As professionals in the world of branding, design and communication, and the creative industries as a whole, we can play a significant role in systems change to address the climate crisis. Let’s ensure that the climate strike becomes more than a one day burst of energy followed by a year of business as usual.
Here are four ways I believe we can make a profound long term change happen. If you have more ideas or a different opinion, comment below!
[ In the Netherlands, the inspiring Lucy von Sturmer and Mark Aink have put together an excellent list of immediate action on various fronts that I highly recommend anyone to take a look at and commit to ]
1) Put our talents at the service of changemakers
As brand developers exclusively dedicated to social and environmental change, this one is, of course, a no-brainer for us at The Brandling.
Ken Garland and his First Things First manifesto laid the groundworks for this line of thinking decades ago in 1964, and though I have a number of problems with the manifesto, I think the essence is correct and the document maintains relevant today.
As creatives, strategists, copy writers, marketeers, PR agencies and advertising professionals, we can put our skills to work to advance social and environmental change:
Clearer communication that resonates, rather than alienates, people of different cultural backgrounds and beliefs
Stronger brands that reach bigger audiences, with smart brand strategies, positioning and value propositions that resonate with the best and biggest possible audiences
Design thinking has proven extremely effective in creating better products and services for social impact, so leave your ego at the door and join design thinkers in the trenches
Building brands for change is an expertise in and of itself, and deserves to be a topic of research and publication. For instance: sustainability is unfortunately not necessarily a strong value proposition for most consumers, so understanding your audience and what matters is crucial. We’ve opened up this great essay from Brand The Change on selling sustainability.
2) Make the creative industries sustainable for the long term
Beyond allowing employees one day off to join the strike, as the creative industries we have a role to play in reducing our own contributions to the crisis:
Sustainable practices should be a standard component of all design education
National Design Associations have a role to play in encouraging and supporting their members in switching to more sustainable practices with quality resources (training, information, best practices)
Design media and design celebrities can play a role in amplifying sustainable processing and practices
Universities can conduct more research on sustainable and impactful practices and open it up beyond their student body
3) All creative companies should become B Corporations
How we use and invest our money, how we produce our products, how we treat our employees, are all ways to make a difference.
Unfortunately, creative industry companies are not exactly known for their inclusivity (cultural diversity, gender balance or people with disabilities), their progressive HR policies or the rigorous ethical and environmental scrutiny of their supply and production chains. A framework like B Corporation can help create a holistic approach that guides your company to improve on all these scores.
Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. Because few creative industry companies are seldom publicly traded and therefore beholden to shareholders, they are therefore in a great position to take matters in their own hands.
B-corps are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. B-Corps is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good, and creative industry companies should be a significant part of that movement.
Certifying as a B Corporation goes beyond product- or service-level certification: it measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. The B Impact Assessment evaluates how a company’s operations and business model impact your workers, community, environment, and customers. From your supply chain and input materials to your charitable giving and employee benefits, B Corp Certification proves your business is meeting the highest standards of verified performance. B Corp Certification doesn’t just prove where your company excels now—it commits you to consider stakeholder impact for the long term by building it into your company’s legal structure.
There are many testimonials of the value B-Corps brings to a business, and licensing is not expensive, so don’t let that thought get in your way.
4) Help clients make better choices
When our own eyes have been opened by what we can change in our practices to reduce our footprint, we can now amplify this awareness through our professional collaborations.
Most professionals in the creative industries work on commission, and therefore walk the delicate line between advisor and executor. Where ever we have a position to advise a client to make more sustainable choices, we can. Where ever we have the position to make those choices on their behalf, we should.
Whether it is in the sectors of industrial design, architecture, fashion, graphic design, advertising or digital: we can all choose sustainable and ethical production methods and go one step further by eliminating as much waste as we can. We will all have to make some difficult trade-offs: flying a campaign movie crew to Argentina because of the weather or risking a shoot in the Dutch climate? I’ve been there. Creating a paper version of your book or not? I’ve been there too.
Even though we should always aim at making the biggest impact possible at scale and systems-level, that doesn’t excuse us from making small but significant changes in our own practices.
Here are six tips on creating more sustainable brand merchandise by Juliette Schraauwers
When I teach changemakers about building stronger brands, I always share practical examples of walking your talk: at a WWF event, we were given water bottles wrapped in plastic. At a women’s empowerment NGO, we were handed t-shirts produced in Bangladesh. This simple call out helps open people’s eyes.
When we add up all these decisions over the course of the year, we can make an incredible difference.