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Flipping the script on sustainability narratives

Flipping the script on sustainability narratives

Why it's time for a new type of story. #ViewFromTheBrew with Ben Golding, Creative Director.

I’m so done with the same sustainability stories that crop up again and again, and frankly, I think the general public is too.

It’s been two years since businesses, generally speaking, decided that they had to care about the world we live in rapidly dying and that they feel they need to tell everyone that they care about this. Even if the majority of them are still very much responsible.

It seems to me there are three basic narratives that get trotted out time and time again, mostly because they are simple, easily told, and don’t leave any room for the brand to get lost.

  1. Saving the world is good. Thank god that you can virtue signal by using our goods/service, which might stop the Bad Thing™. 
  2. The world ending is bad. If you don’t use our goods/services, you are the reason nature is dying, because our way is the best way.
  3. We’re not perfect, but maybe if you use our goods/service, alongside a bunch of other things, we, all together, could stop the world ending/fishes dying/meteor hitting.

Obviously, all of these statements are carefully structured and caveated so that nobody is actually overreaching in their product claims, but the sentiment remains nonetheless. And I think it’s time we did better.

I’m bored. I’m so bored. And I’m pretty sure 90% of people seeing your adverts are bored too. After 18 months of actually giving a sh*t, we’re already at burnout.

So let’s mix it up. It’s time to move beyond the boring. 

It’s time to make work that actually makes people feel something, and makes them care about the world. Surely we’re ready to make people fall in love with nature. Isn’t it time we made them feel protective, angry, or embarrassed at least? 

This is where the opportunity lies; surely we’ve only just skimmed the surface of what’s possible when talking about our brands in this big ol’ hellscape we call sustainability. We need to move beyond babysitting our audience and trust that people will understand the logic behind less plastic = good or perhaps even meat every day = bad. Give the general public some credit, and assume that after a year and a half of being bludgeoned with the same messages, they’ve probably got it tattooed inside their eyelids.

The big way we, as creatives, can help save this world is by doing our job better. We can educate. We can illuminate. We can engage and empower our audience. 

So then, just how do we craft better stories?

I wish I had the silver bullet for nailing every brief but I’m still working on that one, so I’ll just have to give you three pieces of advice I use to guide my team.

  1. Be brave. Push the work as far as you can to try and make a connection. And when you’re with the client stick to your guns. Trust yourself!
  2. Ask for more. Ask questions upon questions of your strategists. Get to know the details and find the gems in the nitty-gritty.
  3. Respect your audience. The vast majority of people are not idiots, there's no need to baby them or play for the lowest common denominator.

For some reason, we have the privilege to craft these narratives for a living. We’ve been given the opportunity to connect people to these issues. To make them actually feel something. So let’s use our powers for good, and keep fighting the good fight.