Changing voices of climate change

By Holly Rouse, Director & Partner

Friday will be World Environment Day, with the annual awareness-raising initiative focused this year on nature. In these exceptional times, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on nature and the environment in ways that we could never have been predicted in such as short space of time. From falling CO2 emissions to clearer waters and bluer skies.

The question playing on our minds however, is whether COVID-19 will have a lasting positive impact on the climate? The answer, according to the British public, is a resounding yes – as long as business and the government step up to ensure the recovery is green.

A recent survey of 2,000 consumers conducted by FleishmanHillard Fishburn, found that one in four people say the pandemic has made them more worried about climate change. With pollution levels dropping and wildlife re-emerging as a result of lockdown measures, nearly two-thirds (64%) believe that the environment is better off due to the actions taken to tackle the virus.

And with this comes renewed expectations and responsibility. The British public want to see the same level of urgency that society has applied to COVID-19 to combatting global warming (58%) with two in three (66%) expecting businesses and government to lead the charge.

Yet at the same time, there is deep mistrust in government and businesses to deliver and act. Less than one in four (22%) people trust the government when it comes to providing information on climate change with fewer than in one in ten (6%) having faith in the corporate world.

So, what can leaders do and learn?

  • First, governments and industry looking to win trust in this space need to change the way they communicate about climate action. The majority of people (68%) say they’ve made changes in their lives over climate change concerns, but don’t believe governments or businesses have gone far enough. It isn’t surprising to learn that the public wants to hear about government solutions (41%) over promises (32%), and actions taken by businesses (39%) over their sustainability commitments (32%).


  • Secondly, leaders need to meet the moment by talking about climate change and its impacts in striking terms. Rather than corporate speak, the public supports media, government and business using stronger terms like “climate emergency” (40%) and that highlight the risks and dangers climate change poses to the world (43%).


  • Lean on the science. Experts should have a firm seat at the table, as Brits trust scientific experts and academic institutions more than anyone else (52%) on climate change. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that rhetoric and actions need to be backed with scientific evidence. And while the science around climate change can be messy, complex and data driven we shouldn’t be afraid to address the issue head-on and act before it’s too late.


  • Finally with the rise of climate denial and reporting, in order to get cut-through it falls on business and government to find a way to communicate with impact. Whether that’s using stronger and more proactive language, no longer being afraid to talk about the risks or telling the human stories that resonate.

While it is understandable that governments and businesses have been focused on COVID-19 over the past few months, our research shows they can’t afford to take their eye off sustainability and climate change priorities. Consumers want the lessons from the COVID-19 crisis to be taken forward in tackling the climate crisis. Now is the time to act definitively and to recover better in what will be the most critical of decades.

To find out more about how we can help you communicate more effectively on climate issues and build public trust, please contact [email protected].