What a day that was!
From climate scientists, green tech pioneers, green businesses, charity heads, all the way to journalists and bloggers, we had all sorts in the building for our Bridging the Gap event last week.
The expert panel delivered a range of fascinating insights that delved into the most pressing problems that cause people to fall into the dreaded ‘intention-action’ gap. We also witnessed an inspirational presentation from Professor Mark Maslin, author of How to Save Our Planet, who set the scene for us perfectly.
Mark’s presentation was a real eye-opener. It took us on an incredible journey through the history of climate science, the impact we are witnessing today, the key challenges that lie ahead, and the solutions at our disposal. It even included a reminder on how the greenhouse effect works, and details on the first scientists to explore the effects in the 1850s. Hats off to Eunice Foote for being the first to the party!
We were also given details on the key things governments, businesses, and people can do to combat the climate crisis. Excellent food for thought ahead of the afternoon’s discussions and problem-solving sessions.
Possible government actions to achieve ‘net zero’ carbon emissions:
- Support renewable energy
- Tax fossil fuel and cut fossil fuel subsidies
- Support ‘electric’ cars and public transport
- Carbon neutral buildings and retrofitting
- Reforest and Rewild
- Promote low emission farming and diet
- Support and expand Emissions nad Trading Schemes
Possible company actions to achieve ‘net zero’ carbon emissions:
- Set transparent GHG reduction targets
- Switch to 100% renewable energy
- Engage Employees in company sustainability agenda
- Use carbon-neutral buildings or retrofit buildings
- Offset emissions by Reforestation and Rewilding
- Link your ambition to your supply and value chain
- Lobby government to support change
- Empower entrepreneurs to drive green innovation
Possible individual actions to achieve ‘net zero’ carbon emissions:
- Talk about it, to everyone on social media
- Switch to a more vegetarian or vegan diet
- Switch to renewable energy supplier
- Reduce, reuse and recycle more
- Reduce your consumption
- Use electric/hybrid cars
- Stop flying – offset if you do
- Divest your pensions from fossil fuels
- Protest and vote
After Mark had us all brilliantly warmed up and motivated to solve the problem, it was time to hand over to our host, Gabby, for our excellent panel which included:
– Anna Wickes, Sustainability Senior Project Manager at Dr. Martens
– Paul Tyrer, Founder of Eumelia
– Priscilla Oshunremi, Head of Community at Yayzy
– Ella Shone, Founder of Top Up Truck
– Richard Strachan, MD of 3 Sided Cube
As anticipated, the discussion was enthralling, emotive, sometimes controversial, and thoroughly entertaining throughout!
There was hours worth of great content and insights to draw from, so we’ve done our best to filter it down and capture some of the best highlights and quotes to remember and have even provided a recording of the panel discussion (available here).
1. People need to feel part of the solution
Priscilla Oshunremi, Head of Community at Yayzy, was full of great advice for brands and consumers alike throughout the panel discussion. But this insight stuck with us the most. We need to bring people with us on the sustainability mission; consumers, businesses, and even politicians are far more likely to ‘play ball’ if they feel like they can make a positive impact through their actions.
All too often we see the finger pointed consumers and businesses for being the problem and cause of climate change… And while this is true in many ways, this approach won’t win them over. We need to show people just how brilliant their impact can be; “work with us!” we should be saying.
Be part of the solution and help create a greener, kinder, more efficient world. Priscilla made this point perfectly and reflected one of the key findings from our ‘Bridging the Gap’ report (available to download here) which highlights how one of the best ways technology can help consumers be more sustainable is to show them the impact they can make (whether that be negative or positive).
2. Collaboration is crucial
Our MD Richard Strachan was particularly passionate on this point. When asked by the audience: “what action is needed to help people bridge the gap?”, the first answer was clear: “collaboration on technological solutions!”. Together, manufacturers, retailers, consumer groups, and government can solve the problem – there’s no doubt about it.
The key is to get them all on the same page and committed to the fantastic solutions at our disposal, whether they are the use of big data, geolocation, open API, labelling innovations, or even VR/AR and machine learning algorithms. More details on how these solutions work can be found on pages 19-21 of the report.
3. Defaulting is one of the best weapons we have against the climate crisis
The panel universally agreed that ‘defaulting’ should be used far more so than ever before when it comes to boosting sustainable consumer behaviour. An example from Finland was given; the government changed the default energy provider to a renewable energy supplier (instead of the cheapest) and the results were excellent. Most people didn’t even notice or couldn’t be bothered to switch – they just stuck with the green option. Simple, but powerful and effective.
