Repicture Environmental Care

Trends / Sustainability
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Maxine Ihezie & Rebecca Rom-Frank
Aug 18, 2021
When visualizing sustainability, there is a need to move away from clichés, while still maintaining the overall feeling that care for the environment is in people’s hands—both figuratively and literally.

Visual Evolution
Back in 2015, at Getty Images, our top selling visuals related to sustainability were the familiar conceptual cliché of hands holding a sprout (seen below, left). In 2020, it was an image containing many of the same visual symbols—hands, soil, sprouts—but showed a candid shot of an individual repurposing plastic bottles for their garden (seen above). Along with the rise in search terms such as ‘environmental protection’, this tells us that our European customers still want to convey the theme of care in sustainability visuals, only now in more authentic, personal, everyday situations. 
The time is right for showing how sustainable choices fit into people’s lifestyles. Our recent Visual GPS research found that 95% of European consumers now engage in sustainable actions in their daily lives—whether recycling, using reusable cups or bags, or purchasing second‑hand goods. And 6 in 10 European consumers say they only buy products from brands that make an effort to be eco‑friendly. After the United Nations’ recent report which says that we are entering a critical phase in combating climate change, it’s likely that consumers will only continue to seek out ways to make sustainable consumer choices. 

Actionable Tips
Taking a moment to care about one’s carbon footprint is now part of European consumers’ daily lives, so visuals that show this will resonate. Brands are looking for new ways to tell visual stories about sustainability, just as consumers are looking for new ways to show that they care about the environment. Here are some tips for choosing visuals that show these themes:

  • Tell new stories. People are doing their part in many new and creative ways. Show the real, creative sustainable choices that people are making in their everyday lives in order to move away from clichés and expand the scope of sustainability visuals.
  • Make it personal. Authenticity and emotion always resonate with consumers. Show the authentic, positive emotional rewards that come from leading a sustainable lifestyle for individuals and communities. For example, an exciting new purchase at a charity shop, or bonding with children when teaching them about sustainability.
  • Inclusion is key. Show that sustainability is accessible to all by including everyone in proactive environmental care stories. Whether visualising community clean‑ups or education around sustainability, including a range of ethnicities, socio‑economic groups, body types, sexualities, gender identities, religions and abilities in visuals to reflect the diverse audience.
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