Managing Marketing: The Ethics And Challenges Of Zero Net Marketing

James Greet is a long-time creative media leader and the co-founder of The Payback Project Australia, a specialist advisory firm that works with Marketers, Agencies, and Media owners to help them plan a path to net zero by reducing and eliminating carbon emissions related to content creation and media activities and, in the process, become a force for good.

In business today, there are a range of ethical and moral challenges. One that has particularly caught the advertising industry’s attention is its role in the developing climate crisis. An industry that drives growth could also be seen to drive consumption and, therefore, greenhouse gas emissions.

This has come to a head recently with a campaign by Clean Creatives, Comms Declare, and others to name and shame advertising agencies and comms companies that work for fossil fuel clients.

When fossil fuel clients go to the market to select an agency, both sides come to the party: one side ridicules the agencies that pitch for the business, and the other justifies its position. Who is right?

You can listen to the podcast here:

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It’s very hard sometimes to get your head around something that seems to be so big and potentially so far away that, actually, we’ll get around to that next week. But the problem is, with difficult conversations and difficult challenges the longer you leave it, the more difficult difficult gets



Hi, I’m Darren Woolley, founder and CEO of TrinityP3 Marketing Management Consultancy, and welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.

If you’re enjoying the Managing Marketing Podcast, please either like, review, or share this episode to help spread the words and wisdom from our guests each week.

In business today, there are a range of ethical and moral challenges. One that has particularly caught the advertising industry is its role in the developing climate crisis. The industry that drives growth could also be seen to drive consumption and therefore greenhouse gas emissions.

This has come to a head recently with a campaign by Clean Creative, Comms Declare and others to name and chain those advertising agencies and comms companies who work for fossil fuel clients.

When fossil fuel clients go to market to select advertising agencies, both sides come to the party. One side ridiculing the agencies that pitch for the business, the other side justifying their position. So, who is right?

Well, my guest today has co-founded a specialist advisory, working with marketers, agencies, and media owners to help plan a path to net zero by reducing and removing carbon emissions related to content creation and media activities, and in the process become a force for good.

Please welcome to the Managing Marketing Podcast, longtime creative media leader and the co-founder of The Payback Project Australia, James Greet. Welcome, James.


Thank you, Darren. Good to have a chat, have a cup of coffee.


It’s quite a transition in some ways, but probably not in another to go from leading media agencies, and media generally for clients into this new role of actually helping navigate the way for agencies and advertisers to net zero, isn’t it?


Sort of yes and no really because I spent, what, 30 odd years in various places around the world, London, Hong Kong, China, and the last 20 years here in Australia running media and creative agencies.

And at some stage my professional journey sort of coincided with my personal one over the last 10 years where I’ve become, I suppose, more aware of my own personal impact and footprint on the environment.

And it doesn’t take much imagination to suddenly find yourself one day saying, “Hang on, the better I’m at my job, the worse I’m making the climate crisis, what can I do about that?” And that’s why we set up The Payback Project.

Originally, founded by Steve Pollack in the UK who prior to founding it had been leading Nestle’s Media in the UK for the previous 10 years. So, he’d worked both agency and then client side and seen firsthand what a big organization like Nestle was doing with regards to building out a decarbonization plan, their Net Zero plan.

And as someone in the marketing team there he’d asked the question, “Where does marketing fit in?” Because they suddenly realized that they hadn’t included marketing in their decarbonization plan. So to cut a long story short he ended up building out their playbook and then realized that actually marketing’s impact was a blind spot for most organizations.

I realized in conversation with him that was very much the case here in Australia, perhaps even more so as well because the industry as a whole hadn’t got its head around that, and it really wasn’t a conversation topic. That’s my interest in bringing it here.


So, James, it’s interesting because a lot of the work that’s done, particularly around Scope 1 and 2, is often quite engineering work. It’s around power generation and it’s around operations and things like that, which perhaps that’s the reason that marketing has been a bit of a blind spot.

