Positioning the Marketing discipline in the ongoing Climate Change Conversations

The 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the UNFCCC is currently taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt (6-18 November 2022).  The main conversations from the COP 27 world leaders are centered on what needs to be done to tackle climate change by:

  • Reducing emissions
  • Helping countries to prepare for and deal with climate change
  • Securing technical support and funding for developing countries for the above

Some areas not fully resolved or covered at COP26 will be conversed:

  • Loss and damage finance – money to help countries recover from the effects of climate change, rather than just prepare for it
  • Establishment of a global carbon market – to price the effects of emissions into products and services globally
  • Strengthen the commitments to reduce coal use

These are, indeed, topical issues and particularly important ones in the climate change discourse. However, coming from the marketing discipline with deep rooted passion in climate change, I am wondering what should be the conversation marketing scholars having; how involved is marketing in climate change conversations? As a marketing scholar if I am invited to these annual events, what would be my contribution?  After all, marketing provides the tools which fuel consumption and production of goods which have contributed to increasing greenhouse gas emissions.  Thus, marketing can play a damaging role when it comes to overconsumption and the environmental impacts of consumerism, and it’s a problem companies need to fix. Overconsumption in general is encouraged by advertising, and it has a climate and ecological impact. Indeed, despite its implications for business and the economy, let alone humanity, climate change together with sustainability may be regarded as somewhat of a “fringe” topic in the marketing academy as well as in business schools (Kemper, Ballantine, & Hall, 2018).

Kotler (2020) contends that periods of deprivation and anxiety often usher new consumer attitudes and behaviours that will change the nature of today’s Capitalism. Finally, citizens will re-examine what they consume, how much they consume, and all this is influenced by class issues and inequality.  So, in essence when it comes to societal crises, they are under researched, and the voices of marketers are not that audible enough to attract the attention of climate activists and policy makers. Mende and Misra (2021) contend that a better understanding of the linkages between the role of marketing and climate change can (literally!) be vital for consumers, companies, and societies at large.

The main conversations on climate change have to do with GHG emission reduction where marketers can help generate quantifiable indicators of corresponding organisational behaviour and promote practical but universal best practices for companies to meet. The optimal marketing strategy determines the overall climate impact of a firm on the organisational carbon footprint. This aggregate environmental impact is the result of multiplying the product carbon footprint by overall sales.

Increasingly with predictions of climate change worsening and more impacts arising, there is need for a clarion call for marketers to develop targeting strategies which take account of differences amongst key consumer segments; and developing a message that motivates rather than overwhelms consumers whilst avoiding any perceptions of “greenwashing”. There is need for marketers to develop effective climate change communications that contribute to behaviour change. Marketers may contribute to behavioural change interventions to reduce GHG emissions.

Calculating carbon footprints has become standard procedure and is the new normal for many organisations, and they are now routinely reported according to international accounting standards to allow consumers to make better purchase decisions. Marketing can play a significant role in this, through developing products and services that have a low carbon footprint the climate impact measured in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) emissions.

Therefore, without significant action from all actors, consumers, government, civil society, businesses, and marketers we will not create the change that we so desperately need to avert an insurmountable increase of temperature on our planet.



Hall. M.C 2018. Climate change and marketing: Stranded research or a sustainable development? J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1893.https://doi.org/10.1002/pa.1893wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/pa

Kotler Philip (2020), “The Consumer in the Age of Coronavirus,” The Sarasota Institute (April 6), https://sarasotainstitute.global/the-consumer-in-the-age-of-coronavirus/.

Mende, M., & Misra, V. (2021). Time to Flatten the Curves on COVID-19 and Climate Change. Marketing Can Help. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing40(1), 94–96. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743915620930695


Dr Chipo Mukonza
Dr Chipo Mukonza

Chipo Mukonza is the Managing Director of RC Global Research Training and Consultancy. She holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Tshwane University of Technology. In addition, she holds a master's in agriculture, & Applied Economics, BSc Honours in Economics and Post graduate Diploma in Marketing. Her research focuses on Business and Climate, B2B research on market feasibility studies, consumer behavior research, branding, marketing evaluation campaigns and entrepreneurship. She believes in the importance of market research in growing sustainable businesses and increasing ROI. As an independent, leading innovative market research and training consultancy company she has worked for the past seven years with diverse companies helping them achieve their goals. Her research is firmly rooted in the role of marketing on the environment as well as how businesses are responding to climate change. Companies need to understand and believe in the benefits of sustainability for their business. She is also a Business Economics and Strategic Marketing Management Lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology.

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