On 6th February 2020, I attended and participated in the Creative Changemakers event in Kings Cross, London, organised by the amazing team at Creative Conscience. The event had an awe-inspiring line up of speakers and debates and it has encouraged me to take action, now!
The debates were meaningful, unfiltered, fiery and full of genuine passion coming through from participants.
Creative Conscience is a global movement inspiring creatives to apply their skills and talent for socially valuable projects, promoting sustainability, freedom, social health and well-being. The event was spread across 4 days promoting Mental Health, Environment and Creative Thinking to solve the problems that are troubling our world today.
Pitching for Sustainability
The event started with Chrissy Levett, founder and CEO of Creative Conscience, encouraging us all to close our eyes and think as she said –
“Imagine a planet where everything we create, design, build and manufacture serves humanity and our planet.”
The effect was profound, as my mind went blank until I saw beautiful green forests and the ocean and realised, nothing (or in some cases very little of what) we do, actually serves us as humans. We are just making stuff, in order to consume stuff and continue to earn money to buy stuff!
Chrissy inspired us with her own true story. Working as a creative director gave her an opportunity to think of creative solutions for not just visual beauty but how things were made, such as a real opportunity to make a product’s packaging eco-friendly. With much enthusiasm for this solution, Chrissy added this to the agenda of one of her pitches 10 years ago. To cut a long story short, this got her in serious trouble at her job. As we all know, it has never been easy for us to integrate the conversation about climate change in our creative decisions, but Chrissy reminded us – as designers, we don’t just have the freedom but the responsibility to involve the decision-makers to take sustainability into the equation.
Business as a Force for Good
Xavier Rees, CEO of global marketing agency Havas UK, spoke on behalf of many B Corps there. His attitude and charisma reminded us that we all can make an impact. His mantra “Get shit done”, was infectious. Xavier went on to say how we have treated our planet and people pretty badly and it’s time to make a change. The reliance on Government is not good as they can’t change fast enough even if they want to, whereas business has the power to create a rapid change if it wants to! Xavier urged creatives to think of certifying as a B Corp – no matter the size of your business. If you haven’t already, join the movement today. B Corp is the trophy that Havas is proudest of!
Technology and hope
Next up was everyone’s hero – Jonathan Porritt, the man who started Forum for the Future in 1974, before most of my team were even born! Jonathan needs no introduction and no PowerPoint slides, as his wisdom and sheer knowledge on the subject of sustainability is enough to influence us all. His words, such as “We are now in The Critical Movement”, resonated with everyone. He talked about the scale of the challenge that lies in front of us, taking into consideration what we know about how long we have, and how clear scientists are with no residual doubts. Jonathan reminded us of the power of young people such as Greta Thunberg, giving us some “hope in hell”.
Jonathan talked about how technological solutions already exist for creating a decarbonised world and also about recarbonisation i.e. adding carbon back into the world in the form of blue carbons – carbon-dense ecosystems where plants meet the ocean in coastal areas. This is now in front of policymakers and it’s giving us hope! Jonathan completed his talk with an important take-home point “Private sector and civil society alone aren’t enough. We have to bring political systems into this. Political passion has to be part of the piece.”
This definitely was just what we need to hear as I think I’m more on Jonathan’s viewpoint that we need to tackle the issue from all sides and giving up hope on the Government is no good!
Meaningful work from L&Co
Paul Barlow from branding agency L&Co, showed us some amazing work that their team has been up to since they certified as a B Corp. They recently created an app called Placer to democratise work experience for a more diverse range of students to have access to these vital opportunities. He also showed us a couple of other case studies such as Unsaid Communications and G9 Ark, which is launching in early 2020. The work looks absolutely beautiful and it shows how a creative agency can use their creative skills as a power to further the mission of positively charged organisations.
B Corp Panel
Chaired by Paul Barlow (featured earlier), this panel had Chris Turner, CEO of B Lab UK, Matt Hocking of Leap & Soli Townsend from Futerra.
Chris started off with an explanation of the what, how and why of certifying as a B Corp. B Corp is a powerful movement created to reinvent the role of business. Certified B Corps take action and transform their businesses to use them as a force for good. Matt Hocking, an amazing graphic designer and a B Leader, runs Leap, a graphic design agency in Cornwall. Matt’s business has not only declared a climate emergency but also has given a platform for others to shout about it (from the virtual rooftops) with amazing open to use graphics for declaring climate emergency! Matt spends an unprecedented amount of hours influencing other businesses to certify as a B Corp by showing first hand what it would do for your business and the betterment of this world. Leap was the first of many design agencies that are now certified as a B Corp. Matt’s passion for creative work to influence the world shines through in his speech and actions. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, don’t’ miss it!
