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Environment Activism Brand Strategy

59% of consumers say they’ll boycott brands that don’t address climate emergency


By John Glenday, Reporter

December 7, 2021 | 5 min read

Dentsu International and Microsoft Advertising have revealed the findings of a study into consumer awareness and engagement with issues linked to sustainable consumption and media use. Here are the key takeaways.


Looming climate change boycotts turn up the heat on brands

A wake-up call for brands

  • Tough-talking consumers prove that the time for warm words on climate is over, with 59% of consumers prepared to force change by boycotting businesses seen as failing to prioritize the environment within 12 months.

  • Mounting consumer activism is evidenced by an overwhelming 91% of the public wishing to see brands ‘show by example’ and demonstrate the actions they are taking to support the planet. No less than 45% are willing to consider alternative brands and services to make this happen.

  • 87% of those quizzed say climate change is their number one concern – ahead of Covid-19 (85%), the health of friends and family (79%) and the cost of living (76%) – fueling the active embrace of more sustainable lifestyles.

Opportunity knocks

  • On the plus side, three in 10 respondents claimed to be willing to spend more on greener products and services to encourage change.

  • Consumer confusion around conflicting information also opens a door to fleet-footed brands, with 84% expressing difficulty in ascertaining which brands and companies are truly green.

  • This disconnect between perception and real-world data pushes responsibility on to the shoulders of the marketing and advertising sector to communicate, with those able to provide transparent information on the carbon footprint of their products and advertising set to reap the rewards.

  • Already brands have begun to shift digital spend toward low- and no-carbon providers, reduce distances between data centers and audiences and use recycled paper for out-of-home (OOH) posters.

Carbon blind spots

  • The joint report found that the majority of the public is behind the curve on proportioning carbon consumption with specific activities, with just 15% believing that browsing the web negatively impacts emissions.

  • Similarly, low levels of awareness are reported for TV viewing (17%), gaming (14%) and streaming music (11%).

  • More saliently, 14% of those who consider the delivery and consumption of advertising to harm the environment have already adjusted their relationship with those brands.

  • When asked who should be held accountable for the climate crisis, consumers ranked governments first (51%), ahead of businesses/brands on 43%, the advertising industry on 41% and themselves (36%).

Generational divide

  • Looking at the bigger picture, 77% expressed a desire to solely engage with brands practicing green and sustainable advertising within five years.

  • Change is being driven by younger consumers, with 45% of the post-war generation believing that consuming ads has a negative environmental impact, versus 71% of gen Z and 73% of millenials.

In their own words

  • Fresh from Dentsu’s 2022 media predictions, Peter Huijboom, global chief executive for media and global clients, said: “The customer actions and potential boycotts we unearthed in our research are squarely down to the consumer’s perception of a company and its behavior, not necessarily the reality.

  • “As such, the marketing and advertising industry also has a critical role to play, and we need to work collaboratively to do this authentically; by walking the walk in how we deliver these messages through sustainable media.”

  • John Cosley, senior director of brand at Microsoft Advertising, added: “As marketers we’ve seen how values can create business value, but with this research we wanted to demonstrate more quantitatively why it’s significant. This joint research helps us understand and inform businesses across the globe on the awareness and attitudes surrounding carbon in the media supply chain and its corresponding effect on the planet, customer behaviors and purchasing intent.”


Environment Activism Brand Strategy

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Dentsu Inc. is a Japanese international advertising and public relations joint stock company headquartered in Tokyo. Dentsu is currently the largest advertising...

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