I sat, mouth agape, watching the six second video clip on a loop. Violent winds pushed trees horizontal and through water out of a small, crumbling stone foundation and rectangular inground pool to the ground below. This small hotel, a place where I celebrated my birthday among the quiet Portuguese colonial architecture and sandy white beaches, was being obliterated live on Twitter.
Cyclones aren’t supposed to form this far north in the Indian Ocean, and they certainly aren’t supposed to reach the strength of a major Atlantic storm. But yet I could see the ominous spiral plowing over Ibo Island on the northern coast of Mozambique. Climate change, it seems, had come for my vacation destinations. Any return visit will need to be indefinitely postponed.
Compared to the destruction and loss of life, this is a rather trifling impact. But it made concerte how global warming will meaningfully touch everyone’s life. And it served as a catalyst for me to explore green investments.
So many ways to tell the story
Some people will read the anecdote above and find it mindlessly indulgent. I mean who wants to hear some low-key brags about my tropical holiday? But others will find it powerful. Climate change can seem so abstract. The oceans rising an inch a year is nigh incomprehensible to the human mind, but we can all envisage the terror of a hurricane.
When communicating about the value of sustainable investments, recognize that not everyone responds to the same cues.
Here’s a way into sustainable investing for someone a bit more analytically minded:
The scientific consensus is clear: in the absence of a massive realignment of the economy, global warming will soon reach irreversible and unsustainable levels. A recent report estimated that it will cost at least $6.9 trillion per year through 2030 to transition to a low or zero carbon economy.
The financing needs are immense. There is no one person or even country on Earth that can afford the $70 trillion bill that is coming. That’s where the market comes in. Through green bonds and loans, retail and consumer investors have the ability to put their capital to work while helping to put the planet on the right track.
And the great news is that sustainable investing no longer means sacrifice. While a recent UBS survey found that 60 percent of investors avoid sustainable investment choices because they fear a drag on returns, this is increasingly not true. Sustainable investments now frequently match or even exceed the market average.
Appeal to the head, appeal to the heart
Beware personal bias when drafting messages on green or sustainable investment. Experimentation, either in the form of A/B testing or focus groups, is definitely your friend.
Some people need to be reminded of the dire consequences of inaction; others find these types of problems best avoided. Testimonials might work, or even the end products of these investments.
This isn’t an all or nothing approach. Truly smart copy might incorporate several different ways to persuade audiences. Test, repeat and implement.
Jon Schubin is a vice president at Cognito
To read more on sustainability and marketing, read the other three parts of our ESG special: