“Unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight” said Greta Thunberg at the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Speaking shortly after US President Donald Trump, who urged us to “reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of apocalypse”, Greta told attendees, “we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else”. This debate very much set the tone for this year’s climate-focused WEF. Lodestone was there to listen, learn and spot the trends that will be shaping corporate action and communications as we enter the new decade.
Outside the main hall, it was the big tech players who dominated – taking all the top spots on the promenade – but it was climate change that nonetheless remained top of the agenda. Arguments for baking sustainability into the fabric of start-ups and for transforming existing business models to consider not only the bottom line but the ‘green line’, were passionately made. Exciting and necessary conversations. But the challenge we all now face is how to turn this focus and these words into action.
From a comms perspective, we all have a role to play. These are Lodestone’s 5 main lessons from Davos 2020:
- Purpose isn’t enough. Sustainability and purpose must drive real behaviour change within business and institutions. Simply put, CSR – however well intentioned – isn’t enough. We can’t ‘greenwash’ a strategy that wastes resources, or a business that is only meeting ‘purpose-based’ goals that are rigged and easy to achieve. As comms people, we know this, but we must use our skills and abilities to tell stories in order to affect real, positive and sustainable change within the businesses we advise.
- Collaboration is essential. To meet the global challenges we face, business, institutions and even governments must work together. Comms has a huge role to play in making this happen. To get buy in – for the hard choices, not just the easy ones – sharing a vision is critical. This vision can’t stand alone – it must connect to the global, local and the personal. A good comms strategy will excite people and bring people together for the benefit of society.
- Transparency builds trust. In an increasingly cynical world – where trust in politicians has fallen and people are demanding more transparency from their brands and governments – we should embrace such scrutiny. You can’t ask for trust; you have to earn it, and we can only earn trust with greater transparency. Many institutions and brands have made great steps to open up their supply chains and invite people to learn about how they operate. We need to bake this transparency in.
- We are all activists. Research from YouGov on the UK, shows that 52% of Britons would like major brands to ‘speak their minds’ on issues that they impact within society. This is an opportunity for those businesses to demonstrate their purpose – and show how they are changing their behaviours, innovating and investing in real change. We should all step up to the plate and agitate for real change – there’s a business case.
- It’s OK to fail. We know from entrepreneurs and innovators around the world that to create an environment where creativity can flourish, you must create an environment where it’s OK to fail. The Global Labour Resilience Index was launched at Davos this year, which ranks the UK as 12th out of 123 countries globally in 2019. The UK performed strongly for innovation which is positive news, however we need to ensure this environment is reflected in our education system, Universities and businesses. Creativity cannot be replaced by technology and so the more we cherish our creative spirit, the more we will benefit from the fourth industrial revolution.
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