From a tech point of view, we can see hundreds of applications of this on the road ahead, especially for consumers trying to choose the best options from the energy grid, in the supermarket, or even when it comes to banking.
Ella, from TopUp Truck, hit the nail on the head with, “Defaulting is a form of convenience. You don’t have to change or do anything different. This is essential to solving the problem for consumers. We have to make the sustainable option the most convenient and/or default option as often as possible. That’s why we created TopUp Truck so we can bring sustainability to your front door, and it’s why we have to keep convenience in mind for every effort/solution we create. “
4. The future is here, right now!
The panel concluded with a powerful and encouraging note covering how the technology we need to combat the climate, waste and natural crises is already available. It exists already, right here, right now!
Paul, from Eumelia, offered this insight, “Personalisation and how you relate to the consumer and their individual motivations is essential. The technology to enable this type of personalisation already exists. We can use this now; we can inspire every consumer out there by using the data and nudge techniques at our disposal to push them over the line.”
We are in the midst of a golden age of tech innovation, particularly regarding the use of AI, data, nudge techniques and the IoT. The time to take advantage of all of these incredible innovations is NOW! We don’t have any time to waste. So let’s make it happen. And as we have said (time and time again), collaboration will be essential in this process of bringing these solutions into action; together, we really can solve these problems!
If you are making an environmental claim - it has to be back by transparency and proof. Consumers and government need to be able to see the impact of your initiative or sustainable product. Government policy, new technology solutions and collaboration between industry sectors and brands will crucial in making this happen.
Let the networking begin!
One of the most inspiring moments of the day was witnessing the enthusiastic networking and collaborative discussions that took place after the presentations and panel discussions. Just one week on, we are already seeing the fruits of this in action – brands, people, charities and media working together to provide solutions, support, finance, publicity and advice on how to make these solutions work.
Seeing this all happen in one room in live time was awesome. It just goes to show that if you get enough passionate, innovative people in the same room, you can make genuine progress. Watch this space!
Bridging the gap report
So there you have it! Plenty to ponder and implement from what we all learned from the panel. Of course, we have barely scratched the surface of the issue in some ways, so make sure you read through the detailed report. It took months of research, analysis and surveying of the public, and it was all worth it! We are very pleased with the results and will be relying on them to inform future initiatives and innovations that we provide for our clients and wider network.
You can access the full report below (it’s only 22 pages – perfect for a lunch break read!)
The report has been developed specifically to make practical recommendations on how to help people act on their sustainable intentions and boost sustainable consumer and business behaviour using technological solutions across the UK and beyond.
In addition to specific recommendations, the report also:
- Provides insights into consumer attitudes towards sustainability
- Identifies key sustainability barriers facing consumers
- Highlights the prevalence and number of people impacted by the ‘intention-action gap’
- Provides insights into consumer attitudes towards technological support when attempting to make more sustainable decisions
- Provides inspiration for organisations to reach out and collaborate with others and solve sustainability problems together
- Provides analysis on the role technology can play in improving sustainable behaviour
Key recommendations, as laid out in the report’s Executive Summary, include:
- Help people understand the costs (financial and ecological) of their consumption
- Technology can be a great driver to help people understand both the short and long term costs of their consumption.
- At the point of purchasing a fast fashion item (for example), consumers could be shown the comparative cost of purchasing a similar sustainable item, and the long term cost of replacing the fast fashion item again and again, both to your pocket and to the planet. With access to each item’s sustainability rating, consumers have valuable information at their fingertips about their carbon footprint.
- Utilise technology to change these behaviours:
- Big data
- Machine Learning Algorithms
- Boosting motivation
- Showing a positive response to an action is a great driver for behaviour change.
- A huge obstacle for sustainable living is that the individual may never experience the positive response that their action has on the environment. Not eating meat for a week does not have a direct impact on the individual’s experience of climate. However, technology can be a great driver for showing the virtual impact of one’s actions.
- Convenience is a major factor that stops people actually following through on their sustainable intentions. People are often time poor, and have a multitude of other priorities that, in the moment, get in the way. Technology has been proven to be highly effective in reducing friction at the point of action -notably across shopping and financial transactions.
- Utilise technology to change these specific behaviours:
- Big data
- Open API
We are already receiving lots of positive feedback and plenty of questions in light of the findings, so make sure you join the party! Let us know what you think!
This report is a continuation of our Ignite program, so keep an eye out for more events, research and reports from us in the months ahead. Throughout the rest of 2021 and 2022, we will be launching many more initiatives and research findings, so make sure you follow us on our journey. And if your company, NGO, or if you personally would like to get involved and collaborate with us, please don’t hesitate to shout us a holla!