‘The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you,’ was Greta Thunberg’s urgent warning at the Climate Action Summit in New York in September. For months, the 16-year-old Swedish activist has captivated the world with her impassioned speeches. She has inspired action from young people worldwide with #FridaysForFuture, weekly student walkouts to demand immediate action on climate change. Meanwhile, Extinction Rebellion (XR), have taken on a more disruptive breed of activism. Since their founding last year, they have continued to dial up their notorious civil disobedience in the UK—blockading traffic and allowing themselves to be arrested in mass. On Monday, the Irish branch of XR began a planned week of demonstrations in Dublin. Protestors marched a pink sail boat painted with the words ‘Tell the truth’ to covey the urgency of rising tides. Solemn crowds carried a black coffin containing the symbolic remains of Mother Earth from Heuston Station to the Government Buildings in a mock funeral procession. The group have currently set up camp in Merrion Square Park and have several more events scheduled to challenge ‘business as usual.’
At the same time, climate change continues to creep closer and closer to home as record temperatures and extreme weather have become a norm in our newsfeeds. With the energy of the Climate Justice movement growing lounder and stronger, mainstream public support for the issue is mounting. Last month, some estimated 7.6 million people participated in the week of Global Climate Strikes, including more than 50,000 from Ireland. According to 2019 data from Ipsos MORI, 85% of British adults are concerned about global warming, the highest level since the survey question was introduced in 2005. Remarkably the proportion of people who say they are now ‘very concerned’ is at a record 52%, up from only 18% in 2014.
As individuals re-evaluate their own environmental impact, brands too are forced to adapt. Consumers are being prompted to eat fewer animal-products, use less plastic, drive less, fly less, waste less, and effectively, buy less. Brands are starting to feel the pressure to either be part of the climate change solution or be considered part of the problem. To rise to this challenge will require more than a green comms strategy. Business practices will need to align with a brand’s public stance, otherwise face accusations of ‘greenwashing.’ Beloved Millennial fashion brand, Everlane, embodies this level of transparency. Everlane customers are able to check the production breakdown of every garment they purchase, such as specifics on raw materials, factories, and transport. They also use 98% recycled water to process their denim and have promised to eliminate virgin plastic within their supply chain by 2021. French trainer brand, Veja, has made upcycling a central part of their business using materials such as recycled plastic bottles, discarded ‘fish leather’ and vegan leather made from corn waste in their designs.
Action in Ireland is especially pertinent, where the Climate Change Performance Index recently ranked us 48th out of 56 countries (the worst in Europe.) We’ve seen small Irish brands such as Fresh Cuts Clothing and Coffee Angel, as well as larger ones such as Brown Thomas and SuperValu begin to take sustainable steps. However, the opportunity for more Irish brands to address climate change is still wide open. It is a topic to address thoughtfully and with a comprehensive plan of action, but the future of our earth demands we all do our part.