Features

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Why aren't brands doing enough for the environment?

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It's no secret that the planet is suffering. Aside from Brexit, it's been the biggest thing affecting the news agenda for the past few years and coverage is only set to increase. But if the decay and gradual demise of our world is so important, why isn't the creative industry doing enough to slow down the process. Or is it?

Below, a selection of creative leaders from brand, agency and tech companies offer their views on the issue, including what they think about the current situation, whether enough is being done and what the solution is.

John Treacy, ECD, Proximity London

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Brands and the industry (a few brilliant one-off ideas aside) are doing nowhere near enough. We need to put our money where our award-winning environmental campaigns are. How about if every agency aimed to become a B Corps in five years? How about we put aside the rivalries that are so embedded in the industry and use our collective creative firepower to create truly behaviour changing campaigns?

I realise that’s a big ask, but when the issue is as big as it gets surely, we can all leave our egos at the door? The prize is way bigger than anything we might pick up in Cannes.

David Johnston, founder and ECD, Accept & Proceed

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Businesses and consumers have become trapped in a business model that no longer works. Brands need to move away from outdated measures of success based on revenue and profit and start focusing on all stakeholders. Brands measuring their positive impact on the environment has to become a key objective.

Right now we are in the midst of a global awakening and we can all do more. For the creative industries, we have the unique opportunity to influence and inspire clients to adopt a more sustainable and regenerative outlook, and we should be leading the way in implementing change.

We need to reinvent the feeling of fear and apathy surrounding the issue, to be replaced with optimism, inspiration and possibility. I recently read an article that was accusing companies of jumping on the eco bandwagon and ‘greenwashing’. Being green is not a new buzzword. People are in different stages in their awareness, but it will soon, if not already, become an essential element of business progression. 

We shouldn’t be shouting about what we’re doing and turning this into a green pissing contest. We all need to get on with it, and do it well. Any company that does not get on board will be dead in the next five years.

Ian Schofield, sustainability consultant, Elmwood

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In recent times, awareness at all levels of organisations have come alive to the fact our planet is in trouble.

This is now filtering through to all including the creative world. I really believe we can build sustainable solutions in at the start of the design and development process so it becomes an edict in the brief. The design world must lead with the help of technology to revolutionise the future of packaging and products and I believe they will. 

Major brands like P&G, Unilever, Nestle are fully committed to change, others need to do more by embracing new technology and to remove, reduce, reuse plastics. Some brands are caught in the "headlights" and will wait until the plastics tax is revealed.

Rob Bennett, CEO, rehab

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Creative tech experts should constantly be thinking of solutions because they have the skills to experiment and test them quickly and could really make a difference.

Research that brings together tech and mental health is constantly breaking ground. Whether its algorithms that analyse social media posts to find linguistic markers for depression meaning social media could be a diagnostic aid or Woebot which provides step-by-step guidance through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

At Rehab, we carry out monthly hack weeks to progress new ideas, We created a voice skill 'Recycle That' which encourages recycling. We also won gold this year at the Cannes Hackathon Change for Good for developing a way to help combat pollution through photo data.

Neil Mason, ECD, George P. Johnson

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Currently, there isn’t enough thought or investment being put into it by brands or agencies. This is due to the fact that there is a general lack of understanding around materials, their usage and impact on the environment.

If we were to look at the events industry as an example, carbon footprint statistics are rarely discussed publicly, and you have to dig deep to discover the industry’s effect on the planet. But tracking these is pivotal in order to come up with ways of reducing the industry’s environmental impact.

We need collective, industry-wide debates and forums to explore how we can launch new materials and find better suppliers to ensure a more sustainable future for the industry. Education is the cornerstone of a more sustainable future; from educating professionals and university courses on materials and their lifecycles to considering all aspects of an event (ranging from print materials to food and beverage) and how each one is affecting the environment.

Tommy Means, chief creative officer, Mekanism

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Are brands doing enough for the planet? I can honestly say that sustainability is rarely if ever discussed in the briefs we get. But there is hope.

Data shows that over 70% of younger consumers say that they are drawn to purpose driven brands. And brands with the clearest purpose have usually been crafted from the ground up. Method Home is a fantastic example. Their stated purpose is leave the planet a cleaner, greener place.

This mission is designed into every touchpoint of the company. Their factory is a LEED certified building powered by wind and solar. Their bottles are made from recycled bottles. And the soap itself is safe for your family and the planet. Other brands such as Allbirds, Tesla, Patagonia, and Impossible Burger were founded as sustainable products in service of driving profit. I hope more entrepreneurs will be inspired by the creativity of these brands.

Malcolm Waugh, CEO, Frugalpac

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There is a concerning amount of green-washing when it comes to disposable coffee cups, with the majority of manufacturers claiming their products are easily recyclable.

However, the overwhelming majority of paper-based cups are made from chemically treated virgin material which can only be processed by a handful UK recycling plants, meaning that most simply end in landfill or incineration sites.

Made from recycled paperboard, with no waterproofing chemicals, the Frugal Cup is fully recyclable and aims to be the number one solution for disposable coffee cups on the market today because they can be recycled in any paper recycling bin.

Consumers are demanding change, so it has never been more important for operators to take action, improve their eco credentials and meet their customers’ preferences.

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