Soli Townsend, Co-founder of Futerra, the sustainability communications agency, was a brilliant influence on the panel. Soli explained how Futerra combines the two very different types of people (2 teams) i.e. Logic and Magic, to create a genuine difference.
Soli’s company Futerra has never backed any other movement than that of the B Corp movement. Futerra, like Wholegrain Digital, is passionate about a fossil-free future. Futerra, a founding B Corp in the UK would back out of the movement if an organisation like BP joined it. Her views resonated with me on many levels.
Soli explained how B Corp certification came around when they were incredibly busy in the business with client projects and therefore they worked through the questionnaire until they reached a score of 80 (passing mark) and then the next time round they worked to answer more questions to improve their score. I think this was a very clever strategy. Soli suggested that everybody should try, even if they don’t intend to certify, because it acts as an objective framework that helps you determine what needs to be done within your business.
Soli highlighted the issue with the B Impact Assessment‘s questions primarily catering for the manufacturing industry, not so much for the creative industry and therefore the opportunity to improve the score is limited.
After this panel, I thought of how the B Lab UK team (who monitors the certification scheme) must have to resist the temptation to dumb the assessment down in an attempt to encourage more uptake. If they’re not ambitious enough then it will be difficult for them to appeal to more businesses but if you raise standards too high you may alienate people who are already certified. So how do you take people with you on the journey to ever higher standards? – that’s the challenge.
A Plastic Planet
Next up was Sian Sutherland from A Plastic Planet. Sian’s talk really brought it home as to how we’re living with plastic addiction! Did you know that only 9% of plastic is recycled in the UK?
The statement that really grabbed my attention was this quote:
Unilever CEO, Alan Jope – “I sometimes wonder if we’re in the branded litter business.”
After Sian’s talk we broke for lunch and it was an absolutely fabulous vegan lunch arranged by the team at Havas. Big thanks to them!
Rebelling to not go extinct!
Will Skeaping has been with Extinction Rebellion since the beginning i.e October 2018. He is challenging the advertising industry to tackle the climate and ecological crisis. Will also co-edited the movement’s best-selling handbook ‘This Is Not A Drill’ and works with related arts organisations Culture Declares Emergency and Project Pressure.
Will told us that Climate Change is painting a bleak picture for all of us humans. It’s not personal and yes, it is happening, and we need to adapt, FAST! It doesn’t matter if you ridicule this ‘fact’, cry, panic, think you’re doing your bit or not. The sooner we get our head around the fact that ‘everything is going to change’, the better. Nothing will be the same in 10 years from now. This includes your job, your circumstances, and how you live. The sooner we come to terms with this, the more chances we have as humans to survive.
Did the above get your blood pumping? It did for me! Will made a huge impact on everyone in the room. This very strong message was aimed at everyone in the room to get up and take action.
Digital: Panel Discussion
Digital is a very wide topic. Therefore fitting a discussion in 30 minutes was a challenge!
Bethan Harris, CEO of Collectively was the chair and Umesh Pandya – Wayfinder, Harriet Kingaby -founder of the Conscious Advertising Network and myself were on the panel.
We discussed the opportunities that digital life brings us today and what keeps us up at night.
I elaborated on how open source allows us to improve standards for all aspects of the code including accessibility and performance, and how WordPress is my favourite platform. It currently powers over a third of the internet and therefore it’s a huge opportunity and a responsibility to make better. We love sharing our best practices. These 455 million sites can be made better with every improvement we make in this open-source code ‘WordPress’ which, therefore, has a positive effect on the internet.
I also elaborated on the carbon impact of the internet. I encouraged people to use Website Carbon to measure the CO2 impact of their website.
What really keeps me up at night is the need to accelerate the awareness of CO2 emissions from the internet. This subject is now reaching the tipping point of conversations in the media. However, the global data consumption of the internet is ever increasing and looking at that trajectory we really need to get a grip before it becomes an un-tackle-able problem.
After the panel discussion, it was a shame that I had to head to a meeting and therefore missed the UX design panel discussion headed by James Bidwell from Re-Set. I am hoping that they’ll have a YouTube video later in the year that I can watch.
I would definitely recommend attending all four days next year.
Thanks to Chrissy, Paul, Linda, Louise and so many volunteers that made this happen.
The Creative Changemakers is all about taking action and inspiring action. Here are Paul’s 3 takeaways from his talk, which feel like the perfect ending to my article!
- Become: a certified B Corp
For those new to the B Corp movement: Becoming a B Corporation consists of using the B Impact Assessment framework/tool to objectively measure your efforts in various areas of business and review your practices. It guides you rather than rely on your own opinions. The tool also helps you find gaps and learn. It points to what you could be doing and helps you step up your game. It helped us further our mission.
- Read: Let my People go surfing.
- Learn: from Project Drawdown