Because I agree totally, marketing is one of those areas that it’s clearly human activity and all human activity contributes to climate change or climate crisis in some way. But perhaps the focus has been very much an engineering one, rather than necessarily what’s the role of marketing in this?


Yeah, that I think is probably the logical answer for why no one’s really been thinking about it. But I think when you do think about it the attention is drawn to the reality that marketing must leave a footprint because the creation of content and ads, as well as their distribution needs energy.

Most of isn’t renewable, and as a consequence has its own carbon footprint.

But then there’s also the fact that I guess the business of marketing has traditionally been in service of driving profitable growth, i.e. driving demand and advertising has always been a driver in creating the behavioral change needed to consume more, consume certain categories and so on.

So, messaging has a role to play in terms of informing citizens around the world how to behave.

And I think that’s really where the untapped impact of marketing has a massive, massive role to play. In more advanced markets like the UK, you are seeing advertising and marketing as a force for good beginning to be something that’s on the agenda of most marketers.

And we’ll touch upon later some of the reports and the advice that’s now coming out of learned bodies such as Kantar on what exactly you can do.

Particularly as the population at large is now actively making choices around what brands they choose to use, what products they choose to use based upon their sustainability, which is obviously a broader conversation than just carbon footprint and carbon reduction.


Now, I should have set upfront in the introduction that if there’s someone listening to us having this conversation, and they’re one of those climate crisis deniers that don’t think that human activity is having an impact, the fact is that we’re actually heading towards quite a critical point.

I think I read that we’ve hit 1.5 degrees celsius increase in temperature and very soon we’ll be at two degrees.


Well, look, I mean the science basically observes that since pre-industrial times the temperature of the planet has increased by 1.2%.

I have always tried to look to the science and probably the most learned body, if you like, that has directly attributed the increase in temperature over the last hundred plus years as down to human activities is the IPCC, which is the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, which think about it as the United Nations of climate scientists, if you like.

And the last report that they produced, which is in 2021, is the definitive report on the link between human activities since pre-industrial times and the Earth’s temperature and its impact on the environment and the human population.

Now, I say it’s definitive. I mean, that’s 195 different governments that have come together, or their climate scientists have come together to actually define that the climate crisis is a thing. And without any material change it’s only going to get worse.

We’ve already increased the temperature by 1.2 degrees in a very, very short space of time. And I turn to a report that was published last week by the World Meteorological Organization and their state of the global climate report.

And it confirms that 2023 broke every single climate record, now actually not just broke it, but smashed it, it was the hottest year on record, again, largely because El Nino didn’t help that. But as a consequence, more than 90% of the world’s ocean suffered heat wave conditions, glaciers lost the most ice on record, and Antarctic Sea ice fell to by far the lowest levels ever measured.

So, we’ve got a problem. It’s already having a massive impact that is undeniable. But one of the other things that is interesting, most recently Edelman released their 2024 annual trust survey.

And the worrying thing for us here in Australia is that according to that survey, Australians, and I don’t think any other country, certainly no other country in APAC does, but according to that survey, Australians are actually more worried about a nuclear war than climate change.

Which is kind of bizarre and kind of worrying because we’ve got this problem going on. But here in Australia we by and large don’t really seem to think it’s as much of a problem as it is.


That is a worry, isn’t it?


Yeah, it is. And I think that’s obviously where everyone has a role to actually understand the facts but then most importantly, very quickly get to “So, what can we do about that?” And I think because of the influence that marketing and advertising has, it has a direct role to play in that. Didn’t necessarily create the problem, but it certainly has a role to play in a solution.

And a positive role it certainly can because I think the danger is when you look at stories of catastrophe, I mean, that can make a lot of people feel down. And what you very quickly have to get to is “Well, where’s the hope?”. And there is massive hope because we can do a lot of things to change that.


So, what’s the purpose behind The Payback Project? Why did you start it and what does it do to help?


Maybe just before I get into what our aspirations are, we’re just one of many people trying to bring some sort of positive action to the situation. Maybe I set the scene for what’s happening in the rest of the world.

