The Environmental Issue

Issue 61 | January 2022

For over 30 years, governments have been meeting regularly to make plans to deal with climate change. 

COP26 from October 31st to November 12th in Glasgow was the 26th of these United Nations ‘Conferences of the Parties’. 

At COP21 in Paris, 197 countries agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. 

COP26 from was show time. The 197 nations were asked to show exactly what they are doing and what more they propose to do to deal with the crisis. 

What organisers were hoping for was that the biggest countries would unite in agreeing to a list of practical measures. 

1. To secure global net-zero by 2050 and keep 1.5° within reach. 

2. Protect homes, livelihoods and lives in countries most at risk. 

3. Ensure developed countries provide the $100 billion per year (at least) it’s going to take. 

4. Collaborate between governments, businesses and civil society. 

In the last three years there has been a marked increase in the number of brands adding their voices to those of concerned lobby groups and conservation charities. 

This is partly because brand managers can see that sharing their customers’ values is about benefiting the bottom line as much as it is about corporate social responsibility. 

And if their customers are becoming greener, then it behoves them to do the same. 

Following the money, Cannes Lions created a Sustainable Development Goals category in 2018. 

In 2021 this was won by AMV BBDO for The Central Office of Public Interest. The idea was to allow every home in London to learn about the levels of air pollution where they live at (featured in Directory 53). 

However, by my calculations, the winners of seven other Grands Prix also had a green purpose to them. 

Renault gave every family in a small, remote French village an electric car. 

Also in France, Carrefour is setting out to make food production safer, better and fairer for producers. 

In the USA, similarly hoping to transform agricultural practices, AB Inbev has pledged to support farmers as they transition to organically-produced grain. 

In Sweden, H&M is pioneering ways of reweaving old clothes into new garments. 

And so on. 

Green is big. And getting bigger as entire companies pivot towards sustainability. 

Most famous pivot of all has been Unilever. Under CEO Paul Pohlman, the CPG leviathan declared its Sustainable Living Plan as far back as 2010. 

In 2020, new CEO Alan Jope launched the Unilever Compass, based on the principle that “brands with purpose grow, companies with purpose last and people with purpose thrive.” 

Directory has featured several campaigns from IKEA as the Swedish home goods and services conglomerate becomes increasingly aware of how damaging rampant consumerism can be. 

To keep their old products from becoming landfill, they will now buy back furniture, restore it and sell it. 

Profits and purpose are not necessarily in conflict. 

I remember Extinction Rebellion turning up to Cannes Lions in 2018 and denouncing advertising and advertising people for being part of the problem. 

But we are a large part of the solution. 

Advertising can (and will) play an important role when it comes to teaching people new habits and how to live better. And agencies will become becoming trusted business partners as brands look to them for ideas that will give them a competitive advantage in our changing world. 

The situation is serious. 

But what gives reason to hope is the fact that in the run-up to COP26 there was a flurry of advertising as brands set out their stalls. 

The Guardian. NatWest declaring they have £100 billion for climate change projects. 

Sky (see page 22) and Volvo Cars UK (page 24). 

Every poster site in Glasgow was taken up with ad aimed at the delegates, most notably a campaign from Iris for Quadrature Capital and, most interestingly, a campaign crowd-funded by Australian humourist Dan Ilic mocking the Australian government’s lamentable record on climate action. 

All in all, Directory received over 20 campaigns from organisations agitating for change. 

Over the following pages you can see some of them. 

Each of them was a single voice demanding Biden and Bolsonaro, Johnson, Macron and Modi should listen. But together they make a din that may even have reached the ears of Putin and Xi. 

So, was COP26 a success? 


There were new promises, there were new initiatives and 40 countries did commit to completely doing away with coal-fired power. But consensus is that more has to be done before COP27 in Egypt in 2022. 

Marketers take note. 

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