How do we engage people outside of our communities on the topic of USGBC’s new vision? And green buildings generally?

When it comes to engaging the Indian consumer around green buildings, the starting point has to be the pandemic. COVID-19 hasn’t replaced climate in the importance of sustainability initiatives — it has amplified it.

In a global, post-COVID survey of eight countries, including India, we found that 70% of the public now makes the connection between human activity and the climate. And in India by itself, 65% say they are as concerned about health as they are with the economy. Not only are they are making this connection, but they are also even more aware of the environment. 

So the question becomes:

How do we tap into this awareness to move to adoption of green communities, buildings, and cities?

Buildings are part of the solution and are connected to both how we spread the virus and collectively fight the virus.

This is the key message we want to convey to the public. And the good news is that public is already there: 62% of the global public say that climate change has an effect on their local community. And in India alone, 51% are making decisions with their purchases based on whether private companies are integrating the environment into their products and operations. Compared to the U.S., only 30% are making these same purchasing decisions.

This is our opportunity to design a more resilient future.

We need our community to understand, reimagine, and prioritize the spaces where they live, learn, work, and play.

Only through trust and comprehension can we rebuild and recover economically from COVID-19 and raise the standard of living for everyone.

These are the four ways, based on our research, to connect in a post-COVID world:

1. Indian consumers adopt green practices downstream, but do not see green buildings as an upstream solution to protect their health.

Indians are very aware of the impact of clean water and clean air on their health. The problem is that they feel like the onus is on them as consumers to purchase products at the very end state — downstream — to address these problems, rather than seeking out or advocating for LEED buildings, which inherently benefit their health by design upstream. This creates an opportunity to tie into existing beliefs.

2. Misconceptions about accessibility and cost are the biggest obstacles to broader adoption.

People in India associate green buildings with luxury hotels, office parks, and industrial zones — they do not see important structures like a school, temple, or residential building as potentially being a green building. We have to do a better job at showing local examples of green buildings to help bridge this disconnect.

People have misconceptions about accessibility: who green buildings are for, how much they cost, and that they’re physically far away. If the opportunity is to talk about benefits, then the blockers are about cost and accessibility.

3. The top ways to motivate engagement among consumers around green buildings are: health, productivity, and pride.

The top ways to motivate consumers to embrace and demand green buildings is by going through health. Health is the number one motivator for greener buildings, so bringing in buildings as part of the pandemic conversation is truly an opportunity. The second highest motivating point is showing employees how they’ll be more productive. And the third, which is unique to Indians, is there’s a real sense of pride in place and being in a green building and feeling like that is powerful and meaningful — pride that the building owners have invested in them in this way and invested in their health. 

4. COVID-19 creates urgency around public health and the economy — green buildings must be part of the solution.

COVID-19 creates urgency around public health. The challenge here is bringing in green buildings as part of the solution as we emerge from COVID-19, as opposed to treating green buildings as something to deal with after it’s all over.

We must bring more humanity into our conversations.

Be relevant. Use stories of green buildings and green practices in the Indian market, focusing on their concerns and reality (air quality, water quality, congestion, suffocation, etc.).

Be accessible. The images that we use to show green buildings need to be buildings that are connected to their daily lives. Show it is possible for an average citizen to be in a green building through easy-to-relate examples (schools and multifamily residential is a start) in urban centers, not the periphery, and making them accessible to all income strata.

Leverage existing practices and beliefs. Green is seen as greenery, so that has to be part of our visuals as an entry point, but we can’t stop at exteriors: We need to tap into their practices around air and water filtration to show how green buildings provide an upstream solution to their daily concerns.

Educate on the benefits. With low awareness, facts are needed to inform and arm consumers with data to advocate to their decision-makers.

This presentation includes more data from the research, how USGBC is making the case during COVID-19, and more. Use it to present to your audiences, and reach out to [email protected] with any questions.

Findings are based on independently-directed, broad consumer market research of beneficiaries and building decision-makers, and includes qualitative and quantitative research using three methodologies: in-depth interviews, focus groups, and a global public opinion poll. The in-depth interviews and focus groups were conducted by ClearPath Strategies from January 21, 2020 to February 5, 2020. ClearPath conducted six in-depth interviews with real estate, construction, and AEC professionals from Bengaluru, and three focus groups with consumers working in manufacturing factories, small businesses, and enterprise businesses, also in Bengaluru. The report also includes survey results from the BCG Survey on COVID-19 and Environment (n=3249), conducted May 20-29, 2020, in Brazil, China, France, India, Indonesia, South Africa, the UK, and the US.