I’ll look here to the UK because as an industry they got their heads around the need to do something about this pretty quickly. And in the UK I think it was launched in November 2020.

So, nearly what, three and a half years ago the industry there, all the key bodies, the IPA, ISBA and a number of others came together and created Ad Net Zero. And Ad Net Zero is a framework for the media and advertising industry’s response to the climate emergency.

Now, that’s their words, they’re quite big, very definitive words, “We are going to do something about this. We need all our members to have a framework that makes it easy for them to understand and do something about it.”

Now, I think the interesting thing is that was nearly four years ago that this started rolling in the UK. I haven’t seen or heard any industry leadership in this country using those words recently. I mean, I don’t know, have you?


No, no, not at all. In fact, I think a lot of it is just following the last decade of political inaction as well, isn’t it?


Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think we live in an environment where the conversation isn’t really being heard, or at least it’s being obfuscated if you like. It’s not as clear as it should be.

But I think what’s really interesting about Ad Net Zero is if you go onto the website they’re very, very clear on its raison d’être and they’re using very, very powerful words to describe their response to a very, very difficult situation.

And look, I’ll quote them if I may, because I think they’re very unambiguous, if you like, in what needs to happen. And they basically say, “The climate emergency is the most pressing issue affecting us all. And our industry, our advertising industry, can play a huge role in playing and driving positive change.

We want to help our industry deliver on its full potential, to support businesses and people to deal with this emergency and build a more sustainable future. The emergency is a global matter, and as a global industry, we need global solutions.”

That’s why they launched Ad Net Zero, and it’s the industry’s drive to decarbonize the production, distribution and publication of advertising.

Now, I think the other thing that they call out as well is the collaborative response required. It’s crucial that we work together to continue the momentum. They say, “We need your support.” Now, other markets around the world have picked up on this.

And rather than go and build their own Ad Net Zero, they picked up Ad Net Zero, adapted it locally and rolled it out. So it’s already in play in the U.S., New Zealand picked it up and rolled it out last year, middle of last year, and I think it was launched by the industry with the minister for climate change at the helm of that.

I think my real concern here is, I know we’ve been talking about this, or the industry bodies have been talking about it since 2022 but there’s still no sign that we’ve actually got something underway. I understand it might happen sometime this year, but we just need to get things moving.


Because back in 2007, Chris Saul and I had gone to the industry with a calculator that it was actually calculating the CO2 emissions of media in Australia. And at the time, I think we were way too early, we’re too optimistic because of Kevin ‘07 and thought that this would be something that the industry was interested in.

Unfortunately, the global financial crisis seemed to put people off. And as you say, it took until 2020 or 2022 before everyone really turned to it as a major issue.


Which it’s sort of understandable because I think our industry, particularly the agency world, is very focused on delivering for clients here and now and delivering the numbers and delivering the requirements of running a business today.

And it’s very hard sometimes to get your head around something that seems to be so big and potentially so far away that actually we’ll get round to that next week. But the problem is, with difficult conversations and difficult challenges the longer you leave it, the more difficult difficult gets if you like.

And I guess that’s one of the reasons why, and there are many people making efforts in this space to try and get awareness up and change happening. But that’s one of the reasons why we launched The Payback Project here.

And there are two things that I’m hoping to do with The Payback Project here. One is the fact that marketing is a blind spot for most companies. So how can we help educate marketing and associated agencies around their contribution to a carbon footprint, and what can they do about this?

Again this takes a long time to get things moving because it’s not a tomorrow problem, it’s not a today problem. It’s way beyond a tomorrow problem. And even though the UK set up Ad Net Zero as I said nearly four years ago, I mean, if you actually look at the state of where marketers are on this journey in the UK at the moment, you’ve got something like more than 80% of FTSE listed companies in the UK who’ve made public commitments to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. And yet, sustainability has until recently been the domain of legal and procurement, financial, operational divisions within companies with marketing often lagging behind.

