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Reframing the role of creativity in sustainability

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"There is nothing new under the sun." This ancient expression from the Book of Ecclesiastes made it through to us to this day, and it is especially relevant to the world of creativity: there isn't really anything new and original, just remakes and subtle adaptations of what is already out there. When you think about the studies proving that we are no more intelligent than the Ancient Egyptians from thousands of years ago, it kinda adds up.

If you consider this simple fact, the solutions to our everyday problems, whether it be sustainability, community, purpose or anything else, have always been there at our disposal somehow and it is now about harnessing the power of technology to make them come to life. But how exactly can we do that? And why does it matter so much?

To discuss the topic further, we got in touch with Gaby Ciordas, Founder and CEO at Creatopy, who shared his views on creativity and sustainability below.

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Nothing new under the sun: reframing the role of creativity in sustainability

There is a famous ancient passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes in which the author frequently complains about the monotony of life. 

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

The phrase “nothing new under the sun” sticks with us to this day. It speaks to the idea that there are no truly ‘new’ ideas, only adaptations and remakes, subtle variations which reflect a specific time, place, and need. 

But how do we square this idea with the generational challenges we currently face? From COVID-19 to climate change, the issues facing us are all-encompassing and can feel unprecedented. We know that finding new, sustainable means of living is critical for the future of our brands, societies, and life as we know it. 

Design will play a crucial role in delivering this change. So how can we combat these unprecedented challenges with precedented thinking? 

The building blocks of brands

Sustainable design is the product of long-term thinking. For startup businesses and entrepreneurs, sustainability can feel like a hurdle to leap at a later date. But this is an illusion. Sustainability is an urgent issue for all businesses - and having sustainable practices is essential for an organisation’s long-term survival. 

Gartner’s latest consumer sustainability trends report found that 73% of UK consumers want to be more sustainable in 2021. Brands and businesses are responding to this surge in sustainable demand, with 96% of companies included in the research stating that they “are feeling increasing pressure to become more sustainable”- while 86% expect their sales to grow over the next year from a greater focus on sustainability.

A separate study by Unilever established that 33% of consumers now select brands based on their perceived position on social issues and their environmental footprint.

Consumers want sustainable brands - and so it is critical for brands to have sustainability visibly baked into their DNA. Not only to save the planet but to bolster their own resources, with sustainability leaders often outperforming their outdated competitors financially.

A recent ‘Badvertising’ report from The New Weather Institute pointed to the impact of advertising on sustainability. It states that advertising’s role as an accelerator of materialism, consumption, and climate catastrophe means it is no longer viable. Advertising is an essential investment for brands - and so it was no surprise to see media owners rise to meet these challenges proactively. 

Sky recently unveiled a £2m ad fund to support climate-conscious brands and help the broadcaster achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. The ‘Sky Zero Footprint Fund’ allows brands to use TV to promote positive behavioral change regarding sustainability. The fund is open to brands, media agencies, and creative agencies, with the most powerful idea handed £1m in advertising support. Four runners-up will be awarded a further £250,000 each.

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Leading by example

Sustainability is not skin deep. It needs to be embedded in the foundation of your business. We believe this - and put it into practice quite literally. 

At Creatopy, we have strong principles around sustainability and our impact on the world as a business. When designing our new office, we were conscious of the environmental impact of large, concrete structures. Beyond the cost of concrete itself, most buildings of that type burn fossil fuels to keep warm—especially methane. The world’s annual fuel consumption to heat these buildings is almost twice as big as the overall quantity of fuel used by all the cars, airplanes, and boats put together. 

Our new office was constructed with ‘passivehaus’ principles at its foundation. We chose to build a ‘passive’ building, one which is made entirely of ethically sourced timber, massively reducing the ecological footprint of our home. 

We wanted to create an environment that, by its own very nature, inspires and nurtures sustainable action and thinking. This translates into the design of the office, which is an open-plan space to encourage open-work flows and an orchard outside where employees can grow and pick their own fruit.

Sustainability from home 

In the current climate, replacing your office with an eco-friendly wooden replacement isn’t the most immediately relevant practical advice. 

But there is still a huge opportunity to transform the WFH experience into a more sustainable lifestyle - and it begins with an investment in technology. Creatives need to embrace tools and technology to assess their carbon footprint, even when employees are spread across the world WFH. Brands are expected to know - and are expected to share - the ecological impact of their campaigns. 

In November, the AA launched Ad Net Zero, an interrogation tool for breaking down a campaign’s energy usage, travel decisions, and the environmental impact of its production and distribution. With carbon reports becoming mandatory for large companies by 2025, such tools could soon become an industry standard to measure a campaign’s carbon impact. 

This year of lockdown has illustrated the power of technology and creativity to surmount challenges. It’s now no longer about flying across the world to put together elaborate shoots - it’s about using technology to unlock potential anywhere. Creative collaboration tools and technology reduce paper waste during content production and aid this shift from a global, unsustainable approach to content production towards this eco-friendly Hollywood green screen production style. Technology allows for creatives to join together wherever they are and produce exciting and engaging work. Look at the advert for EA’s Fifa 21 - produced in the midst of a lockdown, the spot was filmed entirely by footage shot by the players themselves at home with an iPhone. 

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Advice for leaders

It’s important to remember there is nothing new under the sun. Though the challenges we face may feel unprecedented and uncomfortable, the solutions to these challenges already exist in some form. 

Whether through turning to old techniques, as we did with our ‘passivehaus’ office design, or harnessing the power of technology and the data of the information age to make our climate impact clear and understandable, the solutions to the challenges we face as a society today will echo solutions of the past. All they need is for us to reinvigorate these ideas with creativity and modern technology. 

Brands and creative agencies have a decisive role to play in designing a sustainable future. But you must bring your employees and partners along the journey with you.

This is about more than tweaking your supply chain - it’s about communicating a global social priority. 

The time for action is now. No matter the size or age, the agencies and brands which lead the way in the sustainable revolution will be the first to see positive results and reap the rewards. We’re all on the same earth under the same sun - and we must think a little more creatively so that we do all we can to protect it. 


Gaby Ciordas is the Founder and CEO of Creatopy.
 

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