Thinking Around Corners: Climate Change
When we started planning the Thinking Around Corners event in association with the APG we knew that we wanted to tackle the big issues. We have all had enough of introspective industry conferences – so we wanted to discuss things that require transformational thinking across different sectors.
You can’t get a much bigger issue than that of climate change.
Our recent research has shown that 60% of people think that climate change is one of the most important issues facing us. Remarkably, considering we surveyed during the current election campaign, Climate change is as important as Brexit to British people, and more important if you are aged 18-24.
What’s more, 80% of those surveyed feel that it’s critical that we do more about climate change. This is an unprecedented level of consensus. Currently, a huge one in four are committed to doing everything they can. 75% of people want to do something personally.
The numbers speak for themselves. We are a world away from scrubbing out a jam jar and feeling smug as we recycle it. People know they need major change, and they are willing to take major action to change their lifestyles – right now.
We also heard that most people want to do more but need help. Generally, they are more knowledgeable than ever before, but would gladly welcome more guidance and information. While they want to do things themselves, they see it as everyone’s responsibility, which means they expect governments, local councils and – crucially – businesses and brands, to step in and help them fight the good fight.
So, that is the context behind our recent, packed out Thinking Around Corners event in association with APG London.
A stellar line up of speakers, chaired by Firefish Group CEO, Jem Fawcus, included:
- Jeremy Mathieu, Sustainability Advisor to the BBC
- Ben Essen, CSO at Iris and the leader of Create and Strike
- Rob McFaul, client director at Mindshare and co-founder of the Purpose Disruptors
- and Pauline Robson, managing partner and head of insight at MediaCom.
Jeremy was first to take the stand to set out the scene as an expert in describing the gravity of the situation to audiences all over the world.
With precision and simplicity, he outlined the severity of the situation that we are facing. Since the end of the Second World War, when we moved to a society mass consumption society that had widespread access to fossil fuels for the first time, which “we have burned and burned like there was no tomorrow. We never thought about the consequences.”
He stated that in order to avoid catastrophic changes to our climate we need to stabilise global temperature at no more than 1.5°C above where it was prior to the industrial age. The kind of impacts he described if we fail did not make for easy listening.
“Ice caps melting, sea level rise and warming, extreme weather events such as floods, storms, droughts, fires, and collapsing of ecosystems. Which then leads to crops failing, mass migration, economic damage, and mass health crises. 100’s millions of people will be displaced in the next couple of decades. Not centuries.”
He continued, “it is not inconceivable to imagine people jumping on the back of a lorry to find a better life. It is not inconceivable to imagine people talking about building walls to keep others out in this kind of scenario. I am not talking about science fiction here.
Jeremy’s key point was that this is happening already, and it is almost already too late to hit the 1.5°C climate target.
However, to achieve any kind of stability of global temperatures, we need to move our current emissions to no just zero, but below zero – to a level that actually absorbs carbon from the atmosphere.
This is not just simply a climate issue. It is a political issue. A societal one.
At the moment, our best-case scenario is that we are relying on everybody alive in the second half of this century to live in societies that absorb a lot more carbon from the atmosphere than they put out. They will need to be net negative. We have no idea how to do that. We are talking about a totally different type of society.”
Understandably, the room was silent. For years we have been delaying the issue, putting our heads in the sand. But now, the science is staring us in the face.
“How do you feel about this?” Jeremy asked.
Guilt, anger, sadness and helplessness echoed throughout the room. However, having dealt with this among every audience that he presents the facts to, he cleverly reframed the issue.
“In the past couple of years there has been a massive shift and people getting on board with a transition to a regenerative society. You see people bringing their skills, their creativity, and their amazing potential to building it – and there starts to be hope.”
Jeremy highlighted that we can all do something in our personal lives and our careers to help make a difference. He did this by asking a simple question – “what kind of person do you want to be in this scenario?”
Our other speakers picked up from there and highlighted how the issue had affected them and what they were doing about it.
It is us – and our clients – that can join forces and be a part of change.
Ben Essen led the #CreateAndStrike movement, a protest aimed at the creative industry that was a resoundingly successful event, capturing the support of 160 agencies and putting thousands of people on the streets to support young people in their climate protests.
As our next speaker, he started by making a very important point: “We are all hypocrites,” he said. “The fact is, there is this irreconcilable tension between what [our industry] is paid to do and the things we need to be doing to limit the impacts of society.
However, if we try and get our houses in order first, it will be way too late. Our houses will never be in order. There will always be more we can do.”
Rob McFaul, Client Director at Mindshare, reiterated this by saying we need to go to brands and literally “change the brief”.
#ChangeTheBrief is an initiative that has been created by Mindshare to “help strategists and planners understand how we can promote sustainable lifestyles and attitudes in all the work that we do.”
Rob explained that Mindshare is now dealing with client briefs in two ways – creating work that answers the current brief, but also the future brief – “one which encourages attitudes, lifestyles and behaviours which are consistent with a transition to a carbon free world.” They are taking the problem that Jeremy described and not just ruminating on it but changing their ways of working to help.
He also flagged the Purpose Disruptors group to the audience, who will be holding events for people within the industry to attend and share ideas as to what we can do to tackle the problem together.
“It’s okay to be overwhelmed”
So said our final speaker, Pauline Robson, Managing Partner and Head of Insight at MediaCom, who also heads up MediaCom’s Green Team and is also a member of the Purpose Disruptors network.
“If you are not feeling overwhelmed, you haven’t understood [the issue] properly.”
However, using the examples of widespread reduction in the use of plastic straws and the proliferation of Keep Cups, Pauline reminded us that small steps – even though they seem insignificant on their own – can be a springboard to change: “ripples become waves.”
She reiterated that such changes start at home but then change the way you act at work, and in turn, the work you create.
To beautifully illustrate this, Pauline ended by reading the poem “Start Close In”, by David Whyte, an ode to starting small, believing in your own compass, and not being afraid to take that first, hardest step towards change.
Commenting on the issue and what was said at the event, Firefish Group CEO, Jem Fawcus, said: “We are all aware of how serious this issue is yet most of us carry on regardless. Jeremy’s talk highlighted how bleak the outlook is, and how we all need to take action now.
We do lots of work where climate stuff is an add on for brands and businesses. This highlighted that it must become a core strategy for all businesses, not just a tactical move, which completely mirrors what we hear in research all the time.
The examples we heard have led us to take stock of what we do at Firefish; we are going to redouble our efforts to reduce our footprint, we are going to look at making all projects carbon neutral and we are developing a ‘climate brief’ to add at the end of every debrief, to help bring the climate conversation to the heart of the business conversation.”
Watch the edited film of the evening below and, should you want to talk to us about a project that will include a climate brief for your brand’s challenge, then just get in touch.