In a recent WFA survey, 93% of marketers said their department could make a difference to sustainability. So, the message is getting through that they can, but still only 10% of marketers claim to be well advanced in their sustainability journey.

Now, I think that intention, action, or ‘say-do’ gap within advertisers is reflected throughout the whole media and advertising ecosystem which represents a massive, missed opportunity. Because now in the UK you’re getting 76% of UK residents saying they’re concerned about climate change to some extent.

So, there’s a mismatch between what consumers are potentially going to be looking for in the choices they make versus the progress made by marketers and brands in that space as well.

So that’s where The Payback Project fits in. I work with marketers to help them understand what it is that they can do, that’s kind of one thing.

But also, because we’re not seeing that leadership or that announcement that we have a climate crisis and marketing and advertising can play a role in it – because we’re not seeing that from our leaders in the industry at the moment – I’m also hoping that The Payback Project can be a catalyst for broader industry change.

So, that’s why we’re also looking at creating an opportunity for motivated individuals. Because there are a lot of motivated individuals within the industry to come together through events that we’re creating to understand, influence change, and also create a landing zone for initiatives born overseas, such as the Purpose Disruptors and some of the work that they’ve been doing in London.

We’re not starting this in the same place that we were. We can easily do what we do well in Australia, which is take other work, land it here, but make it bigger and better and more advanced.


So, James, this is quite a different approach to the two I mentioned Clean Creatives and Comms Declare. You are taking more a consultative, advisory, educational approach, helping marketers plan their route through this.

Whereas the Clean Creative and Comms Declare, the F list is very much a strategy of naming and shaming those agencies that are actually working, for instance, for fossil fuels clients who are seen to be probably some of the worst contributors because I think it’s 28% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transport industry.

And many more come from the manufacturing industry where fossil fuels are burnt as part of that process, that operation.


Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it goes back to that point about stating the fact that we’ve got a problem is one thing but initiating positive change and fueling hope that we can make a difference comes into play as well. And that’s very, very much what we’re focused on.

I think the work that Belinda and Matt and the team at Comms Declare are doing together with Clean Creatives in other parts of the world is absolutely critical. And I think what we’re doing and what they’re doing has mutual benefit, if you like.

Because I think the reality is that the science on climate change is really clear. We need to rapidly reduce our reliance on fossil fuel to avert the worst impacts of global temperature rise.

And despite many fossil fuel companies reaching this scientific consensus decades ago, Exxon and all of those companies did their own research in the mid-70’s, wrote their own reports, and what they predicted was going to happen is exactly what we’re seeing happening today. But today-


A bit like the tobacco companies that knew that their product caused lung cancer and then just sat on it for years and years.


A hundred percent. I mean, the analogy is very clear. The only thing I would say is that by and large smoking really only sort of affected those people who were smoking and those sitting around them, if you like.

Whereas obviously the burning of fossil fuels as opposed to fags affects all of us. And it doesn’t just affect all of us now, it’s going to affect everyone who’s going to be around in 50 years, 100 years, and so on and so forth. So, actually its impact is far, far greater.


But James, I think there’s those will say we’ve had a long time and not a lot’s been done in the last 20 years, for instance, isn’t it time to actually speed up this process? What’s going to stop companies just putting this in the too hard basket.

Particularly, when you’ve got strategies by people like what was it two weeks ago, the CEO of Exxon blamed the climate crisis on the people that used their products because after all, they were just fulfilling a need. It was all you people out there driving your cars that were causing the problem.


Well, I think that’s been happening for a long time. That’s been happening way before that statement by the CEO of Exxon. I mean, you go back to 2001 I think it was when BP relaunched themselves as Beyond Petroleum.

And interestingly, I think it was O&M who advised them to start talking about carbon footprint and to personalize it. Because carbon footprint is something that was then attributed to individuals. Then they socialized that.

They even created a carbon calculator as well so that individuals could take responsibility for making a change and doing this stuff. But I think the reality is that we have to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels to drive and fuel the world. And there are options out there.

