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How did brands showcase their ESG credentials on social media during COP26?

Is COP an ES-G win for brands on social media?

Brands are now mindful they need to be showcasing their green/responsible credentials to an increasingly ecologically and socially conscious customer. COP26 gave brands a potential high-profile platform to showcase their green credentials, network with ministers and drive brand objectives.

But should big environmental set piece events such as COP26 play a role for brands who want to showcase their ESG credentials? Who actually drove digital and social engagement, and what can be learned?

What we did...

We analysed 40,000 tweets about COP26 that occurred over the two weeks the event was held over. We then broke down each tweet into pairs of consecutive words in both the body and bio of the author, to help us analyse not only the topics that were being mentioned but also to help us analyse context and sentiment far more accurately.

So who is talking about COP26 online?

Whilst the conversation online is still being driven by a combination of left-wing political advocates, environmental activists and journalists; there was an unexpected addition.

As the pictures of vicars and pensioners blocking motorways for Insulate Britain have shown, the idea that climate activists are all tree-hugging 20-somethings is naive. Older generations are increasingly acting and speaking out on climate related issues.

The term “Retiree” was the 12th most popular word found in the sample of Twitter bio’s that mentioned the event. Pension funds and the like, take note. However, within this conversation, this cohort is still left-leaning and therefore this audience may not align with every organisation's target audience.

Of the people who were tweeting the sentiment often struck a defiant tone. Call to actions were used frequently with phrases such as “show”, “send” and “stand up” being frequently used. What also stood out was an “us vs them” narrative within these same tweets. “Stand up together and show them a message” being an example. This narrative can be a potential minefield for brands to engage with.

What are they talking about?

It’s not surprising that the online conversation was centred around various states’ pledges and leaders' contributions. As expected, Greta, Boris, Nicola and Biden all feature prominently as well as Jeff Bezos who was the only real business figure to generate significant mentions or RTs.

What is notable though is just how little brands are getting cut through within this conversation. Given the amount of pledges that companies made during this period, there is very little traction apart from the odd retweet from senior corporate individuals at the event. Less than 1% of tweets in our sample mention a brand at all. We also broke out the brand mentions of principal sponsors in our sample; Scottish Power did best in terms of volume with 0.2%, Microsoft were mentioned in 0.065% of tweets and Unilever were mentioned in just 0.002%.

So what does this mean?

Simply, the public perception is that climate change needs state based solutions, therefore the discussion around the largest climate based summit is still dominated by discussions around pledges by states. OneFifty believes there are better opportunities to announce important climate pledges for brands, digitally speaking:

  • Engaging directly with key stakeholders online can be more efficient, and effective, whether through paid, owned or earned routes

  • The role of individuals is key within this, from across the organisation, real people, using personal profiles, need to show their involvement and commitment to get traction.

  • For brands to generate digital engagement they need to create their own moments, not join others.

TLDR: unless Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos is your CEO, leave the COP announcements for Boris to worry about.


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