Emissions impossible?

Vattenfall’s new climate change campaign aims to involve stakeholders and clients alike



The hype about climate change doesn’t seem like it’s about to give in. The gores and greens of the developed world having been on a run these last eight months or so – bantering and bickering about how companies and states should streamline services to people and how people should start streamlining, well...their lives.

Critics have stormed the stage bearing arguments of ‘redundant rhetoric’, saying we have far more vital issues at stake both in business as well as in world society to deal with today. On the other hand, Al Gore’s now Nobel role as ‘The Inconvenient Truth’s’ mouthpiece-mastermind has pulled in literally millions of sympathisers considerate to climate change and the suppression of global warming.

On that note, Swedish energy giants, Vattenfall, are heading a programme called ‘3C’, standing for Combat Climate Change, which aims to enforce momentum around a global conversation about the risks of climate change and global warming. In 2004, several energy companies sat round a table to discuss the EU’s proposed Emissions Trading scheme, where the discussion’s outcome was to ensure that business no longer only support the aim of reducing emissions but that it also took up a robust role in doing so. Where did Vattenfall specifically come into this? They took up the responsibility of drafting an official corporate-community opinion on the issue.


Mapping the road

The results of that opinion saw the light of day three years later in January 2007, in the form of a road-map. Immediate connotations to ‘road-maps’ normally pertain to post-crisis situations where global governance provides a recommendation towards ensuring peace is at hand. The 3C road-map, according to Vattenfall, seeks to do just that. Resolute in their conviction that we are already well past the tell-tale signs of climatic catastrophe, the 3C road-map points out that its 9 incorporated principles are a result of a “process that’s been going on within the global business community for quite some time”, according to the company’s spokesperson Hakan Axelsson.   With the likes of ABB, Citigroup, Bayer, SUEZ and General Electric to name but a few – and a total of 44 other multinational corporate signatories – already on board this call for action, the aim is to support political leadership in taking action on climate change through pragmatic, science-based actions. These range from the complete and utter endorsement of the global business community to support the development of a long-term credible emissions trading system based on fundamental business principles – to embracing and financially vivifying climate-friendly technology...as quickly as possible!

All of this sounds mighty ambitious and a tad utopian one might hear you utter. How on earth can the destiny of an entire planet (and our planet may it just be added) fall into the hands of a bucketful of multinational corporations? All corporations who to the scoffer’s mind immediately evoke thoughts of business as usual – yet to the believer’s possibly ones of repetitive hope.


COMM’ing the change

On the communication waterfront and just to be clear, 3C is not trying to drive home its 9 prophecies to the end-user either through consumer PR, or in the form of massive television spots for that matter. Despite a series of inventive TV spots depicting a CEO type-figure literally blowing smoke in front of an audience – proving how “empty words just add carbon dioxide” (which has been running on the BBC, the CNN et al for some time now) – Vattenfall’s 3C initiative has purposely avoided the mass audience target. In what B2B has spoilt us with for a few decades already, in reputation management Vattenfall has come up with a roundabout way of spreading the 49 signatories’ messages virally. Not surprisingly through the web.

The target audience, according to the company’s top communication management representatives, is in fact a very limited number of people with a direct influence on the political process. The prime comms vehicle in usage: content delivery. Becoming more and more the norm in 2007, in the PR industry, content delivery has continued to surge despite not actually having a direct link to a specific end-target. It is more the fact that it is dedicated, relevant and timely material for many information multipliers to use. Vattenfall’s 3C is leveraging its advantage of having a website literally bombarded with relevant, scientific literature available for all to employ and interpret in their own way. When you navigate over 3C’s website you will notice a small embedded video portraying a series of testimonials, from a selection of CEOs from the world’s largest and richest corporations. Their manifesto: that it’s time everyone got on board the fight against climate change. That it can only benefit business as well as the wider environmental issue at hand.

Parallel to this, Vattenfall made an event of the launch of the road-map in November 2007 in Washington DC. The venue was chosen as it is a centre of attention for international media; US Congress had just pushed through a crucial piece of legislation (as well as Bali attracting interest at around about the same time), on top of the event providing an ideal arena for communicating directly with the US administration. Thirty major media outlets attended and covered the event, which witnessed a closed dinner at the Swedish embassy in the presence of King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden. A second activity to brief the White House about 3C during an official meeting also helped endorse the campaign.

Measurably, Vattenfall points to two notable achievements in 2007. Firstly, that a handful of important political leaders in European Commission: President Barroso, German Chancellor Merkel and George Bush having openly and publicly acknowledged the initiative. Quantitatively, 3C’s participating companies have grown threefold (from 17 to 49) all in the space of 10 months. The company’s short-term expectations include reaching 100 participating companies by 2009 as well as getting as many on-board before that at the 3C summit due to take place later this year.

If 2007 was all about communicating climate change and global warming to tom, dick and harry; 2008 will be about incorporating it organically and inherently in corporate social information and through the means of business sustainability and endorsement.