Smile – creatives can save the world

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I have a challenge for anyone within the creative sector. Whether you’re a designer, digital wizard, stylist, director, photographer, illustrator whatever…I challenge you to use your creativity as a force for good.

Creatives have much more influence and power than they realise. We help build brands and create desire. We shape consumer behaviour and develop loyalty. And when a brand, product or service starts to lose traction with consumers and sales take a dive, it’s the communicators and image makers who are drafted in to save the day.

We are in a unique position to steer the direction of travel beyond just delivering the client’s brief, to something more fundamental. Yes, of course, we need to deliver the brief too, but let’s be a little braver, let’s ask a few more questions and let’s make what we do count.

This might sound idealistic and grandiose but each decision that is made within our loosely defined ‘creative industry’ matters, it really does. And who better to take a stand and use their passion, enthusiasm and skills to create a better world than the creative sector?

I’m not saying we al have to become bunny hugging, knit your own houmous, eco-warriors, I’m just saying we need to ask ourselves a couple of extra questions before we get stuck into answering the brief. Anyone in the creative world knows to ask questions, it’s what we do – what’s the objective, who is the audience, what’s the deadline, budget, visual style, format…etc. But let’s add a couple more to the list – is this something worth doing? On balance, is this a good thing to be doing? And can I make it better, not just creatively, but in terms of sustainability?

Ask yourself…can I reduce the environmental impact of the materials I use, can I reduce waste, energy, water use? Can I minimise travel, source local labour and services, re-use and recycle what I do need to use…the list is obvious but it matters.

And guess what, here’s the thing. You’ll annoy a few people for sure but on balance giving a sh** will pay dividends. Brands, big and small, are finally sitting up and realising that their values mean as much to customers (arguably more) than their products. So having values, being proud of them and sticking to them is not only good news for the planet, it’s also good for you too. Business can no longer exist outside the confines of an economy that depends 100% on natural resources. Every product, every service, every brand should knows this by now. Being sustainable is the only option for brands that want to stay in business.

The irresistibly compelling truth about sustainability is that the small stuff matters. Yes, the big stuff matters – legislative change, technological innovation, scientific breakthroughs, money being used for the right causes. Yes, this all matters a lot but so do individual actions, our behaviour and our clients’ behaviour. Small nudges in the right direction ripple out and gather momentum.

This is the dawn of the age of responsible, sustainable brands. The consumer expects it and will soon demand it. Social media is the CCTV on the brands we love and loathe. The control and power has shifted into the hands of the consumer and, I would argue, into the hands of the communicators – and that’s you.

It’s an awkward and unwieldy word sustainability but we’re stuck with it. And hidden within its awkwardness is a compelling and beautifully simple idea. Get used to it, use it as short hand. Learn to love it. It’s an idea that can feed your creativity, your imagination and make being creative worth doing all over again… and again. Now that’s something worth smiling about.

Chris Dessent is managing director and co–founder of Creative Concern.

Creative Concern is part of a European network of agencies focussed on sustainability communications called DNS – Do Not Smile.

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