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Stern, clean tech and the role for marketing 6 November, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in clean tech.

The conclusions of the Stern Report are frightening by anyone’s standards:

  • a 2˚C rise in temperature could mean 4 billion people suffering water shortages
  • it would mean 40% of species facing extinction
  • it could lead to a further 200 million people going hungry
  • if we don’t do something very serious, very soon (ie now) climate change could shrink global economies by 20%

And this is just the beginning.

The catalogue of doomsday predictions goes on and on (and is nothing new). In some ways this is part of the problem – while it’s paramount to convey the urgency of the situation but at the same time many people feel overwhelmed. There’s a learned helplessness creeping in. Vox pop surveys routinely return comments to the effect of “What does it matter whether I recycle, it’s just a drop in the ocean…”

There are, of course, no easy answers. An effective response must be holistic and global. One part (although certainly not the whole) is technology. “Clean technology” offers increasing options to mitigate some of the problems and potentially eliminate others. And with the pace of change, it has to be one of the most exciting areas in technology at this moment.

It also provides some of the most challenging tasks for marketers. All too often marketing and communications are characterised as the ‘fluffy’ end of business that spins empty promises and half truths for a fast buck. Well, here is the chance to bury that accusation once and for all.

Clean tech adoption is about changing behaviour (whether at consumer, business or government level). This is what talented marketing professionals do best. All too often the language of climate change is the language of academic or political debate (of the worst kind). It quickly descends into hair-splitting and plausible deniability. What a great way to disengage people.

What’s needed is a language of hope and possibility. One that counters helplessness and offers a vision for the future that brings the issue alive, stirs people into action and, yes, creates profitable businesses for the clean tech industry.

To me, this sounds like the kind of thing many in our industry were born to do.



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