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OgilvyEarth 2009 Sustainability Trends

OgilvyEarth 2009 Sustainability Trends

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Published by Tameron Eaton
A 2009 report from OgilvyEarth, but it outlines great data supporting the business case for sustainability, trends affecting us today.
A 2009 report from OgilvyEarth, but it outlines great data supporting the business case for sustainability, trends affecting us today.

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Published by: Tameron Eaton on Jul 23, 2011
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06/29/2014

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2009: A Pivotal Year and theDawn of the Age ofSustainability
 
 
BACKGROUND
As 2008 drew to a close, with the election of U.S. President Barack Obama and the dramatic onset of oneof the worst global financial crises in history, it became clear that 2009 would be no ordinary year. Weneeded to understand how these critical events were impacting the global sustainability movement.Would a new champion of sustainability in the White House propel the movement forward? Or would theneed to address the “acute” problem of the financial crisis apply a counterweight, pushing the “chronic”climate crisis down the global agenda?Recently, OgilvyEarth volunteered to develop acommunications strategy and campaign for theUnited Nations Climate Change Conference,COP15, to be held in Copenhagen in Decemberof this year.To inform our thinking, we conducted an Eco-Audit with 50 of the world’s thought leaders onsustainability – representatives from majorcorporations, governments, financialinstitutions, academia and NGOs in the US,India, China, Brazil and the UK. We spoke withsuch eminent figures as Dr. Rajendra Pachauri,Chairman of the IPCC; Dr. George Lakoff,Professor of Cognitive Linguistics at U.C.Berkeley; Bill Becker of the Presidential ClimateAction Project; Linda Fisher, the ChiefSustainability Officer at DuPont; Philip Stamp,Sustainable Consumption Manager, DEFRA;Michael Meyer, Chief Speechwriter for the UNSecretary General; Ricardo Voltolini, Director ofIdéia Sustentável, Brazil; and Peggy Liu,Chairperson, Joint US-China Cooperation onClean Energy (JUCCCE). We also conductedqualitative research with consumers and anOgilvyEarthscape Audit to determine the “stateof green.”What we learned was striking: 2009 is giving riseto a new world order with the concept ofsustainability at its very core. This pivotalmoment creates a rare window of opportunityfor cultural leadership.This whitepaper outlines our findings andthoughts on the opportunities for brands thatwish to lead in the new Age of Sustainability.
1) A Moment of Possibility
President Obama’s election and inaugurationare universally viewed as a transformationalforce in global sustainability policy and practice.His election is cited as by far the greatest factorin deciding the outcome of COP15, and Obamaenvironmental policy-watch has become thesport du jour of the global sustainabilitycommunity. Thus far, the signs are largelypromising, and the community remains hopefulthe new U.S. President will deliver on hisaggressive campaign commitments, despite thecontinuing economic crisis.But if the advent of Obama was expected tofurther the sustainability agenda, moresurprising is the discovery that the financialcrisis is also paving the way for its progress.
The Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.
Winston Churchill
At a broad level, by revealing that the system wehave is fundamentally broken, the crisis iscreating a climate of unusual receptivity to newideas. More specifically, the deepening crisis isbringing thought-leaders and consumers aliketo the realization that the financial model we’vebeen working with is unsustainable.
This crisis is the direct consequence of the unsustainable economic model we have chosen and the run for sustainability is an answer for that.
Ricardo Voltolini, Idéia Sustentável
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 Though they use that word in its conventionalsense, it creates a frame of reference withinwhich the previously unwieldy “sustainability”concept suddenly fits. The phrase “sustainableeconomy,” for example, is taking on a powerfuldouble entendre with relevance to a muchbroader target: you don’t need to care aboutpolar bears to understand the importance of asustainable economy.Note the language that resonates is“sustainable” not “green” economy. Consumerswere quick to point out in focus groups that“green is a different idea – about theenvironment, not people. We are interested inthe sustainable economy, not thegreen economy.”By helping people understand what’s in it forthem (i.e., the promise of sustained prosperity),the financial crisis is achieving what years ofgreen and environmental campaigns havestruggled to – that is, to help people internalizethe concept of sustainability, to understand whythey should care and to open them up to thepossibility of change.
This idea of the sustainable economy which even two months ago seemed quite “out there” now suddenly feels much more embedded.
Tony Manwaring, Tomorrow’s Company
2) Fueling the New Age
And change is certainly afoot. Anothersurprising finding of our research: in spite of thebleak headlines and worsening crisis, there is apalpable undercurrent of excitement. Whatconsumers intuitively sense, thought-leadersdescribe as fact: the financial crisis, the “Obamaeffect” and COP15 have converged to create a“perfect storm” in which a new world order israpidly emerging to replace the old one.They describe a moment ripe with potential – arare “bright line” in history presented not interms of incremental change but as revolution,the advent of the next great chapter of thehuman story:
“a new world order,” “astructural rebasing of our economy,” “the nextindustrial revolution.”
The future is being worked out now, in real time. We are creating a new world order brick by brick.
Prof George Lakoff
It is critical that we highlight economic opportunities from the new industrial revolution – for that is what it is.
Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP
2009 is the year of the reframe – reframing sustainability as a business opportunity.
Peggy Liu, JUCCCE
Though the specifics of the future are still beingdebated, it is clear the current age has abruptlyended and the candidate rapidly supplanting it isthe Age of Sustainability.
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