A conscious force for good
As individuals it can be difficult to escape the idea that our actions have little chance of making much of a difference to the scale of the challenges facing people around the world. But if we all took a leaf out of The lazy person’s guide to saving the world and made a few easy changes to our routines, we would make a big difference between us. As a small business, there’s even more that we can do, as the sum of all of our parts creates a more obvious impact. And when the messages we craft for our clients have the potential to be seen by millions of individuals around the world, by being conscious of the values that we are promoting we can even have a global impact.
This thinking led to the birth of Conscious Communications six years ago. Our ambition was to use our time and expertise as a force for good, for the planet and for its people. This may sound idealistic but, in recognising the influence communications professionals have on ordinary people’s thoughts and behaviours, it is also real. In running a small business, and in advising and servicing our clients, we can make a positive contribution to the lives of individuals, to society, and to our planet, through our day to day work.
Over the years, we have taken the time to reassess and evolve how we run a viable business that achieves our ambition: to do well, by doing good. Some of the areas that we are already involved in tackling, whether by supporting our clients, partnering with charities, or through our own initiatives, include: inequality – whether social, economic or gender specific; climate change – from cleaner energy solutions to sustainable sourcing and agriculture; and health – including nutrition, mental health, and medical advancements.
Of course all of these challenges, and so many others of equal importance and urgency (such as those set out on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals), are interlinked. For example, evidence shows that when girls in developing countries have equal access to education, their whole community benefits; the health of a country’s population impacts the productivity of its workforce; and the way we treat our employees will affect their well-being.
Another example of how global challenges are interlinked can be seen through the relationship between a country’s high levels of economic inequality, consumerism, and the greater extent to which the country causes damage to the environment. In the UK we have higher inequality than in many other rich countries (except for the US), and we tend to celebrate consumerism and prioritise profit to the point that a narrative of excess pervades. Day by day we fill landfill sites with throwaway fashion, leftover food, items that either break too soon or are abandoned, and far too much plastic packaging. As money isn’t an issue for the most well-off in societies with high inequality, they will often buy more of the things that they don’t really need or won’t end up using and, as a result, cause disproportionate damage to the environment.
The impact of this buying behaviour within countries that have higher levels of inequality is such that, as a result, everyone actually ends up buying more – including those who are less well-off, even though they can’t afford to and, in fact, often end up in debt. But, as Danny Dorling, Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford explains: “you feel that you have to have these things, because the people above you have them … And you won’t be happy unless you buy more, have more holidays, and get into more debt”.
In stark contrast, however, in societies that have lower levels of inequality and where individuals have more disposable income, Dorling identifies that people are actually buying less, which leads to lower overall levels of pollution and harm to the environment. Why is this? In part it is because these more equal societies espouse different values and priorities than are prominent in the UK, which will impact not only on what products are brought to market but also on the marketing methods used for promotion. The result is that barriers to more conscientious consumption are lowered; more socially, environmentally, and economically responsible consumption becomes more commonplace.
So, if these more equal societies are successfully changing attitudes to move away from consumerism and excess, and in doing so are creating less pollution and causing less damage to the environment, then it follows that within the UK a key to tackling pollution is to create a more equal society. By addressing the high levels of inequality in our society, and reassessing our attitudes to consumerism and excess, we too can reduce the levels of pollution and environmental damage caused.
Professor Dorling predicts that “in the years and decades to come we will slowly begin to learn what most other people in the rich world know: that having more and more money doesn’t make you happier; it doesn’t make your country more sustainable; and it doesn’t solve the problems of the planet”.
We recognise that the challenges the planet faces are diverse, and yet so closely interlinked, and so the way we navigate our roles as individuals, as a small team, and as influencers of organisations with global impact, is by bringing everything back to our ambition: to be conscious of every decision we make and the impact it will have. By making small but significant changes we believe that, through our individual actions and through our work, we can do well, by doing good.