A CMO Climate Disconnect?

Written by
Sebastian Jespersen
A CMO Climate Disconnect?

United Nations Climate Week takes place this week in New York, and COP26 convenes in Glasgow at the end of October. During this important fall focus on environmental issues, I’ve also noticed that Advertising Week New York is “sandwiched” between the two climate forums. The proximity of the events made me wonder about the connection—or perhaps disconnection—between CMOs and climate issues.

Certainly, a global pandemic has not only changed how we live, but what we consider to be important. A study by Boston Consulting Group in July 2020, demonstrated that 70% of respondents admitted to being more aware now than before COVID-19 that human activity threatens the climate and that degradation of the environment, in turn, threatens human life.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted this past spring - before the summer season of wildfires, droughts, floods, and stronger-than-usual storms dominated global headlines - found widespread concern about the personal impact of global climate change. The survey spanned 17 advanced economies in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and most citizens admitted that they were willing to change how they live and work to combat the effects of global warming.

This is significant. Across all 17 nations polled in the Pew study, a median of 34% were willing to consider “a lot of changes” to daily life as a response to climate change. This is a clarion call to marketers! The power of marketing can change people’s behaviors around sustainable activities—especially when they are so willing.

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Without question, consumer expectations shape marketers’ actions, notably regarding the expanded responsibilities of brands. And consumers are sending marketers very loud messages. They want brands to be leaders in developing environmentally friendly products and services. They are also voting with their wallets. A 2020 Capgemini study found that 79% of consumers are changing their purchase preferences based on a brand’s social responsibility, inclusiveness, and environmental impact.

And it doesn’t end there. Enter the new “prove it” era. A 2021 Forrester study found that consumers are now asking brands go beyond just promoting their environmental worthiness to actually verifying that those claims are resulting in real change.

Connecting the CEO and CMO agenda

CMOs today say they want a meaningful seat at the C-Suite table. Ninety percent—yes, ninety—of CEOs state that sustainability is critical to a company’s success. Unfortunately, not enough marketers are leading the charge to ensure that an organization’s message is authentic, purposeful, and sustainable, so that it can be embraced by all stakeholders—within the corporation and throughout the world. If they don’t, they’ll soon be representing a commodity and not a brand.

As a native Dane, I’ll leave you with the stirring comments of Filip Engel, Vice President of Ørsted, Denmark’s largest renewable energy company:

“Sustainability can be defined in many ways. But one definition, at least to us, is about creating long-term value for your stakeholders. Marketing’s role is about articulating that value proposition to your customers. And I think that is that is what a lot of companies struggle with… When we accelerated communication about our sustainability goals, it fueled and inspired business transformation. By communicating this attractive destination, the future for the company, it inspired the business to accelerate change and helped grow the brand. Communication was one of the key drivers in making the change happen.”


Go ahead. Make change happen. Connect the CMO with Climate.

There is a fundamental opportunity now to provide products and services that can meaningfully be a part of people’s lives. At Vertic, we believe that brands must change their focus from working to trigger an immediate sale to understanding a customer’s lifestyle and aspirations—and many consumers now want to do something every day to make a difference through sustainable actions and routines. We call this framework Share of Life®. Weaving your brand into the fabric of your customer’s day is the ultimate interconnection between brand and customer. Share of Life® can answer today’s call to marketers seeking to make a positive environmental impact. Yes, connect the CMO with Climate.


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