Think about the attributes that great brands share—passion, purpose and clarity. They’re distinctive, interesting and engaging. Then think of sustainability. Ugh. Even the word rings wrong. It’s leaden, virtuous, earnest, wonky, dense, dorky. A literary liability—in the US, anyway. In the UK and in other places, sustainability is bouncier, younger and actually speaks to people, not at them.
The question is how to sexy up sustainability so that it sounds less stale.
I’ve been wracking my brains, trying to conjure up a new and original blog post to write on storytelling—the value of brand narratives and sustainability stories. Then I watched the video of Greta Thunberg, who in her address to the delegates UN Climate Action Summit declared that it’s time to “tell it like is.”
While psychologists, journalists and behaviorists posit theories around fear or hope as the greatest motivator for action around climate change or other tough topics, I’d promote satire as a viable alternative—particularly if your organization or brand is targeting Millennials. As John Oliver quipped in response to a poll that found 1 in 4 Americans deny the existence of climate change: “Who gives a shit? You don’t need public opinion on fact.”
Grim doesn’t begin to describe First Reformed, Paul Schrader’s new movie about Reverend Ernst Toller’s awakening to the tyranny of corporate polluters. The desperately deflated, alcoholic Toller, played by Ethan Hawke, takes a job in a 250 year-old church in the bleak bowels of upstate New York. Among his very few congregants is a young environmental activist, whose despair over the state of the world catapults the psychologically vulnerable pastor into a state of even more dire desperation.