Shifting the sustainability dial through the lessons of D&I

The media industry has shifted the dial in the diversity and inclusion space – but what role does the media and advertising industry have to play in connecting the dots on sustainability?

Climate Visuals lead, Toby Smith, spoke on this panel discussion.

Watch the event recording on the Channel 4 website.

Nature visuals: Diversity in images of England’s natural spaces

Photos of the natural environment do not reflect the social, ethnic or geographic diversity of the country, which may create barriers to some people enjoying and feeling a sense of belonging in  nature. How can we build a better, more inclusive visual language?

Images matter. As people, we need to see ourselves in images relating to the natural environment so we connect with them and see the relevance of them to our lives. The photos we see of natural spaces need to be inclusive, authentic and show people from diverse backgrounds in diverse outdoor spaces. This is also important for connecting people with messages around our big challenges including climate change and biodiversity loss. Experiencing natural spaces in all kinds of ways helps to provide that connection and we know that for some, this is not currently part of their lives.

This matters for climate change too. Spending time in nature is a proven way to engage people with the climate crisis and a lack of inclusive imagery makes it harder to build a diverse climate movement.

Natural England commissioned Climate Outreach to speak with conservation organisations, community groups, online influencers and nature enthusiasts to explore how we can diversify the images of people and nature, resulting in a practical, evidence-based report. Below we highlight its set of six principles, developed to help guide the production of images that showcase the variety of ways that people can connect with and benefit from nature.

Photo credit: Mike Phill /

1 – Use images to tell positive, identifiable stories

Visuals can capture attention, promote interest and motivate engagement. Showing diverse individuals doing fulfilling activities in natural spaces will enhance feelings of inclusion and belonging. These positive representations are critical for reaching out to people who are left out of traditional outdoor narratives

Photo credit: Cheryl Duerden

2 – Create authentic representation, not tokenism

Authenticity is critical to telling an empowering, inclusive story that audiences will connect with. Stock imagery and staged portraits provide a veneer of representation but are not empowering and may backfire if they are perceived as fake or tokenistic. Display real images of diverse individuals enjoying a variety of natural spaces in ways that can connect with them on a personal level.

Photo credit: Joel Redman /

3 – Depict diverse activities in diverse landscapes

The cultural narrative of what it means to enjoy the outdoors is dominated by a narrow subset of landscapes, activities and people. Expand representation to break through harmful stereotypes and embrace new and different visual narratives of spaces, people and activities.

Photo credit: Tasha Thompson /

4 – Connect people to the wonderful diversity of natural places, from urban parks to national landscapes

Most people live in towns and cities and most outdoor experiences occur in urban areas. Yet imagery of natural spaces focuses on the countryside.  We need to show more urban green areas and tell visual stories about people enjoying nature in their everyday, as well as on holidays. This could be walking a tree-lined urban avenue or walking a national trail, a day trip to a city park or to a national park.

Photo credit: Joanne Coates /

5 – Include more real people in images

Images of idyllic countryside tend to dominate the visual story, but they do not fully represent the many reasons people enjoy the outdoors. Broaden the visual narrative and connect natural spaces to peoples’ everyday lives by capturing the many ways people use the outdoors to connect with friends and family, as well as with nature.

6 – Diversify who is behind the camera and the message

Fixing the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘where’ of outdoor imagery is only part of the solution. We also need to diversify who is behind the camera and designing the wider communications, in order to provide greater authenticity and empowerment to those being photographed.

A diverse group of individuals are already harnessing the power of social media to shift the outdoor narrative by documenting their own experiences. Learn from these people and work with them to create new visuals.

Principles at a glance

Watch the webinar

Here we present our report and findings and show visual examples while hearing about the practical changes we need to see around nature visuals from photographer Joanne Coates and  Judy Ling Wong CBE, an environmental activist. Watch the Nature Visuals webinar

 

BBC Climate Question: Does climate change have an image problem?

Toby Smith, our Climate Visuals lead, spoke about the imagery we use in communicating climate change on the BBC’s Climate Question podcast. Listen here.

Climate Visuals on display at COP26

Climate Visuals images hung on the walls at  the COP26 Climate Talks in Glasgow last year – overlooking world leaders and delegates.

The photography exhibits featured prominently in some of the most influential negotiating spaces at the conference in the so-called ‘Blue Zone’ (the Leaders Lounge; the main thoroughfare connecting delegate meeting rooms; and the Catering and Coffee area) as well as the ‘Green Zone.’

The exhibits showcased impactful, diverse photography showing what climate change really looks like around the world. The collection was curated from several sources, including:

  • our open call for photography in collaboration with TED Countdown which attracted submissions from photographers in over 150 countries and has resulted in 100 images freely available to global editorial media, educators and campaigners
  • our collaborative web resource on Indigenous media presence, which provides 8 recommendations for the media to achieve a lasting, positive, and impactful media presence for Indigenous peoples
  • images from an upcoming project with Natural England aiming to increase engagement with nature and climate through diversifying representation in English nature imagery
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