Why PRs must act on climate change

“Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to “tell it like it is.” On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”

Those are the opening words of an article in the Bioscience Journal from the American Institute of Biological Sciences published in January last year. As strategic counsellors, public relations and communications professionals are uniquely positioned to help clients and organisations create positive change on climate issues.

But is the profession prepared for its responsibility?

Worrying statistics

Last month, the PRCA published new research revealing that around one in five (18%) professionals felt nervous about entering the climate debate, with a further 39% citing a belief that their organisation needed to be an ‘expert’ before being able to contribute.

More and more brands, businesses and organisations across all sectors are being challenged by stakeholders to disclose their climate credentials. The same study revealed seven out of ten (71%) of practitioners are giving advice on the climate crisis more frequently than they were five years ago.

The research findings reaffirmed the purpose of the PRCA’s Climate Misinformation Strategy Group. Led by Don’t Cry Wolf’s John Brown, the Group has been established to help communications professionals fight the spread of misinformation by educating practitioners and celebrating best practice.

Get the truth out there

The PRCA’s research study - conducted in partnership with Opinium - estimated that 21.8 million UK adults have been misinformed about the climate crisis on social media in the past month. The statistic underlines the scale of PR’s responsibility and highlights the fact that the work undertaken by PR professionals has real-world consequences for the way people think, feel and act about climate change.

Too often, PR and communications have helped create - rather than eliminate - the gap between what an organisation says and what it does. On carbon emissions for example, too many brands persistently prioritise headline-grabbing tactics over considered and meaningful commitments.

Take the lead

The public relations industry has rightly championed its capacity to influence the C-suite and drive better decision-making in the boardroom. But professionals must adopt a leadership role on this issue if they’re to be taken seriously as strategic advisors. Communications professionals can and should guide organisations towards ethically-sound decisions on climate issues.

Significant challenges lie ahead but PR professionals are perfectly positioned to help organisations deliver positive change.

There’s a long journey ahead; it starts with PR professionals upskilling and educating themselves and ends with them delivering coherent, fact-based advice to clients and organisations.

Written by Koray Camgöz, director of communications and marketing at PRCA

Get involved
The PRCA’s Climate Misinformation Strategy Group is set to launch a new website that will act as an education hub for climate communication. The Group is sourcing case studies and content that celebrates best practice and strengthens the industry’s collective body of knowledge on the issue. Submit content here.