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Sustainability Needs to Become an Emotion.

Can we transform a threat into an engaging quest? The EU has a grand vision for a green future, but it has not yet captured the hearts of the common people. We can revert that.


By Giuseppe Cavallo, Founder at Voxpopuli Labs. Member of the international thinktank on Conscious Branding: Medinge Group

Sustainability Needs to Become an Emotion

Bono Vox of U2 once took the stage with an unexpected prop: a European Union flag. It wasn’t really a patriotic gesture; it was a symbolic plea for the European Union to transform from an idea into an emotion. This act encapsulates a profound truth that can be harnessed to accelerate the urgency for fostering sustainable behaviour and combating climate change. The power of emotions can ignite a revolutionary shift in how we engage the public, policy makers, and even sceptics on the path to a greener future.

Emotions are the invisible driving force that shapes our thoughts, decisions, and behaviours. If we want to move people in a direction that is congruent with alleviating the effects of climate change and improving the sustainability of our world, we need to leverage the power of emotions. We must distil the overwhelming data on climate impacts into compelling narratives that first stir hearts, then convince minds. We all remember the first release of “Un Inconvenient Truth’’ by former Vice President of the United States Al Gore. That was a very powerful first step into the right direction. Many more are needed. We must build narratives that strike right into the heart of people and move them to action. The potency of Al Gore’s documentary lay in the story he told—a story that remains the prime conduit for evoking emotions.

Yet, it’s important to tread carefully. Weaving emotion into storytelling demands ethical considerations. Avoiding manipulation and fear-mongering is paramount. Instead, stories should inspire positive action, fostering a genuine connection between individuals and the planet.

Storytelling isn’t without its challenges. Scepticism and resistance are inevitable reactions to emotionally driven narratives. Addressing these concerns head-on, can create a more compelling result.

The power of story

Story is all about desire and tension. The desire of something that we long for and the tension that comes from opposition to getting it. Great stories are about big problems that are made bigger by the presence of a strong villain and more important by the fact that they threaten our own identity, who we are.

Take Neom City. Perhaps the world’s most audacious urban project ever, it is the Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince’s vision of a 170 km long city that will be home to millions. It is also known as “The Line’’ and certainly represents a great story: the story of a visionary quest that defies reason and encounters great opposition from many.

Elon Musk’s proposal to go to Mars is also an attractive quest story: an adventure in space and in the future, a conquest story, a story of power over the elements, a story of overcoming our own limits as a species that was meant to live on one only planet and escapes the perimeter of its world when it becomes inhospitable.

Both stories have captured the hearts of many and generated a massive conversation around the world.

A grand vision to be harnessed

Can we do the same with the European Union’s Green Deal? Can we transform it into a prime example of policies turned into a quest that emotionally engages the public? This comprehensive plan aims to transform the EU into the first net-zero continent by 2050. Along the way, it sets ambitious intermediate goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and generating 40% of the EU’s energy from renewable sources by the same year. This journey isn’t just about numbers; it’s a saga of nations uniting to protect their shared home, embracing a sense of responsibility, and ensuring a brighter future for generations to come.

If we want to move people in a direction that is congruent with alleviating the effects of climate change and improving the sustainability of our world, we need to leverage the power of emotions.

Yet, as it is told today, the EU Green Deal is a negative proposition, because it’s about resolving a problem, not reaching a vision. We are concentrating on communicating how to keep Earth’s temperature to grow below 1.5 degrees, we are concerned about a transition that doesn’t harm our economy too much, and we are considering what we have to renounce in order to be able to live on a planet that is worn out by our depletion. This is not the way to engage people. We need a grandiose vision of a future of happiness and wellbeing that motivates us in taking the necessary steps towards sustainable development.

Imagine weaving the EU Green Deal into a narrative that resonates with people’s emotions. Picture stories of local communities thriving on renewable energy, visualise the success of farmers adopting sustainable practices, celebrate the innovations of industries that change the game in the field of nutrition for the masses. These stories, fueled by the power of emotions, can galvanise the public to actively support and participate in the journey towards the first truly green continent.


In the grand narrative of our planet’s (or our species’) survival, emotions are the unseen tool waiting to be harnessed. Bono Vox’s poignant gesture with the EU flag is a clarion call for us to embrace the emotional facets of sustainability. By weaving stories that touch the heart, we can turn apathy into action, scepticism into belief, and indifference into passion. Sustainability is not just a concept, it’s an engaging story waiting to be told and lived.

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