Is being a creative bad for the planet?
You don’t need me to tell you that the news about the climate isn’t good.
And if you’re anything like me, the recent IPCC report has produced waves of fear, anger and above all, self-reflection.
I’ve always been someone who sees themselves as eco-minded—I don’t eat meat, I try and buy package-free, I own a bike (sometimes I even ride it).
But there’s always been something niggling away at the back of my mind working as a creative.
It’s a great job. We get to hang out with interesting people all day, come up with ideas and make them happen.
But is it possible it might not be so good for the planet?
Sometimes it can feel like our job as creatives is to come up with ideas to help companies sell more stuff—ostensibly the very last thing the planet needs right now.
But should we be so hard on ourselves?
Is there actually a positive role for us to play without us all having to quit our jobs and move to a commune?
Not everyone can work for Greenpeace.
We need normal, everyday people to care and to act, and the creative comms industry could actually be one of the best places to make this happen.
Hear me out.
We work in close contact with some of the world’s biggest brands everyday.
We know the faces behind those seemingly ‘faceless’ corporations and we have direct access to make change with the people that matter.
Little by little, nudge by nudge, idea by idea, we can make things happen.
If sustainability is baked into our values, we can approach decision makers with our thoughts and plans for how they can change for the better, and how this will benefit their business, making this a natural part of the consultancy we offer.
We can tell clients if we think their latest sustainability effort is all talk, we can show them examples of what others are doing and how it would work for them.
We can be advocates for the planet in small ways, every day.
Gone are the days when agencies would be brought on for the ‘spin’.
Our role has become much more nuanced and insightful, focused on public good as well as perception.
Working in creative comms, we have innumerable channels at our disposal and we can use the media’s appetite for newness to our advantage.
Remember when Tiger made a billboard from pollution absorbing ink or when Corona got fisherman to fish for plastic?
Ok, so maybe these campaigns didn’t change the world directly, but they brought new approaches, technologies and ways of thinking to the climate discussion. If our role as creatives is to link information, create solutions to problems and create buzz, then surely we can put all of that to good use?
And yes, it’s just marketing at the end of day.
But is there more to it?
Recent campaigns have actually changed things, real actual laws, not just more eyeballs on a product. Lad Bible’s Illegal Blood Bank campaign contributed to gay and bisexual men now being able to donate blood (building on the foundation of years of activism from LGBTQ+ groups leading to the decision) and Iceland got palm oil on the public’s agenda in a way it never had been before - to name a few.
Not every brief is going to have the climate at its core, in fact, some might be the total opposite, but if you work for an organisation that shares your core values you’re much more likely to do the kind of work you can actually be proud of.
I keep coming back to the phrase, ‘we don’t need a handful of people doing sustainability perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly’.
We need people to advocate for the planet in every job, every facet of society, from office cleaners to CEO. A job is one part, but there are still petitions to sign and protests to join. Just because you work in this industry doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for change.
The climate needs our creativity more than ever.
If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our weekly email alert and receive a regular curation of the best creative campaigns by creatives themselves.