A new US study has found that green marketing spend slows with contracted GDP, reinforcing the long-held suspicion that we only care when we think we can afford to.  
For those of us who are convinced that we are approaching (if we have not passed) a catastrophic environmental tipping point, it can be very frustrating that people’s drive to make the necessary radical changes ebbs and flows with the health of the economy. But it’s also just human nature; of course people will turn their attention from global climate concerns when they’re worried about how to pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads.
The challenge is not to try and change human nature but to redefine what we mean by green marketing. We have to fundamentally re-examine the way we communicate sustainability so that it’s no longer seen as an optional extra but as something that is integral to our everyday lives. Far from despairing at the human instinct for survival, we should be appealing to it.
The companies, technologies and products that will make a low-carbon, sustainable future a reality don’t need green marketing at all. These innovations won’t be successful because they tick the right boxes for a CSR statement, they will excel because they cost less, work better or make smarter use of limited resources. That’s the story we need to be telling and it’s one that people will readily engage with.
We need to show people and businesses that sustainability isn’t something you turn your attention to when you have the time or money to do so. On the contrary, it is fundamental to the basic human concern of survival. What we should be communicating is that sustainability is the one thing that will see us through difficult climates, both global and economic.
Alisa Murphy, Director

The report by Ahern, Bortree and Smith is titled Key Trends in Environmental Advertising Across 30 Years in National Geographic Magazine and can be accessed here.

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