Next week—just around this time—we’ll be hearing more about how both the public and private sectors are responding to climate challenge as leaders gather in Glasgow, Scotland for COP26, or the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference.
As a citizen of the world, I certainly adhere to the ambitions of a Net-Zero future. At the Glasgow meeting, I’m sure we’ll learn more about increased government pledges to renewable energy, corporate commitments to a timetable of science-based goals, and further collaboration among various non-profit and for-profit organizations on both climate and biodiversity issues. There will be new discussions on ESG standards, climate finance, and other worthy considerations. And that’s good news.
Perhaps, though, on the less positive side of the ledger… if all our current climate promises are kept, the world may still fall short of its net-zero targets for governments, businesses, and national economies-- given our current progression. While we may have made significant advances toward these ambitious and necessary goals, it does mean that we need to think differently.
Today there is tremendous enthusiasm for climate adaptation. COVID-19 has caused us all to consider the effects of shortages, environmental risks, socioeconomic systems, as well as public health. Consumers are certainly willing to do their part, but they don’t always have a clear understanding of what to do. They are happy to connect with brands that are making a difference, but they need more direction, and are frustrated. This is not like a pandemic where they can don a mask or keep to social distancing standards. To change their behavior, people need to know the impact of what they’re doing every day.
If we look at consumers’ new digital relationships with fitness or health, we can see how much technology has made a difference. Whether through gamification apps that count your steps and share progress with family and friends or telemedicine and digital monitoring of key health indicators, we’ve witnessed an extraordinary change in how people opt to track what matters to them.
According to a scientific article published last year in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity on the effects of counting steps and health, “step-count monitors (pedometers, body-worn trackers and smartphone applications) can increase walking and help to tackle physical inactivity.” Interestingly, there is also more research now around the effects of telehealth. In fact, several studies cite how men who have neglected regular doctor visits are using virtual visits to their advantage.
In a relatively short period of time, we have entangled with health and fitness technology solutions companies to experience positive, behavior-changing results. So why don’t we also look to those tech providers that we entangle with every day and ask for their help on activities that relate to climate change?
Companies like Apple and Google know a lot about our movements, as well as our home environment. They know if we travel by car, train, bus, plane, bicycle or walk. Or if we travel for work or pleasure. Not only do our movements have energy considerations, but so does staying at home. Google’s smart home thermostat device, Nest, can help you save on heating costs. In fact, the brand’s new tagline emphasizes, “Saving Energy is a Beautiful Thing.”
And while governments worldwide are concerned about privacy (and rightly so), they have largely forgotten the opportunities these cutting-edge global companies-- with whom we share our lives—can bring. Politicians also have a responsibility to their constituents to explore areas that can favorably affect their lives—not only restrict them. Let’s not forget that these companies have entangled with billions of people throughout the globe on a very individual and very relevant basis through services they depend upon every day. I can’t think of another way to make a significant impact at scale.
Creating behavioral change often starts with understanding daily or weekly habits combined with other personal choices and general information. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have adopted a Share of Life® perspective to ensure customer lifetime satisfaction, value, and rewards by understanding lifestyles and routines. They have woven their brand into the fabric of our day to essentially gain Share of Life®.
If the general public had greater access to suggestions through various apps that offer ways to effectively recycle, track carbon footprints while saving money, or learn of earth-friendly purchasing alternatives, they would make new choices. Like existing fitness and health apps, they could be gamified and easy to use, so monitoring and information are always available.
While there is nothing wrong with U.N. resolutions, it is now time for people to act as individuals collectively to make a significant global impact. Climate issues go beyond national borders, and leading technology companies that touch the lives of everyone have the magnitude and information, regarding personal preferences, to offer support that can change behavior. And there’s no faster way to make a difference than for each and every person to consider their own practical resolution.
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