Saturday the 26th of March was Earth Hour – a social marketing phenomenon that started in Australia in 2007 and is now known around the world. The high visibility of switching off lights makes Earth Hour a corporate responsibility dream. In just 5 short years it has captured the imagination of a global audience with its initial intend to
” make a bold symbolic statement about the critical issue of climate change and to engage Australians in taking action”.
This rapid growth must make it one of the most successful social marketing campaigns globally.
I have been an Earth Hour sceptic since its inception, wondering how on earth switching the lights off for one hour could possibly assist in moving us towards a sustainable lifestyle – although I did switch off our lights on Saturday at 8.30pm. I do, however, recognise Earth Hour’s potential to build on its success and speed up positive social change.
My main concern is that this ‘bold symbolic statement’ let’s us off the hook, offers an easy way out.
We switch off the light for an hour and feel good about the difference we make. Earth Hour’s local and global ambassadors, Miranda Kerr and Jamie Durie, have enormous public appeal and are walking and talking sustainability contradictions: both are directly involved in promoting consumption through modelling, advertising and re-modelling or landscaping gardens. (Like the rest of us who may drive a hybrid car, buy organic vegetables & meat; use organic cosmetics; and fly around the world for work and leisure.)
We think of ourselves as environmentally responsible by switching to ‘green’ consumer products often with a hefty price tag. We know we should reduce, re-use, recycle and offset in that priority order but at best dabble in reduction and maybe off-set our bad habits . We lead a pseudo-sustainable lifestyle of the well to-do.
All this makes me think about the effectiveness of social marketing strategies to bring social change to scale – in this case, reducing consumption to a sustainable level. Earth Hour has succeeded in raising awareness and making a global statement about climate change but is it translating into action?
The Earth Hour website states:
Earth Hour is not just about one hour of darkness, it’s about a lifetime of sustainability.
Earth Hour has so far been mainly a public relations exercise, displaying an effectiveness rarely seen in awareness raising strategies directed at changing attitudes. While it needs to keep the momentum to reach more and more people, Earth Hour now needs to go beyond the one page “take action beyond the hour” on its website and link to action oriented tools.
The behaviour change required to galvanise us into action can only be achieved in collaboration with existing organisations focussed on the same goal and by building on existing resources to create a transition to a lifetime of sustainability.
Sustainable development requires collaboration beyond anything we have seen in the past. 2010 saw the beginning of a potentially transitional decade. We need international cooperation that brings about real long-term structural changes and deepens collaboration.
Earth Hour has a real opportunity to translate a bold statement into transformative action! Bring it on!!!
Earth Hour is organised by WWF. WWF’s mission is
“to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and build a future where people live in harmony with nature.”
To go beyond the hour visit WWF and check out your ecological footprint.