Navigating the Energy Transition

Trends / Sustainability
Sandra Michalska
Mar 2, 2022
Cop26 2021has accelerated the race towards net‑zero emissions. The increased attention on Europe’s ambitious plan to become the world’s first carbon‑neutral continent2 has encouraged media to speak more about the necessity of accelerated “Energy Transition.”  While generally defined as a pathway toward the transformation of the global energy sector from fossil‑based to zero‑carbon,3  the term remains abstract. This lack of clarity makes it complex to visualise.

Customer searches for visual content are reflecting this transition. At Getty Images and iStock, our European searches for “oil gas” have declined, while searches for “energy transition,” “energy efficiency” and “net zero” are rising. As sustainability remains the core driver for the shift achieving net‑zero ambition requires broader economic, social and technological transformations. Consequently, the visual translation of energy transition goes through all those multi‑faceted elements, from operations, workforce, services and the most recent technologies to end‑consumers' adoption. Seeing energy transition through the lens of Getty Images' Visual GPS research which shows what matters to today's consumers can help you choose visuals that will impact your audience's decision‑making.
SUSTAINABILITY: From Fossil Fuels to Renewables
Faced with apocalyptic media headlines, consumers expect sustainability to be a part of every business purpose and therefore visual strategy. 8 in 10 Europeans expect brands to be environmentally sustainable in all their advertising and communications,4 and on the cusp of the climate crisis, the call for accelerated action towards low‑emission energy is unequivocal. Yet the change for industries that have relied on oil, gas or coal since the outset, will not come overnight. For the energy sector, it is important to show energy diversification. A transparent, yet future‑driven visual strategy will drive trust, especially in times of increased sensibility to greenwashed messages. Our Visual GPS survey reveals that Europeans place education as one of the top actions companies can do for sustainability. Helping your audience to understand how you balance fossil fuels with renewables and how you work towards better energy efficiency will inspire trust.
TECHNOLOGY: For a Low Carbon Future
Technology opens the door to further innovation of energy diversification by including an array of low‑carbon innovations and decarbonisation.At Getty Images, customers have been searching for visual solutions depicting energy technology such as "hydrogen," "carbon capture," "cogeneration" or "smart grids." While these terms speak easily to energy transition professionals, consumers and investors also seek to understand their impact more clearly. From new angles highlighting R&D efforts, artificial intelligence or digital transformation acceleration, complex technologies and terms require clear depictions. For example, illustrations and videos are often helpful to illustrate technical topics in a concise, visual way.
With so many new technologies, photography, illustrations and videos all present an opportunity to educate the audience on how your innovations are future and people‑driven.
Showing Wellbeing Credentials
Months of confinement and the global health crisis have called on us to take a closer look at our well‑being. More than a third of Europeans now place health as a higher priority than before, and this calls all brands and businesses to think of ways how they can include health and wellness in their strategy. If the pandemic has put a spotlight on the importance of self‑care, the ongoing health threat broadens wellness perceptions from self to collective, with a focus on a healthy work environment, communities and the planet. Yet only 1 in 4 energy visuals shows the people working behind the scenes. A missed opportunity for brands, as caring for workers on renewable projects is increasingly important in visual communications.
Our Visual GPS reveals that 8 in 10 consumers will not support companies that are dishonest and unfair when dealing with employees. Consequently, what once has been a purely internal communication issue, employee wellness has become an essential part of brand image, regardless of sector.
Empowering Inclusion
If visuals can help you illustrate your energy diversification or technological efforts for decarbonisation, showing people that are behind those actions is equally important. Visuals have the power to drive literacy around energy transition, but it is also important to build a visual strategy that speaks truths to your audience, whether it's B2B or B2C. Our Visual GPS reveals that inclusion drives participation, and the top visual preference that drives Europeans' decision‑making is “seeing people like me and my life.” However, our in‑depth research on the most popular imagery used by our European energy customers shows a lack of inclusive representations of intersectional identities. For instance, only 1% of visuals with people featured persons with disabilities, even though 1 in 4 people in the EU have a long‑term disability.6 Furthermore, more than half of Europeans that we surveyed said they experience discrimination for more than one aspect of their identity, and only 2 in 10 judges that brand communications show a lot of diversity. So, there is a visibility gap that all brands can bridge, and empowering inclusion will be rewarded with higher engagement.
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