These Earth Day-friendly best practices will help small businesses, entrepreneurs and creatives strategically target customers
New York – April 20, 2021: After an unprecedented year of challenges, iStock research has shown that Americans increasingly expect businesses to communicate with greater empathy, both in terms of a brand’s language as well as its visuals. Earth Day, celebrated globally on April 22, presents a timely opportunity for brands to put empathy into practice, by intentionally choosing visuals which reflect the sustainability and environmental concerns of today’s consumer.
Simply put, sustainability is a major force in decision-making, with 7 in 10 Americans expecting businesses to be environmentally aware in their visual communications, a fact revealed by iStock’s Visual GPS research.“Our research shows that we’re entering an exciting new era for sustainability, one in which we’re focusing on how best to address climate change and also create a more sustainable future,” said Rebecca Rom-Frank, Creative Researcher, iStock.
At iStock, global customer searches for “solar panels on roof” and “sustainable finance” rose significantly in 2020, along with terms like “empathy” and “gratitude.” “The familiar visual clichés typically used to convey environmental issues – the lone polar bear or hands cupping a sapling – are too abstract to stand out in today’s crowded visual landscape,” said Rom-Frank.
To support businesses of all sizes, iStock created guidelines outlining best practices when selecting sustainability photos, videos and illustrations – whether a business is seeking to convey the steps they are taking towards setting and achieving sustainable goals or seeking to better connect with customers by showing how people make sustainable choices in their own lives.
Here are three takeaways to keep in mind:
— Tell the human story
Move away from abstract visual metaphors and clichés. Intentionally take steps to make sustainability personal, authentic moments conveying human connection and emotion resonate more powerfully with global consumers.
Although businesses often address sustainability and D&I as two separate issues, these should be intertwined whenever possible. Climate change affects everyone, and iStock’s Visual GPS research shows that 82% of Americans see themselves as eco-friendly, meaning that people of all races, ages and genders care about sustainability-related issues. It is imperative to include groups who may have previously been underrepresented at all intersections of identity including gender, race, ethnicity, age, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation and culture, in your visual communications.
— Tell real visual stories of what individuals, communities and businesses are doing to protect the environment
Businesses are making more ambitious pledges, with 75% of Fortune Global 500 companies planning to operate carbon-neutrally by 2030. Likewise, iStock’s Visual GPS research revealed that customers do many different things to support the environment, depending on their lifestyle – from recycling to making their home energy efficient, to adopting a vegan diet.
Note that today’s customer is also aware of “greenwashing,” the practice of conveying an environmentally responsible image through generic visual clichés even when a company isn’t taking action to reduce its footprint. To build trust, choose visuals that reflect steps your brand is taking to protect the environment.
— Humanize sustainable technology and innovation
Over the past few years, visuals showing zero-waste consumer choices – such as reusable bags, cups and straws – have become a popular, convenient, way of conveying sustainability. However, when iStock tested visuals as part of its Visual GPS research, it found that global consumers responded three times more strongly to visuals showing renewable energy. As a brand, demonstrate that you’re listening by showing how these sustainable technologies fit into people’s everyday lives.
To explore sustainability-inspired imagery and video, visit https://www.istockphoto.com/.
Image credit: Oleh_Slobodeniuk/iStock