Lara Lee

Conducting quantitative research for Climate Neutral to help incentivize decarbonization

My Role

Volunteer Researcher

Business

Climate Neutral

Year

2023

Browse the case study

Background

Client: Climate Neutral

Partner organizations Peak Design and BioLight founded Climate Neutral in 2019 with the goal of eliminating 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030 — a milestone date for fighting climate change. Climate Neutral believes that all individuals can use their purchasing power against climate change, and all brands have the tools to be carbon neutral.

They launched a new certification program that awards the Climate Neutral Certified Label to clients who meet the gold standard for the measurement, reduction, and offset of carbon into the environment. In return, clients join a supportive community, gain access to exclusive tools and resources, and enjoy several marketing benefits.

Climate Neutral hopes to drive demand for climate neutral products and services and to award their certification to as many brands as possible.

Challenge

How might we maximize visibility and usage of the Climate Neutral Certified Label?

Climate Neutral wanted to better understand how certified brands are using their Certified Label in order to maximize the use and visibility of their Label and gain awareness for their certification program.

They asked volunteers to investigate a list of 338 certified brands to identify the presence and presentation of the Label on brands’ websites, social media, products and/or packaging, and other channels. Furthermore, Climate Neutral needed to build a library documenting examples of said usage.

By gaining an understanding of the ways brands currently use the Label, Climate Neutral may gain insights on patterns, successes, and pain points as well as identify new opportunities for the Label’s promotion.

Team

Me, Volunteer Field Study Researcher

Bridget Thorpe, Climate Neutral Project Lead

Tools

Platforms

Adobe Illustrator • Figma • Google Sheets

Deliverables

Google Sheets (x32 columns of attributes researched)

Certified brands research (x338)

Data visualizations (14x bar/pie charts,
11x infographic-style visual mock-ups)

Slide deck

Process

Deciphering previous findings

Each volunteer received their own copy of a Google Sheets document listing the 338 certified brands. A previous project (for which I had also volunteered) answered 11x basic questions about the Label’s usage such as whether the brand’s…

  • Website displays Label and on what web page
  • Product displays Label and where
  • Instagram profile identifies Climate Neutral
  • Instagram or other social media posts the Label
  • Blog displays the Label and/or identifies Climate Neutral

Additionally, volunteers were prompted to decipher these findings, add their own perspectives, and identify opportunities for the Label.

However, I identified a few issues with the current data set:

  • Many brands made changes since the initial  audit
  • The Google Sheet’s taxonomy of answers was slightly imprecise and inconsistent, creating confusion among volunteers who interpreted the questions differently and therefore answered different questions
  • Represented an incomplete view of digital usage

I therefore needed to resolve these issues for the most accurate analysis.

Auditing from the perspective of a digital marketer

First, I developed my own taxonomy of questions, answers, and tags and updated my Google Sheets template.

I then re-audited all 338 certified brands as quickly as possible to best capture a singular moment in time. This minimized any changes or discrepancies.

Finally, with my strong background in visual design and advertising agencies, I expanded the audit to answer a total of 32x questions.

I explored the Label’s usage…

  • by brand demographics
  • by onsite location (website, blog, etc.)
  • by offsite location (social media, products)

and further described the Label’s:

  • information hierarchy
  • presentation
  • behavior
  • timing of appearances
  • examples in action

Surprising findings

I began my analysis after my (re-)audit. A few patterns emerged that challenged assumptions and surprised me.

For example, I thought brands might use more generic messaging to describe Climate Neutral’s Certified Label but instead there tended to not be much messaging at all. This to me suggested a general lack of awareness regarding all decarbonization programs and not just lack of familiarity with Climate Neutral specifically.

On the other hand, I was surprised by how often brands shared their own SEO link equity from hyperlinked Labels with Climate Neutral, strengthening Climate Neutral’s own online visibility as well.

Data visualization & presentation

Climate Neutral encouraged volunteers to present their findings in whatever ways they felt best. My visual design experience lent itself to a nice Figma slide deck. I studied Climate Neutral’s own website, blog posts, and social media to tailor my own slide deck to adhere to their brand’s unique look. I hoped to make my presentation as presentation-ready as possible for our project lead to share with the team!

The amount of quantitative data was a lot to digest. So I must strategically choose how to visualize it so the data is concise but informative.

My 36-page slide deck packed a lot of information:

  • the actual pie and bar charts
  • larger call-outs on the charts for key stats
  • small call-outs explaining trends in the sidebar
  • key takeaway slides gathering related stats
  • visual mock-ups illustrating the statistical average
  • screenshots of examples of usage
Brand Demographics looks at relationships and industries of the certified brands.
Offsite Usage looks at blogs, social media, and products for things like the Label's visual prominence in UI, SEO link equity, frequency of posting, and more.
Next Steps shares my observations, thoughts, and ideas for opportunities.
An infographic breaks down the age of the certified brands's relationship with Climate Neutral.
A stacked bar graph identifies the most common industries of the certified brands.
A nutrition-label inspired infographic shows examples of varous Labels within their web page layouts — such as a dedicated hero section — and their frequency of occurence.
A bar graph breaks down the frequency of social media posts with Label displays and/or text mentions.

Perhaps my favorite part were the visual mock-ups of the “average” web page, blog post, social post, and product. The mock-ups point out defining attributes from an actual brand example. They basically captured all the results of the Certified Label Field Study’s 338 brands’ 32 attributes into 4 simple slides.

Average Social Media Post
Average Blog Post
Average Product

I finished the slide deck adding patterns I noticed, potential causes for those patterns, and opportunities to respond to those patterns in ways that increase the Label’s visibility among brands.

Results

My Certified Label Field Study both confirmed long-suspected trends and revealed surprising new insights to the team at Climate Neutral.

For example:

  • It confirmed that certified brands preferred to renew their carbon neutrality with Climate Neutral again; and that building awareness in climate changes and solutions is an on-going endeavor.
  • It also revealed that marketing agencies dominated service-oriented certified brands; and that while the vast majority were product-oriented brands, fewer displayed the Label on their actual products — limiting Climate Neutral’s brand exposure to consumers.

Ultimately, Climate Neutral was happy with my work and felt both informed and inspired for their next steps.

Conclusion

Climate Neutral used mine and other volunteers’ presentations to discuss internal strategy and next steps. They’ve teased a revised Brand Search landing page using insights from the volunteers to help tag content and highlight information consumers are seeking.

“Lara Lee, you took the date and went to this whole, distinct level of analyzing Climate Neutral as a whole. We had no idea that X percent of our certified community was in this industry or this industry. So, you surfaced a ton of new insights that we had no idea about ourselves, but then also integrated a ton of information about SEO and other types of practices. It was another [analysis] with super-deep granularity.”
The letter B.
Bridget Thorpe
Climate Neutral, Project Lead &
Brand & Communications Managers

Reflections

This quantitative research project helped me learn about how Climate Neutral’s certified brands publicly commit to investing in the climate and demonstrate corporate responsibility to social and environmental issues.

It also exposed me to new insights within the climate industry as well. Our team discussed the trend of “greenhushing”: that many corporations aren’t very vocal about their green efforts, either unconsciously or consciously. This wasn’t really a perspective I had considered, and it opened my eyes to a new obstacle many climate organizations face while encouraging people and businesses to do more to solve the climate crisis.

If I had more time, I would’ve liked to perform qualitative research as well to capture the other perspective: the consumers.’ It would be interesting to gauge their awareness about climate neutrality in general; their thought process behind purchasing decisions; and their attitudes about green (and greenwashing!) movements.