Climate Week NYC is upon us. For many companies with a vested interest in climate change, it’s a pivotal moment in marketing calendars, which is only really matched in size and impact by COP. I recently sat down with Phil Kehoe, senior communications coordinator for Climate Group, the organizers of Climate Week.
In our interview, Phil shared intel on this year’s event and guidance for how communications professionals can make the most of the week – including where Climate Group can assist.
I'm sure most are aware of Climate Week, but for those who aren't, what is it all about?
Climate Week NYC is the largest annual climate event of its kind, bringing together over 400 in-person, hybrid, and online events, and is held in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly and the city of New York. Climate Group, responsible for organizing Climate Week NYC, is a non-profit whose purpose is to drive climate action fast to create a net zero future by 2050. The events bring together the most senior international figures from business, government, and civil society to come together and talk about some of the key issues that we're facing related to climate change.
The theme this year is ‘We Can. We Will.’ Can you tell us more?
“We Can. We Will.” is a global stocktake of what's happened recently, what was discussed and promised at COP, and trying to capitalize on that so we can maximize progress going forward. It’s about reinforcing that together we have the capacity to get this done. Especially as we've seen a lot of the climate legislation in the U.S. including the Inflation Reduction Act and Jobs Act. We're trying to hold ourselves accountable here and go forward and set some concrete goals and make it happen.
Looking ahead to this year's climate week, what do you think are the standout events taking place?
The key highlight for us is the opening ceremony and The Hub Live. We’re bringing together so many good speakers, including Governor Gavin Newsom. We also have some of the heavy hitters from the climate industry, and the business and political worlds. In terms of the wider week, there’s so much variety across our ten different program themes. There are also sustainable fashion shows and an earth disco which should be fun. There are so many ways for people to get involved in the week itself, including community garden tours and sustainable building tours. Certainly, there’s something for everyone, no matter what you're interested in.
The media's role in covering the event is essential in growing awareness of the issues. What is your role in this?
It’s about connecting our media contacts to the right people. And then vice versa, if there's an announcement that's going to be made at Climate Week NYC, we want to have people connected in the right way to really capitalize on that and make sure that the most relevant people are hearing about it. So, it's my job to bind these stories together and work with our partners, our companies, and our sponsors who are involved with us for Climate Week NYC and connect them to the correct journalists and media.
Do you know how many announcements you typically work with during the week?
Climate week is a great time for news and announcements, it’s the prime time to do that while everyone is focused and engaged on the week. From the broader week outside of our primary flagship programming, it could be anywhere in the hundreds to the thousands.
The politicization of climate change has never been a more contentious issue, especially in the U.S. How does Climate Week approach this politicization and different views of climate change in its programming?
We are all about bringing people to the table to talk about these sorts of things. Climate Week NYC is meant to be inclusive of different viewpoints on how the business world is impacted. For example, trying to figure out how to navigate the rise of anti-ESG laws across different states, that's top of mind for us. If you only highlight the benefits of sustainability to believers, you’re just preaching to the choir, you have to engage people across the aisle to make better progress.
How can companies look to participate during the week?
Hosting your own event is certainly a great way for your organization to get involved with Climate Week NYC itself and get your name on our website and in our database of events. We also provide branding and assets that you can potentially use to say that you're a part of Climate Week NYC. We're always looking for new companies to be a part of our various business networks, like RE100 and on the government side, our 2 coalitions.
Do you have any advice for companies and their comms activity during the week?
If you have something to say about climate, this is the time to do it. Make the best use of your social channels to capitalize on the momentum of the window here. That’s certainly key to getting your message out. If there is something that you would like to collaborate with us on or partner to elevate that message, that's something that we're willing to do also.
What's the timeline for gearing up for next year's events? When should companies look to have plans in place and start lines of communication with the Climate Group?
It is never too early to reach out. In terms of our own cycle, we consider Earth Day in April to be our next launching point for next year’s Climate Week NYC. So, early in the Spring is always good.
When we first met, I was impressed with how you ended up working for the Climate Group and your backstory, can you tell us a bit about that?
I recently graduated with my Master’s in Public Administration from NYU's Wagner School of Public Service. For my capstone project, I worked with the World Bank governance program, and we completed a climate change institutional assessment for the government of Cambodia to assess their climate policies to see areas of strength and identify areas of improvement. These institutional assessments will then go into a wider climate development report the World Bank is currently completing. Before then I worked in corporate philanthropy including a stint at Morgan Stanley within its community affairs team.