It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when thinking about the climate crisis, especially when thinking about the solutions to climate change. There is no easy answer to the question of how to stop climate change, but it is helpful to start by looking at the causes of human-driven global warming. Studies have shown that a small number of businesses are responsible for a large portion of the carbon emissions that are causing our planet to heat up and change our climate.
Although you may feel like your actions don’t make a difference, this is not true. You have a voice, and you can use that to demand change from companies who rely on us to use their products and services to make a profit.
Contacting companies about climate change
Before you contact a company, it’s a good idea to do your research so that you can be well-informed. Whatever you contact them about, make sure to let them know why you’re unhappy with their practices, and that you will no longer buy their products or use their services until they make a change. You can also add that you plan to encourage your friends and family to boycott their services also.
Read about the role of businesses in climate change.
Here are some things you can look into:
Look into the different policies and practices that are in place when it comes to the environment. For example:
- Do they provide a report on their carbon emissions?
- Do their factories cause environmental damage in communities?
- How much waste is involved in producing their products?
- How much water is used to make their products?
- Do they have any environmental accreditations or certifications? For example, are they Fair-Trade, certified ‘B Corporation’, etc?
Once you have an idea of their practices, you can decide what you want to bring up with them. It’s also important to note that if you can’t find information on any of the above, this is also a poor environmental practice. Companies and businesses should enable consumers to see how their products are being made, and what resources are being used in their production.
Greenwashing is when a company tries to appear more environmentally friendly than they really are. They do this because they want their customers to believe that their goods and services are sustainable or environmentally-friendly, even when they are not. Some examples are saying a product is environmentally-friendly, but it is actually bad for the environment. Or maybe their product does benefit the environment, but the way it’s manufactured is causing more damage. There could also be issues with packaging or the way products are transported around the world. Or they have ads on social media about environmental and social initiatives they’re involved in, but the companies own environmental practices are damaging.
If a company says a product is environmentally-friendly, always do your own research first. Just because something seems ‘green’, doesn’t mean that it is, and your purchase could be doing more harm than good.
It’s important to think about the people who make the clothes we wear, manufacture the products we use, and grow the food we eat. The people who are most impacted by climate change are also the ones who are least responsible for causing it – and these are often the same people making the products that we buy. Everything we purchase goes through a supply chain, from the raw materials used to make it, to those who assemble it, to those who transport it, and all the way up to when we buy it. It’s important that not only the environment is protected in this chain, but that the workers are too. This is called ‘Climate Justice’, and it ensures that on our path to becoming a more sustainable world, that we don’t leave any person behind.
How to get in contact with companies
There are a few ways to get in contact with companies and let them know how you feel about their climate policies. You can also choose to contact them in a few different ways to make sure your message is getting across:
Write an email
Writing an email gives you enough space to really get your points across. It can also help you to reach the person you’re hoping to speak to directly – but this can depend on what email addresses are available, and how high-profile the person is. You can try to get in touch with a CEO or another staff member directly, or you could look for a specific department to get in contact with. If you’re not sure who to send the email to, then an ‘info’ address or a customer service address will get your message on their radar.
It can help to encourage other people to email too. The more emails they receive, the more likely it is they will address it. Providing email templates can make it easier for people to contact them, but writing out your own message can have more of an impact.
Contact them on social media
There are very few companies that are not on social media, and a lot of these accounts are monitored by staff, so if you’re tweeting, sending messages, or tagging them on Instagram, they will most likely know about it. You can choose to contact them privately in a message, but calling them out publicly is a way to let others know about the issues and encourage the company to respond.
Another idea is to run a campaign on social media, encouraging others to post and tag the companies, while at the same time demanding the change you want to see. Some organisations already do this, such as Fashion Revolution, and it can be a great way to get involved, spread awareness, and put pressure on companies.
Make phone calls
Contacting companies directly by phone is another way to get your message across. It might be difficult to get in direct contact with the people you want to speak to, but there’s no harm in phoning up a company and asking to speak to someone. If it’s not possible, you can ask to leave a message and explain why you’re calling. This can be a way to get the issue on their radar. However, it can be more difficult, since many companies use call centres and automated phone lines.
Protest outside their offices
If a company is based in your city or town, you could arrange a protest to highlight the issues, demand change, and put pressure on the company. It can be a chance to speak to others and raise awareness about their practices, and it will most likely get your complaints on the company’s radar.
Contacting companies about the environmental and social practices is a great step to take to encourage them to change. Companies are more likely to change their practices if they are being pressured by a group of people, so encourage your friends and family to also contact them.
Getting a response
Getting your message across is one thing – getting the company to take note is another. If you don’t hear back from the company the first time you contact them, don’t be afraid to follow up. You can try getting in touch the same way again, or you can switch to a different method to see if you have a better chance of getting a reply. The more you contact them, the more likely it is that you’ll get a response.
If they do contact you and you’re not happy with their response, you can send them a reply outlining the changes you think they need to make. Let them know that you will monitor their progress and will be encouraging others to do the same. That way they know that there are people out there watching what they do. Reiterate to them that you will not be buying their goods or service until they have changed their practice, as they are more likely to change if they realise they are losing customers.
Set a reminder for yourself to check back in on the company in a week, a month, or a year so you can see if they are sticking with the changes they made; if they have made any progress on your suggestions; or if you feel like you need to contact them again. Sustained pressure on companies helps to make sure they’re constantly thinking about the issue.
This article was created as part of the Youth Climate Justice Challenge – a consortium project with ECO-UNESCO, SpunOut, Irish Girl Guides, Girls Brigade, No Name Club and Youth Irish Filmmakers and supported by the Dept. of Children and Youth Affairs.