From SXSW in Austin to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the current COVID-19 pandemic is resulting in the cancelation and postponement of events around the globe. However, according to environmentalist Lindsey Reynolds, Earth Day is one global event we simply “cannot afford to miss.”
Wednesday, April 22, 2020 will mark 50 years of Earth Day and for the past five decades, companies have used the occasion to insert their brand into conversations on combating climate change, supporting the environment, conservationism and more.
Cause-driven campaigns have become more important than ever during the current pandemic and brands are being strategic in how they can safely and respectfully acknowledge the upcoming holiday. In fact, the pandemic is giving consumers an even greater opportunity to scrutinize brands’ CSR initiatives, from how they respond to a public health crisis to how they support the environment.
There are various positive ways in which companies are celebrating 50 years of Earth Day amidst a public health crisis that is resulting in a tumultuous global economy and millions of people self-isolating in quarantine.
One way in which large corporations are celebrating the holiday this year is by partnering with environmentally-focused small businesses. There are various small businesses with strong roots in sustainable production. By highlighting these eco-friendly companies, corporations can support a small business being hit hard by the pandemic while simultaneously highlighting a brand that cares about the environment.
Another well-done Earth Day campaign amidst the current public health crisis was executed by National Geographic. The magazine’s April 2020 Earth Day issue is its first-ever augmented reality-enabled cover, which unlocks an AR experience on Instagram. The augmented reality–enabled cover comes to life with a cautionary look at climate change. Tying into 50 years of Earth Day, users can see projected climate data in 12 key cities around the globe and get a sense of what those places might feel like 50 years from now.
On top of a look at climate change, an article teasing the feature ties into the pandemic asking, “Today we’re fighting COVID-19. Where will our world be in 2070?” The piece poses a question of, “Will all coffee be fair trade? All cars electric? Or, by the time we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Earth Day, will hastening storms, pandemics, and inequality condemn our Earth?”
We’ve also seen the use of digital portals skyrocket during this time, as brands encourage people to stay home. NASA is one of those organizations, stating that, “due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, no in-person NASA activities are planned for Earth Day.” However, NASA is bringing people together virtually for Earth Day with new online content, programming, and activities, including an extensive array of at-home projects in the #EarthDayAtHome collection, which debuted Thursday, April 16.
NASA’s observation of the Earth Day anniversary began on March 3 with a “50-Day Countdown” of daily social media posts highlighting many of the agency’s Earth images and environmental projects. All of these posts are available on a blog updated daily on NASA’s Earth Day website, which also includes a toolkit of activities for students and families.
- Brands should be acknowledging the current atmosphere. Even if your Earth Day activation doesn’t directly have to do with the pandemic, it can be tone-deaf to not recognize the struggles that many consumers are currently facing. Even a simple, “in these uncertain times…” can go a long way. Make sure your call to action is something consumers can easily participate in given the current climate and keep the global economic status top of mind as well. This may not be the best time to ask consumers to buy a pricey item, even if it does tie into Earth Day.
- Companies are keeping their Earth Day activations digital. Create a blog post, online toolkit, e-commerce section to your site, AR activation, or simply a thought leadership post on social media; brands are keeping all their activations digital due to the current circumstances. Any physical activation, even if small, can be seen as dangerous or insensitive. NASA even adjusted their hashtag to #EarthDayAtHome to emphasize social distancing and participating from home.
- If possible, link your Earth Day activation to a COVID cause as well. From highlighting a small eco-friendly business to making sure your volunteer efforts are “green,” tying the two causes together can show your brand is in-tune with the current times.