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Do brands and agencies have an environmental duty?

02 Jan 2020  |  Rosie Kitson 
Do brands and agencies have an environmental duty?

Mindshare's Rosie Kitson outlines how agencies can fulfil their environmental duty without sacrificing their integrity or their bottom line

With increasingly vocal calls from environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion for profound and immediate action to tackle the climate crisis, businesses, agencies and brands can no longer ignore the impetus to act.

At Mindshare’s Huddle this year we hosted a panel featuring CEOs, founders and activists to discuss the role that large companies can play to improve the environment – both through operations and marketing – and what they can do to encourage their audience to change their behaviour in a positive way.

Indeed, the overwhelming conclusion was that the advertising industry can and should be acting collectively to tackle rising levels of pollution, deforestation, melting glaciers, growing extinction rates and other catastrophic effects of climate change to our planet. The question remained – how?

Why the future of our planet is in the hands of business

Businesses are increasingly considering their role in society’s transition to carbon neutrality. For example, through their products and services becoming inherently sustainable, engagement with green charities in a way that’s not simply paying lip service, or supporting their customers in making the necessary changes in their lifestyles.

It’s the first steps of a long walk ahead, but we realise that a more environmentally positive agency/client relationship is not only achievable, but something that is needed and wanted on all sides.

There’s no doubt there is an increasing amount of pressure from everyday consumers in terms of exacting positive change when it comes to the future of our planet – whether that’s protesting in the streets, recycling, or taking public transport on a more regular basis.

With leaders as young as Greta Thunberg leading the charge it’s clear that now, more than ever before, we are starting to realise what is at stake for our future generations if we do not act now. As such, there is a strategic business imperative (not to mention a moral obligation) to explore radical change in marketing and operational strategies.

Audiences expect deeper and more profound relationships with brands today. Social media has helped to bridge the gap between consumer and marketer, but all too often leaves a vacuum of emotion in its wake.

We believe there is a huge opportunity for agencies to fill this void, not with listless and aimless ‘content’, but with ideas and initiatives that help to foster a more environmentally conscious audience.

If they can do that, and nudge consumers into action whilst also plying products and services in a creative and compelling way, then they might just be able to fulfil their environmental duty without sacrificing their integrity or their bottom line.

Mindshare’s response to this challenge: #ChangeTheBrief

#ChangeTheBrief is a systematic approach to the creation of marketing and media plans specifically designed to inspire and support small changes in behaviour that will help address the climate crisis when done at scale.

We know that this is not always what our clients are looking for from the outset. #ChangeTheBrief is a commitment to create work which answers the ‘Now’ brief and also the ‘Future’ brief - one which encourages the attitudes, lifestyles and behaviours that are consistent with a transition to a carbon free world.

Beyond selling in sustainable ideas, the initiative is designed to promote an open dialogue with our clients about the issues affecting and troubling our audience, both now and in the future.

In fact, we believe change starts the minute we introduce the topic of the Climate Emergency into a meeting. We hope that through this work we can engage a wider group of people with the climate crisis and do our bit to help prevent further global warming on both a personal and professional level.

It’s still early days, but with some major client and agency names such as Ogilvy and Unilever already lending their support to the programme, there is an exciting sense of momentum to this movement. Watch this space.

Rosie Kitson, joint head of strategy at Mindshare

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