By The Malketeer

As we step into 2024, the reverberations of COP28 linger in our minds, marking it as the most contentious summit to date. The aftermath, including the scrutinised presidency and the final wording of the agreement, sets the stage for what could be a pivotal year for sustainability messaging across the world.

Mitali Mukherjee, Director of Journalist Programmes of the Reuters Institute fervently advocates that 2024 is a pivotal year for sustainability messaging. She vehemently argues that today climate change represents a major business risk; and that marketers must lean back on science for guidance.

Against the backdrop of 2023 being the hottest year on record and several nations grappling with unprecedented floods and storms, the pressure intensifies on businesses and governments worldwide to demonstrate their commitment to addressing climate change.

Malaysia is not spared either. With climate change, massive flooding and heavy rainfalls are shattering all records and becoming so unpredictable across several states every year. Ironically, it provides the opportunity for local politicians to outdo each other in serving their communities.

On the other hand, Malaysian marketers and agencies find themselves amidst a landscape where clients are increasingly adopting net-zero targets. The scrutiny from investors, the media, consumers, and employees necessitate a strategic approach to communication, making 2024 a potential turning point for sustainability messaging in the country.

The imperative for communications to be grounded in science becomes more evident than ever. Marketing communications professionals, often the first audience for their clients, face the challenge of translating complex scientific information into digestible content. While they may not be climate experts, a reverse-engineered approach is crucial, where science-based targets underpin communications and green claims are validated by objective, independent sources,professes Mitali.

Research highlights that audiences trust scientists more than any other source for climate information, reiterating the importance of a science-based approach that ensures authenticity in sustainability strategies.

Like many other nations, Malaysia also grapples with the rising tide of climate misinformation. Overloaded and overwhelmed by information, people are unsure of what to believe, leading to mistrust or disengagement. Drawing inspiration from evidence-based and regulated communications, Malaysian marketers could adopt a similar approach to navigate the climate communication landscape successfully.

The language employed in sustainability messaging also demands a paradigm shift. No longer is addressing climate change merely a corporate social responsibility exercise; it has evolved into a material risk for businesses. Malaysian marketers are urged to move away from activist language and embrace the lexicon of investors, aligning climate concerns with financial implications.

Beyond the serious and often overwhelming narrative surrounding climate change, marketers in Malaysia have the unique opportunity to uplift spirits. Climate change, being a pressing global issue, can be alleviated through stories that highlight individuals, organisations, and communities actively working towards solutions.

Malaysian marketers can contribute to the industry’s exciting narrative. However, these stories must be firmly rooted in science and supported by evidence to avoid undermining the credibility of clients.

Agencies have the chance to raise awareness, enhance understanding, and shape public discourse, voting decisions, and policy signals through their work. Embracing a science-first approach will not only ensure the authenticity of sustainability messaging but also position marketers as catalysts for positive change in the era of climate consciousness.

As the nation tackles the challenges of 2024, the question remains: Could this be the year of sustainability messaging for Malaysian marketers?

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