Based in Toronto, I recently completed the Masters of Information (MI) program at the University of Toronto, and am the former Communications Manager at Canadian Business for Social Responsibility and Ontario-based Alterna Savings credit union. I'm long-time believer that businesses of whatever type - co-op, private, public - are critical to the process of social and environmental change. The MI d...
Canadian Poll Results Show Lack of Trust on Environmental Issues
As American protests of the Keystone XL pipeline continue, recent polls indicate falling global concern for environmental issues and lack of trust in government and business to address pressing challenges.
Recent GlobeScan Radar polling indicates that global public concern for environmental issues has fallen significantly since 2009 highs, with individual economic worries trumping more abstract issues such as fresh water shortages, air pollution, and climate change.
Meanwhile in Canada, the Edelman Trust Barometer Canadian Findings1, released at end of January, are relatively positive towards business, but suggest an overall lack of trust in government and business leaders to solve social or societal issues (just 8% trusted leaders "a great deal" to do just that).
The Trust Barometer results actually ranked Canadian business as the most trusted out of all countries polled, with trust in Canadian banks also up 10% from last year's polling. (NGOs still came out on top with a 75% trust rating in Canada.)
So there is a good news story for Canadian business overall, but a communications challenge lies in the big gap, according to the poll, between trust in business and trust in business leaders to tell the trutha 44% difference in Canadaand to address societal issues. Technical experts within companies are among the most trusted spokespeople, with CEOs coming in last. With a flattened organizational model becoming the norm, it is not a surprise that Edelman suggests multiple spokespeople and continuous dialogue and engagement with many stakeholders should be the practice.
Paradoxically, "the more information a person has about global warming, the less responsible he or she feel for it; and the less concerned he or she is for it," according to research into attitudes towards global warming and climate change2. This supports the GlobeScan global results that more evidenceincluding extreme weather eventsis not necessarily leading to more personal action (beyond those with a worldview that strongly perceives the danger).
So while there is a personal issue"70 percent of consumers say they will buy sustainable products, only 17 percent actually do" as noted by Richard Edelman at Davosthere is still disappointment in action being taken, or not taken, by leaders.
In the Canadian market, how can business build trust while encouraging sustainable consumerism, given these results?
Localizing the message. Research from British Columbia shows that "climate change engagement was greater among those who were more attached to their local areas."3
Framing the issues more positively. The same BC research notes that "messages that frame the issues more optimistically, or focus on personal efficacy and the power of collective actions, may be more effective than negative message frames such as those that appeal to fear or portray the sacrifices involved in action."4
Embedded sustainability branding and communications across multiple company channels and with multiple spokespeople that express how the company is contributing to change and leading consumers to sustainable options.
1 Edelman Canada (2013). Edelman Trust Barometer 2013 Canadian Findings. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/EdelmanInsights/canada-results-2013-edelman-trust-barometer
2 Kellstedt, P.M., Zahran, S. & Vedlitz, A. (2008). Personal Efficacy, the Information Environment, and Attitudes Toward Global Warming and Climate Change in the United States. Risk Analysis, 28(1), 113-126. Retrieved from http://188.8.131.52/students/envs_4800/kellstedt_etal_2008.pdf
3 Scannell, L & Gifford, R. (2011). Personally Relevant Climate Change: The Role of Place Attachment and Local Versus Global Message Framing in Engagement. Environment and Behavior, 45(1) 60-85. Retrieved from http://eab.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/10/20/0013916511421196.full.pdf
4 Scannell, L & Gifford, R. (2011). Personally Relevant Climate Change: The Role of Place Attachment and Local Versus Global Message Framing in Engagement. Environment and Behavior, 45(1) 60-85. Retrieved from http://eab.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/10/20/0013916511421196.full.pdf