And the reason why I think the work that Comms Declare is so important is because most of the advertising work that is being done behind brands like BP and Shell amongst others is basically greenwashing.

Most of the work that they’re doing is talking about their green renewable interest, if you like. Even though the amount of investment that continues to be put into new exploration and so forth, way outweighs any of the work that’s being done in renewables.

I mean, I think just in the last year amid soaring oil and gas returns, Shell, Exxon, and BP all reduced their commitments to renewables. BP actually announced a billion-dollar annual increase in its investment in oil and gas for the rest of the decade.

At the same time jettison its ambition of cutting oil production by 40% in that time period. And in all the International Energy Agency forecasts at 2023, we’ll see global investment in fossil fuels increased by 11% reaching its highest level since 2015.

So, if you are an agency saying you want to work with these people then you are basically spinning a mistruth on behalf of those companies. I think where it starts to get perhaps super controversial is most agencies in Australia now acknowledge that there is a problem called the climate crisis.

Most of them are putting actions in place, even if it’s basic offsetting if you like, for their businesses. Some have got a harder reduction policy in place, so they accept there’s a problem.

So if that’s the case why on the other hand would you be promoting the very problem that’s caused that in the first place or the very least be part of the greenwashing and misinformation exercise?


So, you and I found ourselves sort of caught in the middle of this recently because one of the big fossil fuel companies are going to market. And we both made comments publicly in the trade media about the dangers of any agency actually going for this business.

The thing that amazed me was it was the same reasons for going for them. I didn’t say anywhere publicly that people shouldn’t do it. I did say that if you’re going to go for fossil fuel business, be prepared for either a backlash or finding it more difficult to get talent attracted to your agency while you are working on those accounts.

But we heard things like, “Oh, yeah, but we still need fossil fuels and they’re still legal to advertise, so why shouldn’t we be doing it?” And the other one I like is, “Well, if we are inside with the client, we can help them make sure that they don’t greenwash and choose a better strategy than misinformation and disinformation. I mean, what’s your response to that?


I mean, there’s two or three things you’ve raised there. I’ll deal with the last one first. Do you really think it’s likely that the CEO of an advertising agency is going to persuade a billion-dollar fossil fuel exploration distribution business to change its business strategy? Absolutely not.

And when you actually look at what the business intentions of those companies are based upon those facts I just shared with you earlier, you can see exactly what they’re trying to do. So, if there is going to be any messaging that’s deployed by those fossil fuel companies it’s simply going to be to confuse and obfuscate.

So I don’t buy that. I don’t actually think most of the industry is in the leadership position to influence their clients on their business plan that it might like to think. I think in fact exactly the opposite, they actually become part of the problem when they support.

And look the reality is the business of advertising is to build familiarity and favorability. And I think the problem is they’re being sucked into what we’re seeing now, what’s referred to as climate wars 2.0.

Most of those big fossil fuel companies have moved on from denialist activity. They’ve moved from denying the existence of the climate emergency to actually now climate wars 2.0 slowing change down behind the scenes.

So, as we see catastrophic wildfires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, cyclones, beginning to capture the headlines, climate denialism has waned because there’s no point in doing that anymore. And a twofold strategy’s replaced it. Virtual signal green in public, lobbying black in private, if you like.

And I don’t think our industry was really put on the planet to slow down the change that we need to make as a human race, if you like. It doesn’t serve its purpose well to get in the way of positive change regardless of how much money is on the table.


Well, and that’s the other argument they make, is that well, they’re getting paid to do a job and is it up to them to make ethical decisions or judgmental value decisions about the clients they work for? I mean, you worked in media for 20 years was it, or 30 years? There must have been clients that you worked for that in hindsight, you wished you hadn’t.


Oh, hell yeah. And that’s why the business that we set up now is called The Payback Project. I mean, I’ve worked on everything from fags, fossil fuels, gambling companies and so forth. And I acknowledge now that those are things that in retrospect I prefer not to have worked on.

