Our Movement | July 19 2012
Thomas is an awarded advertising creative. His belief is that the communication industry has a pivotal role to play in promoting a more sustainable mindset and behaviour, where doing good for brand and bottom line is also good for people and planet. Through his work, in his book “Goodvertising” and as an experienced keynote speaker, he advocates for this change.
E2H: Of the many new ideas around building a better future, which ones are you most interested in and why?
TK: When our children are looking back on the way we did business, it will be as strange a notion as slavery is to us today. How could we be so oblivious to the harm we continue to inflict on people and the planet? Couldn’t we see the icebergs melting or the chemical time bomb, ticking away in everything from food to clothing? Weren’t we aware that the planet’s resources and the ecosystem we are so dependent on are being destroyed? I have a background in advertising and for the very same reason I’m curious about how we as an industry can use those same skills that sold brown, carbonated sugar water in every corner of the world (Read: Coca-Cola) and turn them to good use; promoting a more sustainable mindset and more sustainable behavior. I’ve never been a big fan of advertising, I think 99% of it is annoying and talks down to people, but because of this low point there is nothing but potential. Consumers around the world demand more from companies putting their most valued asset at risk: the brand. They want companies to think not only about their own personal interests, but ‘our’ interests as a region, country or worldwide community. Brands that pursue a more meaningful dialogue about what we as consumers care about and deliver on those promises are simply stronger brands. That makes me optimistic on behalf of our industry. If it’s better business to be a sustainable company, then we’re truly talking sustainability.
E2H: Of all the places you’ve either visited or lived, which do you feel embraces the most sustainable way of life?
TK: I’m very privileged to live in a city like Copenhagen, Denmark where health and sustainability is prioritized. More people take the bicycle to work than the car. That said, we as Danes still consume way too many resources, way too much energy, which needs to change.
E2H: How do you visualize the sustainable society of the future?
TK: I think we as a society have to challenge the parameters and measures of success. Our most important identity up to now has been that of the ‘consumer’ and our values and meaning have been based on what we consume, what we wear, what we read, what we listen to, which blogs we visit. Today our consumer muscle can drive change when we vote daily with our €’s in the supermarket, whereas our citizen muscle is like wet spaghetti – governments don’t listen to us; they hope we have forgotten their mistakes before the next election. If we can’t change things through political means, we will have to do so through economic means – and maybe this is more powerful in the long run. I believe the economic crisis has been healthy for us as a society. We begin to ask questions. Big questions. For too long, success has been defined as ferocious, non-stop growth and that growth has been dependent on limited resources. It’s clear that unlimited growth cannot continue. I’m excited about a sustainable society, where it’s not growth or consumption that defines us, but how we as citizens feel: Are we happy? This is a sustainable society, where we are not defined as consumers, but as citizens; a sustainable society where we as citizens play an active role as shapers and caretakers of our communities. Do you want to join me?
E2H: Of the many individuals leading us to a brighter future, who inspires you most and why?
TK: I think the average Joe, the business woman or the bus driver, the school kid or the retired office worker who decides to sacrifice convenience, habit or money to make a sustainable choice: take the bicycle to work, spend less time showering, use his or her work to make a difference, recycle or play an active role in their local communities. Those individuals are my heroes.
E2H: How do you re-connect with nature?
TK: Whenever I can get the time to do it I love paddling out in the waves on my surfboard. Out there I feel I am in the hands of nature and even the most stressed day gets washed away in the waves. Also, I do have a small organic garden just a stroll away from my apartment in Copenhagen. I don’t have the greenest of fingers, but planting flowers and vegetables gives me a small nature kick.
E2H: If you could build a legacy what would it be?
TK: Together we can make a difference
Follow Thomas Kolster on Twitter @thomaskolster or his book @dogoodvertising
You can also take part in the discussion about Goodvertising on Facebook: facebook.com/goodvertising or you can contact Thomas and see his work here: thomaskolster.com