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Alain Giguère

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Are you prepared to make an effort to reduce your ecological footprint? – And Twilight of the Gods by Richard Wagner

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 06-27-19 at 3:45 p.m.

One in three Canadians (32%) say they are strongly committed to doing whatever they can!

But what is even more striking is that this proportion was only one in four (25% in 2013) barely six years ago and has been rising steadily ever since!

With awareness comes mobilization, as people become increasingly involved in a societal project at the level of their personal habits and social commitment.

Moreover, if we add in the people who "somewhat" agree with the above statement, we get nine out of ten Canadians (86%)!-numbers that are comparable across all regions of the country, including Quebec. However, people undoubtedly feel social pressure when they answer these types of questions: it would be embarrassing to admit that they are doing nothing at all! That is why we believe that people who tell that us that they totally agree are more "reliable" when it comes to correctly measuring this type of behaviour. Be that as it may, the growing awareness of today's ecological issues represents a tremendous opportunity for individuals and society as a whole, for businesses, brands and institutions.

The Millennials?

As I have already mentioned in some of my previous posts, I keep hearing people harp on the unique characteristics of this new Millennial generation and its much vaunted ecological and social engagement. Once again, the table below completely contradicts this perception. Among those who are making an effort to reduce their environmental impact, the younger age groups are clearly under-represented compared to people 55 and older (a 10-point difference between these generations).

This is not to say that young people are unaware of current ecological problems, but let's stop pretending that they are the champions of this cause (without, however, dismissing the subgroups of very committed young people).

Note, too, that women are much more engaged on this issue than men (a 10-point difference: 26% and 36% for men and women, respectively).

Values, motivations and in-depth reasons behind this environmental commitment

An astonishing cocktail of motivations underlies people's desire to take concrete action to reduce their personal impact on the environment. While saving the planet is not the only reason, it is a very important one (those who believe that "the way we consume and live is leading to the complete destruction of the planet" has risen from 61% to 77% from 2014 to 2019).

We find a keen sense of social responsibility, a sensitivity to others, a willingness to act for the good of one's community and help other people. They are directing their environmental actions as much to benefit their community as the planet itself.

In the same context, the family also plays a very important role: what kind of world are we leaving to our children; what kind of legacy are we bequeathing to them ("Mad Max")? Proponents of environmental protection feel a responsibility to act now, before it is too late, to ensure that future generations can live in decent ecological conditions.

We also find a personal consideration in reaction to the current ecological issues. It's as if people feel that they cannot flourish fully while our ecosystems and resources are being threatened or destroyed. Our findings indicate a desire to do better, a feeling that we have missed the boat and must step up.

And, of course, people are concerned about their personal health and public health. Information about the health problems caused by environmental and climatic degradation is increasing and people are becoming more aware of it.

A call to action!

A direct consequence of this trend is a call to action to companies, brands, governments and institutions! Even though individuals are willing to make an effort on their own, they are aware that their impact is limited and therefore want to see organizations, which their much greater resources, get involved.

From our consumer segmentation work published several months ago, it is clear that about 55% of consumers, for various reasons, want to incorporate ecologically and socially responsible consumption practices into their lives. The rise in the willingness of people to embrace lifestyle habits that reduce their environmental impact is accompanied by a desire to see companies do likewise.

There is certainly an opportunity for business to take concrete action, to provide consumers and citizens with the means and tools to make a significant impact on the environment. For some specific markets and consumer segments, taking action is urgent. Companies need to listen and offer solutions.

This trend also affects governments. Increasingly, governments will be expected to act, invest, and support initiatives that catalyze the effort that citizens are prepared to make at a personal level.

In previous posts, I have frequently underlined how important it is for businesses and institutions to adopt socially responsible policies and practices. The trends we are watching indicate that even more action in this regard is needed.

There is definitely a social movement under way, and I see nothing on the horizon that could possibly stop it. Fortunately, it represents as promising an opportunity for businesses and institutions as for consumers and citizens.

Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner (Twilight of the Gods, the fourth and final opera of Der Ring des Nibelungen)

Yes, I know. I keep revisiting Wagner's Ring cycle! But for this post, the finale of this opera seemed more appropriate than any other opera clip. Particularly this performance conducted by Kupfer-Barenboim, at the 1991 Bayreuth Festival,.

If one of the main motivations for incorporating lifestyle habits that reduce our impact on the environment is to save the planet from an ecological apocalypse, we find ourselves, at the end of Wagner's Ring, at the end of the world due to the megalomania of the gods-a metaphor for our obsession with growth at the expense of our ecosystems.

What's brilliant about the staging here is that people are watching the end of the world on TV! Note: this work was produced 10 years before September 11, 2001!

Richard Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen, Tomlinson, Jerusalem, Kang, Von Kannen, Evans, Brinkmann, etc., Kupfer, Barenboim, Bayreuther Festspiel, Teldec, Kultur, 1992.