunlight at all costs). This initiative has both immediate value to consumers and gently nudges them to take the most carbon-efficient means of transport possible – their own two feet.
Get clued up on eco-anxiety. Our sibling brand, Business of Purpose, published a newsletter on this very topic.
To kickstart your thinking around ACCLIMATORS, review this list of existing research and innovation projects and think about what’s a natural fit for your brand.
At TrendWatching, we track trends on various levels, from micro to macro, mega to meta. This big picture thinking allows us to spot how expectations transfer across industries, regions, demographics and more. ACCLIMATORS sits under our BETTER BUSINESS mega-trend, which explores how consumers are increasingly aware of the negative impacts their consumption has on the planet, society, and themselves. An undeniable paradox exists at the core of much consumer behavior as people struggle to reconcile their consumerist impulses with their desire to feel ‘good’. That’s why the only truly sustainable, long-term competitive advantage will be businesses that lessen – or eradicate entirely – those negative impacts whilst allowing continued indulgence.
Want to learn more about the trends behind the trends? Take a look at our Premium platform.
From "The Fight for Facts" to the new "Hands Off" economy, our previous Make→Shift issues provide a cornucopia of purpose-driven insights, plus actions you can take on the trends that matter.