I Heart Advertising


Sustainability isn’t a key purchasing driver for the majority of consumers. But when they discover more about a company’s credible sustainability work, their affection and loyalty to the brand deepens.

I adapted (stole) that from this Guardian article on gum arabic (capitalisation not necessary); an ingredient found in most carbonated soft drinks, which comes with a whole host of externalities, but so often neglected from sustainability reporting.

I’m going to follow suit and neglect that as well. The point I’m trying to make is, the green purchaser doesn’t exist and never will, at least not in the numbers great enough to satisfy most ROI requirements. Furthermore they’re unlikely to want to invest time and money, making a small impact on a faraway place, at some time in the undetermined future.

Although I hate advertising as it’s manipulative, prays on the vulnerable and inescapable, when executed well, it is so damn effective. Great advertisers and this includes soft drinks companies, always answer:

  • Why should I care? (You shouldn’t)
  • How is this going to change my life? (It isn’t)
  • What do I need to do? (Ignore it and run for the hills)

Sustainability and advertising go hand-in-hand. If advertising is a necessary evil of the modern world, it might as well be for something good.


We’re all human

I recently relaunched a new website for Elstat, who design energy saving solutions for commercial refrigeration systems. Their energy savings are massive, absolutely massive; since 2004 they’ve saved nearly 15bn kWh, prevented the release of over 8 million tonnes of CO2 and saved store and building owners over $2bn. Huge numbers, but therein lies the problem. They are so big, they are nigh on impossible to comprehend and put a human perspective upon them.

If we take winning the jackpot on the national lottery, the odds are 14m:1. Odds clearly not in your favour, but I can never knowingly experience 14m anything. My friend, a maths graduate, put it in to perspective for me; he said winning the lottery is like selecting the correct minute out of 26.5 years! I can’t experience 14m unknown things, but I can experience 26.5 years (I’m 25 years old by the way).

And now I don’t play the lottery.

The default setting for environmental communications, is to either promote the doom and gloom (please see my first ever post on A Work in Progress) or to baffle you with large numbers which are then transformed into other large numbers you don’t understand or ones that don’t even make sense; i.e. saves 100,000 trees.

The messages I instead created are human-centered, focussed on actions present in our everyday lives.

Take for example the Global Impact page. The numbers are massive, but at the bottom of the page I inserted one tagline to put some perspective on it: Last year we saved enough power to charge every iPhone, ever sold, every day for 4 years. In fact it’s probably double this, but this is the minimal level.

Does this work? Tell me what you think.

Global Impact

A Work in Progress

I’ve only been working within sustainability for about two years, so I don’t claim to be an expert nor do I really care deeply about it (I much prefer watching football on Saturday afternoon or leaving my workplace early on any given day). In fact what I can say, is that I’m sick of sustainability; I’m sick of a failed ‘environmental movement’, sick of people’s perceptions, misgivings, our politicians collective incompetence, corruption and the exploitation of vulnerable, deprived people, communities and scarce resources; I’m sick of moaning, because this is what the environmental movement has been doing for 60 years, I’m sick of hearing my own voice, so someone else might as well listen to my musings.

But what about the successes that this movement has brought? I’m repeatedly told that our awareness of environmental issues and the plight people in absolute poverty has increased tenfold. I feel that’s utterly meaningless. If for the last 60 years all Coca-Cola had done was to make people aware that Coca-Cola existed, would they sell 1 billion servings a day? Would they still be in business? I doubt it. I’m then told the purpose of the environmental campaigners is to increase awareness of related issues, quite right. However that purpose was never enough, we need solutions, which cost less and look like Brigitte Bardot. But as I’m part of this failure I can’t forever wallow in my own self-loathing and thankfully over the last 10 years the tide has begun to turn dramatically.

Now I’ve gotten rid of the vague aspects I hate about working in this arena, what do I want to look forward to and what do I hope to achieve in the future? Personally I want to enjoy it as much as I enjoy watching twenty-two men run around a field, extending their legs when a spherical object approaches them, striking it using their foot, with adequate force, forcing the ball to move, in the desired direction. If only we all had the motor skills to perform such tasks, the world would be a much simpler place. I want solutions. I want sustainability to respond to my most basic of wants and emotions. Sometimes it does, but not nearly enough.

Admittedly I’ve gotten off to a bad start, but from this point forward I will attempt to bring readers reviews of design solutions, insight and some of my own work that highlight sustainability for what it is; the biggest and most exciting business opportunity the world has ever seen. I think I still have to convince myself of that, never mind whoever wishes to read this.