Sustainability Communications – Winning Hearts and Minds

Today’s Rise and Shine was our first without Planit-IE croissants for all! We usually pile into the studio on a Wednesday morning for a shared breakfast and uplifting session aimed at developing our understanding, increasing knowledge and challenging perceptions. After a brief hiatus, whilst everyone adjusted to working from home, Steve Conor’s ‘Sustainability Communications – Winning Hearts and Minds’ talk was a great way to kickstart the programme again via Zoom.

Steve is the CEO of Creative Concern, a marketing agency based in Manchester. He specialises in ethical and sustainability issues, integrated campaigns, city strategies and brand development, as well as the creation of strange installations out of trees, lights and beautiful type. Steve and his colleagues led the branding and messaging of the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s Bee Network campaign and the Climate Change Board for Manchester City Council, both of which Planit-IE is deeply involved in and a firm supporter of.

With our bowls of cereal at the ready, and microphones on mute, Steve talked us through Creative Concern’s purpose, where the company came from, who they work with, who they don’t work with, and how they operate. With an aim of creating ‘communications for a better world’, they will only work on projects with brands and companies that help to further social and environmental causes. This includes supporting public companies, NGOs or private companies who are trying to do sustainability better. He ran us through an array of their projects, ranging from the Northern Forest campaign that revolves around the 25-year vision to plant 50 million trees in the North of England, through to the ZERO MEANS ZERO campaign with an Argentinian firm surrounding the exploitation issues with soy.

Our creative juices flowed as we salivated over their Coalition for Urban Transitions graphics, but most importantly Steve challenged our thoughts, preconceptions and approach. No matter how worthy the message relating to sustainability, it can’t be effective unless it speaks to and resonates with those who receive it. His nine top tips for sustainability communications have been developed over numerous years and campaigns, several of which he used as examples. Informed by an appreciation of human nature, psychology and societal dynamics, he brought a neat clarity to the development of effective messages. My biggest take away was, despite the scale of the sombre challenges we face, fear has to be balanced with optimism to encourage people to make positive change. Steve also reminded us to ‘Smile, it’s OK to be good’ – humour can be a great way of making a serious point. The talk challenged us in many ways, and his insights into sustainable communications will be put to good use here at Planit-IE, especially as we continue our journey to B Corp accreditation; promoting more ethical and progressive approaches to business.

Many thanks to Steve. We are much appreciative of the time he spent giving this Rise and Shine session and the generosity with which he shared his experience.

Written by Marigold Melton, Research and Sustainability Assistant