Measures to halt the spread of Covid-19 around the world, such as lockdowns and travel bans, are having a devastating effect on economies. However, they seem to have had a positive impact on the environment. Many climate activists have suggested that the pandemic is the wake-up call we needed to drive behavioural change. But how has this influenced consumer attitudes towards sustainability? And why does it matter for brands?
Social listening is a fascinating way for brands to understand consumer opinions and their behaviours. Social insights can help build a picture of consumer concerns when it comes to sustainability and highlight future trends.
Lockdowns and Environmental Impact
There is strong scientific evidence that global lockdowns have positively impacted the environment. Travel bans seem to have especially contributed to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality around the world, with carbon emissions dropping by 17% in 2020. Nitrogen Dioxide emissions have also declined significantly in many UK cities as shown below.
Bodies of water have become cleaner, particularly the river Ganges in India, and wildlife has flourished because of decreased human activity. But what is the level of consumer awareness of these changes and how might this have impacted consumer behaviour?
Pandemic and the Environment on Social Media
In 2020, social media conversations mentioning the environment and Covid-19 on Twitter show that there is an awareness of the positive impact the pandemic has had on the climate and the natural world. Indeed, while global mentions of the word ‘Environment’ declined slightly (0.5%) between 2019 and 2020 to just under 29 million, a staggering 830k+ tweets mentioned the pandemic. There is also evidence of an increasing interest in sustainability issues with mentions linked to the environment increasing by a third on World Environment Day (5th June) in 2020 compared to 2019. While a significant proportion of these posts were media-led, there is no doubt that such content will have helped increase consumer awareness of the positive environmental changes that are happening, and potentially sparked behavioural changes. This is all the more likely because the pandemic has triggered a rise in social media use to access news.
A recent study by Kantar has estimated that significant value could be added to FMCG brands by targeting environmentally conscious consumers. After all, a fifth of all spending comes from these consumers.
Insight into your target audience’s engagement with sustainability topics will be absolutely key in planning relevant campaigns. Gaining an understanding of the specific sustainability areas among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN that resonate with your audience is an essential starting point for marketers.
Social listening can help with this by providing instant access to unprompted consumer opinions around these topics. If your brand is global, the level of engagement is likely to differ by geography and language, making social media insight the ideal source for information about consumer interest. This will also help identify the consumer groups who are most engaged.
Social media analysis can also be used to understand the impact of your campaigns on brand perception and, in particular, whether your communication is shifting the dial when it comes to positive sustainability perceptions. Ongoing brand tracking via social media insights is also a fast and easy way to understand how overall perceptions of your brand are shifting.