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Social media content can be a form of climate action. Here’s how. 

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The planet is heating up: 2024 has been the warmest year to date, with global temperatures at 1.32 ºC above average from the period of January to May. The world desperately needs us to take rapid action against climate change, and while it’s ultimately up to corporations and governments to make the decisions that will change the destructive systems that have gotten us here, individuals have an important role to play as well. One of the most powerful — and overlooked — ways individuals can contribute to climate action is through social media content. Creators with a platform, whether big or small, can use their storytelling, creativity and influence to contribute to cultural narrative shifts that can, in turn, spark systemic change. Here’s how.  

Encouraging collective action through social media content

If you’re someone that’s concerned with the climate, you might sometimes wonder whether your individual efforts towards fighting climate change are actually making a difference. Social media is a powerful tool to individually contribute to wider, collective movements — which, ultimately, are what will move the needle at the rate that we need. 

80% of global emissions come from just 57 companies. And yet, when we talk about climate action, we often focus on individual lifestyle changes: reducing meat consumption, taking public transport, and generally consuming less. While these individual shifts are an important part of the equation, alone they are simply not enough to combat the climate crisis. The truth is that we need to create shifts at a global, systemic level in order to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change in time. This can only happen if corporations and governments change the destructive systems that have gotten us here in the first place. While it may sound like individuals have no role in this, it’s quite the opposite: it is because of individuals creating pressure on companies through strategic movements that collective, systemic action can take place. 

Digital creators hold the power to influence the behavior of their online communities by modelling ‘aspirational’ behavior that is aligned with climate action, as the UNEP Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook states. Many already do this. Creators like Venetia La Manna (@venetialamanna), Lauren Singer (@trashisfortossers) and Karishma Porwal (@karishmaclimategirl) encourage their followers to recycle, thrift, or adopt zero waste habits. But they also go beyond individual lifestyle choices. In their content, they can all be seen asking questions to governments and companies about climate issues and talking about corporations’ climate actions. All of these are small acts that everybody can do at an individual level in order to contribute to wider, collective action. 

This kind of behavior modelling through content can be incorporated into every creator’s work, not just those with climate-focused platforms. The more creators that do this, the closer we get to establishing a new cultural norm in which individuals engage, everyday, in small acts of collective action.

Shifting cultural narratives and priorities around climate issues on social media  

It’s no secret that social media is rife with misinformation about climate change. We receive an enormous amount of contradictory messages, misinformation, and greenwashing, making it difficult to understand the truth and prioritize change that can truly make an impact to stop climate change.

An example of this can be found in the fashion industry: a sector where brands are quick to boast about their climate efforts, and where environmental impact is now a topic on most consumers’ minds. However, the dominant narrative when talking about the fashion industry’s climate impact seems to center around two main topics: individuals’ consumption habits or, at a corporate level, the importance of sustainable, lower-impact materials to produce our clothing. 

While materials are certainly an important element of sustainable fashion, this is not actually the main source of planet-warming emissions in the fashion industry. The main source of emissions is the burning of fossil fuels across the fashion supply chain in order to produce the fabrics that make up our clothing. Yet this topic is not as widely talked about in online mainstream conversations. This means that, as a result, brands often feel less pressure to publicly address their supply chain emissions as urgently or as frequently as they address sustainable materials.

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Sample content found in our creative digital toolkits

It is through public commitments that companies can be held accountable and progress can be driven forward. By bringing important topics like this into mainstream cultural narratives, content creators can help create public pressure for companies to address these issues and for meaningful change to happen.  

Making nuanced topics accessible and engaging

In a similar vein, digital creators not only have the power to bring important topics to light, but also to use their creativity and storytelling skills to make complex, ‘boring’ topics engaging. Take the same example as above: by making issues like fashion brands’ supply chain emissions feel interesting, they can make audiences more receptive to engaging with them. This, of course, contributes massively to increasing pressure for companies to address these issues. The more engaging a topic, the more accessible it is. The more accessible it is, the more present it is in our cultural expectations of what a company needs to be doing in order to be deemed as ‘sustainable’. But it also makes it easier for organizations and movements, like ASL, to engage the wider public in strategic issues that are designed to unlock systemic change. 

It is through storytelling that cultural changes are created and reinforced. By making thoughtful, well researched yet engaging content that aligns with a larger goal and movement, digital creators (or anybody with a social media account) can use their creativity and storytelling skills to bring into the mainstream narratives that help shift our cultural expectations and priorities around climate issues and unlock systemic change. 

https://speakslouder.org/digital-toolkit/Ready to get creative?  Check out our digital toolkits designed to help you, digital creators, or anybody who posts online, incorporate key climate issues and stories into your content and take part in meaningful climate action. In them, you will find brief explainers on key issues and their solutions (like the fashion industry’s dependence on fossil fuels in its supply chain, for example), key talking points to guide you in incorporating them into your content, as well as ready-made, downloadable content that you can easily share.

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