Do communication leaders see the climate conversation as an area of opportunity?
When asked in the recent #WeLeadComms Communication Leaders Survey what the three biggest opportunities facing the communication world were, only 4% mentioned climate/sustainability.
Further, only 3% mentioned climate/sustainability in terms of what they saw as the three biggest areas of personal opportunity as a communication leader.
The survey was supported by IABC, sponsored by Sparrow Connected and AB – The Communication Specialists, and involved 155 communication leaders from more than 30 countries.
Do these numbers mean that communication pros don’t care about the climate? No.
The questions asked whether we see climate as an opportunity, not whether we see it as a problem.
But four times as many participants saw improving our perceived “influence and value” as a top-three opportunity as those who saw climate as such an opportunity.
These are not opposing ambitions, but their relative position tells us a lot about the state of the communication world:
- Communication leaders still seek to have influence, resources and remit secured
- They don’t see climate as an issue that will do that for them — perhaps because they lack confidence in the world’s ability to resolve the issue or in their ability to contribute to further their business case.
Two overarching trends create a compelling opportunity for communication leaders:
- The dominance of the debate by activists claiming the only hope to reverse climate change involves the immediate shutdown of key sectors of the economy, whatever the consequences
- The staggering investments in the name of sustainability and decarbonization — the price tag for the UN Sustainable Development Goals estimated at $176 trillion.
If communication pros will demonstrate our influence and value, what better playing field is there? One where there is such a huge gap in the narrative between public despair and fatalism and stratospheric levels of investment on the other.
But this isn’t simply an opportunity for communication leaders as individuals. This is an epic opportunity for IABC — or whoever is the first association to seize the initiative.
Because changing the world’s climate conversation will need to take place inside the projects and companies that are spending these trillions, and inside the communities where people are losing hope. We play in these worlds.
Changing the conversation will require a common vocabulary and common practices, and we have the spread and footprint to support these.
It will also require common metrics and standards, and our work with the Global Standard and the Global Communication Certification Council is a small but solid step in that direction.
The Next Step
The answer is not for IABC to rally the troops and gin up enthusiasm for the climate cause among our members on our initiative. Instead, I propose something much more radical — to seek significant external investment to better connect, organize, train, mobilize and grow our membership as a global network for addressing the climate conversation.
This is our opportunity. This is our time.
Read More From the 'Catalyst for Climate' Series
Mike Klein, MBA, SCMP
Mike Klein, MBA, SCMP, is the founder of #WeLeadComms and is a communication consultant based in Reykjavik. He is the former chair of IABC in Europe-Middle-East-North Africa (IABC EMENA).