Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

How Can Social Marketing Help Reduce Carbon Emissions?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Nancy R. Lee
December 8, 2023

Imagine a world in which citizens eagerly adopt behaviors that public sector managers advocate for to improve public health, prevent injuries, protect the environment and engage communities. This is a world that Social Marketing can help you create. This is my sixth column highlighting Social Marketing, a proven discipline to influence citizen behaviors for social good.

The “wicked problem” that Social Marketing can help address discussed in the July ASPA PA Times online newsletter was reducing School Mass Shootings; in August, reducing Wildfires; in September, preventing Youth Suicide; in October, reducing Fentanyl Overdoses; and in November, reducing Homelessness. This month I am discussing how a Social Marketing approach can help reduce Carbon Emissions.

Carbon Emissions: What’s the Problem? 

EPA’s website on Greenhouse Gas Emissions highlights the problem, as well as potential solutions:

  • “Greenhouse gases trap heat and make the planet warmer.”
  • “Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years.”
  • “The largest source of greenhouse gas emission from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation.”

It is further noted that the transportation sector accounts for 28 percent of 2021 greenhouse gas emissions, and that one of the greatest opportunities to reduce these emissions is to reduce the number of miles that people drive each day.

And that electric power accounted for 25 percent of 2021 greenhouse gas emissions, and that one of the greatest opportunities is to reduce these emissions is to increase energy efficiency and conservation in homes, businesses and industry.

EPA also emphasizes that since 1990, gross U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have only decreased by just over 2 percent. The following Social Marketing case examples demonstrate what we can do more of to accelerate this decline.

Increasing Energy Efficiency

In the early 1990s, EPA partnered with the industry sector to change purchasing behaviors toward greater energy efficiency. The entire supply chain was leveraged—from manufacturers to retailers, to utilities and to consumers. The approach was branded ENERGY STAR, a program to increase availability and demand for energy efficient products.

ENERGY STAR has a strong value proposition, including providing consumers with potential desired benefits from selecting ENERGY STAR certified products including an easy/simple way to save energy and money, and protect the environment.

Key strategies to increase preference for these products were intended to overcome common barriers such as not knowing how to find energy efficient brands, and not understanding the link between home energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. EPA created a visible certification label for use on products and packaging for products in 75 product categories. Products were made available by manufacturers in retail stores and online, and EPA created promotional strategies that included store signage, public service announcements and special events such as a coast-to-coast bus tours putting thousands of ENERGY STAR certified CFL bulbs in the hands of Americans. A major message example includes: “Did you know that the average home pollutes more than the average car?”

In 2018, ENERGY STAR reported in an Overview of Achievements that U.S. consumers have purchased more than six billion energy star certified products. And as of 2020, the program has helped save five trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity, reducing four billion metric tons of greenhouse gases.

Increasing Alternative Transportation

This case example from Portland, Oregon, highlights not only an innovative and successful approach to reducing millions of miles traveled by Portland residents, but it also illustrates the power of a social marketing principle to tailor an effort to an audience segment “most ready for change and help.”

In 2002, the Portland Office of Transportation piloted a program branded Smart Trips Welcome, one focused on new residents to the Portland metropolitan area. New residents were considered to be those who had moved to the area within the last six months, and the intention was to persuade these new residents to choose alternative transportation modes including biking, walking, public transit, carpools and car sharing. Major audience barriers that inspired intervention strategies included these new residents feeling overwhelmed with their move, and lack of information regarding alternative transportation modes.

Using an inexpensive mailing list, the following message was sent to new residents:

“If you’re new to this amazing city or if you’ve just moved to a new neighborhood, you’re fortunate to live in a city that offers such a range of options for getting around. . . Watch your mailbox for an order form, or go to this website to claim resources today. It’s all free.”

Perhaps one of the most impactful strategies employed was the personal home delivery of requested “Kits” with relevant materials for each of the alternative modes. By 2019, it was reported the program  achieved a reduction in driving trips by 8 percent.

Author: Nancy R. Lee is an affiliate instructor at the University of Washington where she teaches courses in social marketing; a professional certificate course instructor for the International Social Marketing Association; president of Social Marketing Services, Inc.; a strategic advisor for C+C; and a coauthor of 13 books on social marketing with Philip Kotler. Email: [email protected]

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *