This week is the Cannes Lions Festival Of Creativity – the huge annual jamboree for the advertising and PR industry. Sustainability is one of the main themes, but change isn’t easy for an industry based on selling more stuff to more people.
Advertising plays a pivotal role in climate change. On one hand, advertising defends the destructive oil and gas industry, greenwashes brands and drives consumption. As the recent IPCC report put it:
“A good number of corporate agents have attempted to derail climate mitigation by targeted lobbying and doubt-inducing media strategies.”
But on the other hand, the power of creativity and storytelling could change the course of climate change. The IPCC also made clear that:
“Socio-cultural changes within transition pathways can offer Gigaton-scale CO2 savings potential at the global level”
In non-geek speak…The IPCC is saying that culture eats climate for breakfast!
The creative industry must pick a side. And the urgency to do so just ramped up. Only last week the UN backed Race to Zero changed the rules for advertising agencies seeking to join. Now they are asked to calculate their ‘advertised emissions’ and produce Client Disclosure Reports of who pays their bills.
Advertising must change at the speed of climate change, because creativity isn’t neutral.
That’s why I celebrate, thank and uplift every name on this list. These people harness the best of creativity and are helping to divest talent from the worst climate culprits. They are fighting to make advertising part of the solution.
Follow them, interview them, hire them, work for them and invite them to speak, teach and provoke you.
IMPORTANT: The following list is personal – these are folks I know, have met, or been working with to change advertising for climate change. If there are other names, then I’d love to know them! The list is in reverse alphabetical order.
Zoë Red – Co-Director, Creatives for Climate @CreativesforClimate
Zoë Red is co-founder of the non-profit, Creatives for Climate, a global intelligence network of advertisement industry professionals with a shared mission to drive action on the climate and ecological emergency. She is an advocate for regenerative technology and using creativity as a force for good.
Editor of the movement’s best-selling handbook ‘This is Not A Drill’, William Skeaping organised a protest at 2019 Cannes Lions, applying pressure to advertising agencies to stop working with high-carbon clients.
Tom Firth – Founding Partner, M&C Saatchi LIFE @TomFirth
Previously the Managing Director of M&C Saatchi London where he oversaw many of their behaviour change and social impact campaigns, Tom Firth is now working on a global re-orientation of M&C Saatchi group around the sustainability agenda. Alongside Joanna Yarrow, ex Global Head of Healthy and Sustainable Living at IKEA, he founded the M&C Saatchi LIFE consultancy in early 2021 to work with businesses & brands to enable better living within planetary limits.
Tolmeia Gregory – Climate Justice Activist @tolmeia
Tolmeia Gregory is an artist and activist starting creative conversations about the climate crisis and how to reimagine the future as well as mobilising people into action. She is also a content creator for Clean Creatives at Cannes Lions 2022.
Tara Nolan – Chief Global Growth Officer, BeenThereDoneThat @TKNolan
Tara Nolan is the Chief Global Growth Officer of BeenThereDoneThat, harnessing the world’s best thinkers to solve the world’s toughest problems. She’s a sustainability advocate who blogs frequently to generate awareness and elevate the conversation around sustainability for brands such as SAP, Belvedere Vodka, Amazon Studios, Unilever, and more.
Tamara Daltroff – Director General, EACA @TamaraDaltroff
Tamara Daltroff is Director General at EACA, the voice of Europe’s communications agencies and associations, promoting the economic and social contribution of commercial communications to society. She has been elected first President of the global alliance of agencies ‘VoxComm’ and sits on the Boards of EASA and EDAA. She is working with agencies on improving their response to climate change.
Stephan Loerke – CEO of the World Federation of Advertisers WFA
The WFA is the voice of marketers worldwide, representing 90% of global marketing communications spend – roughly US$900 billion per annum. That gives them huge influence within the entire ad industry. Under Stephan’s leadership the WFA is tackling the climate issues with their Planet Pledge and forthright debates on the role of marketing in climate change.
Solitaire Townsend @GreenSolitaire
Co-founder of the award-winning global sustainability agency Futerra, which pioneered using creativity, storytelling and behaviour change for climate action. She was a 2021 Lions judge for the Sustainable Development Goals, and created the first Client Disclosure Report – newly accepted by the UN as leadership practice for the ad industry. She has over 1.3 million views on her TED talk about advertising and climate change. She’s also the author of this list 🙂
Simon Mainwaring – Founder / CEO, We First, USA @SimonMainwaring
Simon Mainwaring is a branding expert and author of We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World and Lead With We: The Business Revolution that Will Save Our Future. He is the founder and CEO of We First Inc, the award-winning strategic consultancy accelerating growth and impact for today’s top purpose-driven brands.
Simon Henzell-Thomas – Global Director Public Affairs and Advocacy, IKEA, Global @SimonHenzellThomas
Simon Henzell-Thomas is a purpose-driven change leader with 20 years of experience in the private sector and with NGOs. He has led multidisciplinary, multicultural teams in the fields of sustainability, public affairs, communications, strategic partnerships and stakeholder engagement. In his position, he is responsible for global public affairs and advocacy strategy and implementation, and purpose-led campaigning. Helping IKEA’s marketing to have a positive impact on people and planet.
Rob McFaul – Co-Founder, Purpose Disruptors @robertmcfaul
Rob McFaul is Co-Founder of the networking organisation Purpose Disruptors, whose mission is that the ad industry only works on brands, behaviours and lifestyles that are consummate with a 1.5-degree world. Rob leads on #ChangeTheBrief Alliance – a learning programme on how to promote sustainable lifestyles in campaigns. Supported by network agencies. Rob is also chair of the IPA Climate Group for Media Agencies.
Priya Sarma Mathur – Senior Sustainability and Corporate Affairs Head, Unilever @PriyaSarma1
As the Corporate Communication Manager at Unilever North Africa Middle East (NAME) region, Priya Sarma Mathur is responsible for all facets of corporate reputation building and protection, covering Media Relations, Employee Engagement, External Affairs, Issues and Crisis Management as well as building the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan as a source of competitive advantage in marketing worldwide.
Pauline Robson – Managing Partner, MediaCom @PaulineRobson
Pauline Robson is the key architect of the carbon calculator for media buying and planning. Pauline, along with Helen Brain, has been instrumental in driving the sustainability agenda at MediaCom.
Michele Oliver – Global VP Brands and Purpose, Mars Incorporated, Global @mitchyov
Michele Oliver is a marketing and communications expert with a passion for putting diversity, inclusion and equity at the heart of any strategy and team, founded on a wealth of experience including Vice Chair at Stonewall, Deputy Vice-Chair at the Unstereotype Alliance (UN Women), Government /Business Leaders Group for Disability Confident plus various E, I&D responsibilities at Mars. She is a regular speaker at industry events in the UK and Globally on brand building, the business case for purpose, as well as topics such as Inclusive Marketing, Representation and Gender Equity in business.
Melissa Mbugua – Co-Director Creatives for Climate & Co-Founder Africa Podfest @melmbugua
Melissa Mbugua is a trailblazer in social change across Africa and beyond, boasting a 10+ year career working for the world’s largest innovation organisations, as well as leading her own. She is Director of global non-profit Creatives for Climate, Co-Founder of Africa Podfest and Jury Member of D&AD Awards.
Maxine Joselow – Climate Change Reporter, The Washington Post @maxinejoselow
Maxine Joselow is a staff writer who anchors The Climate 202 at The Washington Post. Joselow came to The Post from E&E News, an environmental publication that is part of Politico. Joselow’s work has appeared in E&E News, Scientific American, the Daily Beast, and numerous other publications. She writes on the role of advertising in climate change.
Manuela Andreoni – Writer, Climate Forward Newsletter, The New York Times @manuelaandreoni
Manuela Andreoni is a writer for the Climate Forward newsletter. Before joining the climate desk, she was a fellow at the Rainforest Investigation Network, covering the Brazilian Amazon. Andreoni has covered the issue of advertising and climate.
Maher Nasser – Director of Outreach, United Nations Department of Global Communications and Commissioner-General of the United Nations at Expo 2020 @MaherNasserUN
Maher Nasser is the Director of the Outreach Division in the United Nations Department of Global Communications. He oversees varied communication initiatives and campaigns along with a number of partners. He spearheads many of the recent breakthrough campaigns by the UN on climate.
Lucy Von Sturmer – Initiator, Creatives for Climate, and Founder, The Humblebrag @thehumblebrag_
Lucy Von Sturmer is the Initiator of global non-profit Creatives for Climate, on a mission to arm creatives with the skills, knowledge and opportunities for action to tackle the climate emergency. Lucy is also Founder of The Humblebrag, an award-winning thought leadership agency and training academy for change-makers on how to use visibility to drive positive impact.
Lisa Merrick-Lawless – Co-Founder, Purpose Disruptors @lisaheadspace
Lisa Merrick-Lawless leads the GoodLife2030 Project, which invites the industry to reimagine what a more sustainable ‘good life’ is and launched at the IMAX at COP26. She has also been chosen as a Secret Speaker to present at Cannes Lions 2022 with the talk “The Climate Crisis is a Crisis of Imagination”.
Lisa Hogg – Founder, BRAVE Amsterdam @LisaHogg
Lisa Hogg is the Founder of BRAVE Amsterdam – an agency that aims to help businesses define their purpose strategies, through informed investments and behaviours. Hogg is passionate and motivated about social sustainability and brand management. A natural innovator with a proven track record spanning all areas of marketing and brand communications.
A passionate climate advocate, Laura Costello leads THINKHOUSE’s ‘Planet’ services – sustainability and purpose-driven work. In addition to brand projects, this includes managing the company’s B Corp certification process and driving sustainability education programmes. Laura founded Purpose Disruptors in Ireland in 2020. She contributed to Purpose Disruptor’s GoodLife2030 project and co-authored The Great Reset White Paper – outlining the opportunities the Covid-19 moment created to reshape the industry to serve people and planet.
Kimberlee Wells – CEO, TBWA, Melbourne & Adelaide @KimberleeWells2
Kimberlee Wells is Chief Executive Officer, TBWA\Melbourne. During her tenure, she has helped the agency win Network Agency of the Year; Digital Agency of the Year and a significant number of creative awards including the coveted Cannes Grand Prix Lions. In January 2022 she was named jury president for Cannes Sustainable Development Goals Lions.
Kathryn Lundstrom – Sustainability Editor, Adweek @klundster
Kathryn Lundstrom is the new sustainability editor at Adweek – where she covers advertising and marketing news through a climate lens. Through her work, Lundstrom regularly discusses the impact of climate change on modern society and explores the role of the advertising and marketing industry.
Jonathan Wise – Co-Founder, Purpose Disruptors @JonathanMWise
Jonathan Wise leads Purpose Disruptors’ Advertised Emissions work, which measures the uplift in emissions due to the increase in sales generated by advertising. Advertised Emissions were launched at COP26 and were newly accepted by the UN as a leadership practice for the ad industry.
Johan Pihl – Chief Creative Officer / CINO, Doconomy @JohanPihl
Johan Pihl is Chief Creative Officer at Doconomy – the world’s first mobile banking service for everyday climate action. Prior to that he, along with business partner Mathias Wikström, has spearheaded globally awarded forefront projects such as Natalia Project for Civil Rights Defenders and Aland Index Initiative with The Baltic Sea Project for the Bank of Aland amongst others.
Jessica Heygate – Associate Editor and Technology Editor, Campaign US @goodflo
Jessica Heygate is an Austin-based tech editor at Campaign US exploring the impact of tech on business and society, and how to regulate it. She predominantly covers innovation and emerging technology; ethics and sustainability issues.
Jake Dubbins – Co-Founder, Conscious Advertising Network @JacobDubbins
Jake Dubbins is the Co-Founder of the Conscious Advertising Network, a leading global movement in human rights-based advertising that is breaking the economic link between advertising and the harmful content that divides communities, excludes diverse voices, exploits children and undermines scientific consensus. Jake is also the Co-Founder & MD of Media Bounty, an ethical creative & media agency.
Jacob Simon – Content Creator, Copywriter, Co-Founder of Climativity @jacobsimonsays
Jacob Simon is a storyteller passionate about climate positivity and action. He co-founded a weekly newsletter that curates simple and impactful ways for people to fight against climate change and creates content to inspire others to act.
Helen Brain – Head of Sustainability, Mediacom @HelenBrain
Newly appointed to the role of Head of Sustainability at Mediacom, Helen Brain drives sustainability within Mediacom, with the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and Purpose Disruptors.
Harriet Kingaby – Co-Founder, Conscious Advertising Network @HKingaby
Harriet Kingaby is the Co-Founder of the Conscious Advertising Network, a leading global movement in human rights-based advertising that is breaking the economic link between advertising and the harmful content that divides communities, excludes diverse voices, exploits children and undermines scientific consensus. Insights Director at Media Bounty, an ethical creative & media agency.
Gustav Martner – Head of Creative (Nordics), Greenpeace @martner
Greenpeace Activist Gustav Martner was formerly chairman of the Swedish Advertising Association and the executive creative director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky Europe. Martner, a previous Cannes Lions winner and juror, staged a protest at the festival’s 2022 opening ceremony in June, claiming that his past award made him a “climate criminal” and protesting advertisers that spread climate misinformation.
Gail Gallie is Co-founder at Project Everyone, a United Nations Global Partner seeking to put the power of great communication behind the Global Goals – a framework for positive change more recently referred to as, the world’s to-do list. She co-hosts the SDG Goals House during the Cannes festival – the most influential space for climate action during the event.
Femke Sleegers – Founder, Advertising Fossil Free (Reclame Fossielvrij) @Fem015
In 2019 Femke Sleegers started Reclame Fossielvrij, the first campaign to ban all fossil ads. They campaigned at Amsterdam which became the first city in the world to ban fossil ads. Six national political parties had a ban on fossil ads in their election manifestos. 3rd in the national sustainable top 100.
Ellen Ormesher – Reporter, Work and Wellbeing, The Drum @ellen_ormesher
Based in Glasgow, Ellen Ormesher (she/her) works on The Drum’s Work and Wellbeing coverage. Her areas of interest include workplace policy, culture and welfare, industry regulation, and sustainability. One of her recent articles covers the protest of ex-adman Gustav Martner against the industry’s habit of working with fossil fuel and high carbon clients.
Ella Sabourin – Strategist for Clean Creatives and Junior Creative Strategist, The Breach Media
With a focus on the intersections between climate action and social justice, Ella Sabourin is dedicated to discovering the creative potential of imagination in making progress around systemic injustices and the global climate crisis. Collectively with her colleagues, she works towards a more just and viable future for all.
Duncan Meisel – Executive Director, Clean Creatives @duncanwrites
Duncan Meisel is the co-founder of Clean Creatives, a project bringing together creatives, agencies and their clients to end the ad and PR industry’s work with fossil fuels. They’ve organized over 300 agencies to pledge not to work with fossil fuels, and over 1000 individuals.
Christine Arena – Founder, Generous Films @ChristineArena
Christine Arena is founder of Generous Films – an award-winning production company that brings cinematic storytelling to the social impact space.an advocate for climate accountability across the creative sector. Through her work with Fossil Free Media, a non-profit media lab that supports the movement to end fossil fuels and address the climate emergency and the role of individual’s making courageous decisions.
Caroline Davison – Managing Director and Sustainability Lead, ELVIS @CarolineDavison
Co-author of the influential Eco-effectiveness study, Caroline Davison created the new Sustainability Lead role at ELVIS. Over the last 2 years she has restructured the agency’s business model towards B Corp certification and played a significant role in securing the commitment from ELVIS’ holding company, the sizable Next 15, to do the same at a group level.
Ben Essen – Global Chief Strategy Officer, Iris @benessen
Ben Essen, named Campaign’s #2 Trailblazer in 2021, is the architect of Iris’ Carbon Kickback scheme and ‘The World is Looking at You COP26’ campaign. Ben is also the lead author of the Advertised Emissions report, launched at COP26. He mobilised other agencies to support the 2019 Global Climate Strike through Create&Strike.
Asger Narud – Program Manager, KR Foundation @AsgerNarud
Asger Narud is Program Manager at KR Foundation, one of the world’s leading philanthropic foundations addressing the root cause of climate change, with a strategic focus on the PR and advertising industry’s role in the climate crises.
Anna Lungley – Chief Sustainability Officer, Dentsu International, Global @AnnaLungley
Anna Lungley is Chief Sustainability Officer at Dentsu International, she is responsible for embedding Dentsu’s ‘Social Impact’ strategy at the heart of business, operations and culture. She has been recognised for her work to deliver sustainable development with the ‘Changing Lives’ award at the Broadband World Forum, the World Economic Forum’s ‘New Vision for Development’ award, The Drum’s ‘Purpose’ award and Business Green’s ‘Sustainability Team of the Year’.
Ally Kingston – Planning Director, Futerra, and Contributor, Purpose Disruptors @allykingston
As a key contributor to Purpose Disruptors initiatives, including the GoodLife2030 project that launched at COP26, Ally Kingston invited agencies to respond to an inspirational brief where the ‘client’ was the year 2030. She also co-authored The Great Reset White Paper – outlining the opportunities the Covid-19 moment created to reshape the industry to serve people and planet. She now works in the Futerra team on breakthrough brand campaigns for sustainability.
Many of the folks on this list disagree with each other, or even campaign against each other. Changing advertising and climate change are fraught and contentious topics. But I believe each are trying to make a difference in good faith and deserve to be listed.