Campaigning to persuade companies to change their behaviour can be a rich and powerful experience. Unlike governments, they can be speedy, responsive, and bold. Often companies are very sensitive to anything that could affect their public reputation, which gives you, as a campaigner, a huge advantage.
We had a really fruitful conversation with Emily Hickson, Head of Advocacy and Climate Lead at the B Team, who gave some great examples of how public pressure can push big companies to find innovative ways to drive down their emissions:
SPOTLIGHT: B TEAM Heidelberg Cement reduces emissions ‘Heidelberg Cement, for example, actually developed a new industrial process for making clinker [a brick with a vitrified surface] to reduce emissions in the cement industry and shared that with the rest of the industry. We’ve seen the same thing in the steel industry. They’re producing carbon-free steel. It’s still expensive, though. But several car companies are starting to say, we’re going to make electric vehicles, but only ones that use aluminium and steel made with zero emissions. So the demand side, on the industry front, is talking to the supply side and demanding these things, which is going to drive down costs. And I think that’s a big breakthrough that’s been made through net zero campaigns. The producers of steel and cement are seeing the huge demand side saying we need to get to net zero.’ Emily Hickson, Head of Advocacy, The B Team
The exciting thing about corporate campaigning is that, once you persuade one company to make a change, you can use that to show others that change is possible.
Industry-centered campaigns may well be accompanied by elements that focus on the demand-supply relationship between companies and consumers, and a relationship where consumers push companies to produce more sustainable products and services. And companies are starting to realise that they can create value, meaning they can make more money by producing fewer emissions.
BOTTOM LINE Companies do not want bad press. So, we, as consumers, have huge power to demand they change their ways, and build the products we need in a sustainable way. The examples Emily gave are powerful because they aren’t issues we as consumers think about every day (who routinely thinks about whether the cement in a building was created in a low-emissions manner?). But, by finding ways to pressure companies to find ways to build eco-friendly products, we can all live more sustainable lives.