The Shift Towards Environmental Consciousness and What It Means for PR

No matter what your position is on climate change, it is clear that humans certainly have some impact on the environment and for the most part, it is not positive.

The past two years have been crippled with devastating natural disasters all around the world, including several major hurricanes, massive wildfires, and an increase in flooding. Large portions of the oceans are continuously filling with trash and plastics, harming the marine life and disturbing the ecosystem. These events have sparked a national conversation about our environmental consciousness and many businesses have started taking notice of where the public is shifting their attention.

This past July, Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws. According to The Seattle Times, the city’s goal is to decrease plastic waste and encourage dialogue about environmental conservation. This strategy has been successful so far in gaining widespread media coverage on the topic and forcing innovation from the thousands of restaurants within the city and major companies such as Starbucks and McDonald’s who are now vowing to limit their use of single-use, plastic straws.

This is a simple choice for a company like Starbucks, who has often spoken out and taken left-leaning positions on a variety of social issues, to commit to these changes; for smaller companies, the decision is not as easy. Most businesses are concerned with speaking out on issues involving the environment because it has become a gauge for other political positions and many companies don’t want to pick a side in fear of upsetting the audience and stakeholders. The concerns of these businesses are valid because any company faces major backlash when making changes, but this is often just a period of adjustment. It takes time for consumers to adjust to a new way of behaving and for the issue to die off. Eventually, companies are able to see the positive impacts of going green.

The choice to go green builds a brands identity and sets them apart from others. When a brand adopts an environmental stance, it opens the door to new opportunities for innovation and potentially good PR. Businesses are able to gain attention and draw in like-minded, green consumers by promoting the actions they are adopting.

Recently, Starbucks has gained attention for their development in sippy cup lids, which they hope will serve as a replacement for plastic straws. The changes won’t take effect until 2020, but the company estimates this change will eliminate more than one billion plastic straws globally each year. Although we all understand that letting go of a small piece of plastic won’t fix all of our environmental problems, most environmentalists agree this could be the first small step in the right direction and for some businesses opportunity awaits.

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