But like a lot of people armed with more knowledge and a greater awareness of my actions as a professional advertising or media person I want to be using those skills to try and change the status quo.

And I think that’s probably the biggest challenge that we have at the moment which is how an industry here in Australia that’s caught up in working with legacy clients and legacy media where we’re not moving forward.

Admittedly change can sometimes come with a price and a cost, but I think we know what’s going to happen if we don’t change. If you are running a business like this, one, you’re going to find it hard probably to get on pitch lists now.

Two, you’re going to find it really hard to get the best talent that you need because absolutely no bones about it. If you look at any research, again, the research that’s been done by Edelman and trust and how employees are now looking to their CEOs to have a point of view on the things that are most concerning them, and climate change is up there with a lot of them. You’re not going to attract that talent because that’s a concern.

They’re not going to actually want to work on those businesses. I was chatting to a CEO of an agency just only last week and they were talking about a client that they were pitching for, and they couldn’t get anyone to work on it.

And I think that’s probably what you’re finding now, a lot of talent is voicing its sense of agency and not wanting to be involved in certain categories. And fossil fuels is undoubtedly becoming one of those, the new tobacco as you said.


And do you think it’s also generational and therefore particularly impacting advertising and media where many of the employees are younger? I mean, advertising agencies are not filled with boomers and most of the senior management are Gen X, but the vast majority of employees are millennials, Ys and Zs that are working there.

And they’re the ones that are perhaps more focused on the climate crisis and wanting to address it. I mean, they keep pointing to Greta Thunberg, as she should be back in school. I think Greta’s actually graduated now but yeah, as if young people shouldn’t have a say.


Well, I think the point is now young people as you refer to them are-


Younger than me


And me are increasingly finding their own sense of agency and voicing that sense of agency. And I think certainly in Australia where you are getting the emergence of a really large, healthy, progressive, fast growing group of independents there are now choices out there as well.

It’s not like young employees have to actually put up if you like with the company line anymore. They can vote with their feet if they want to. I mean, we might not quite be at the sort of stage yet where everyone’s going to jump out of the old system into the new system but that’s certainly coming.

And therefore that rests with the decisions that leaders of those companies want to make, which is, do you want to grasp that difficult conversation that needs to be had, build a plan to deal with the difficult implications of making that change and move forward with it.

Or do you want to have the change wreak havoc on your business? And I think we really are at that tipping point at the moment.


And I think we’re seeing that with the independent, the people that have left perhaps the large multinational agencies and set up their own businesses. Because it’s primarily those agencies that are going and getting B Corp certification.

I mean, we saw what happened with Havis, probably one of the only groups and possibly the smallest group I think in the global marketplace got B Corp. And now there’s question marks all over it about whether it’s valid or not. But it’s these smaller agencies that are really making these stance, isn’t it?


Yes, it is. I mean the only thing I would say is that even though we’re seeing a massive increase if you like in the number of independents, both media and creative and digital services and digital marketing businesses.

The only thing I would say is at the moment, I don’t see enough of them exercising the potential to have a point of view and a voice on where sustainability fits within the fabric of what they do, their product, their story and their narrative. I think they could do a lot more in this space.

I mean, the Hallway has just announced its B Corp certification, and there’s a number of them coming through, but I think the bigger, most successful independents over the last five years or decade haven’t actually made their voice known on this.

A lot of them though are beginning to show signs of embracing this beyond what I might call offset mentality, where 90% of what you do is still business as usual, but you do 10% on pro bono, good stuff, if you like.

And I think that’s the next stage, which is rather than just something you do some of the time, it’s a philosophy that you’ve actually taken time out to understand how does it actually change the nature of how you operate as a business, who you work for, who you don’t work for.

And not even just who you work for but actually what are the services and products that you are going to be advising clients to focus more on if you like because they are going to be more sustainable services.

And given that we know the market, the consumer population at large is beginning to add sustainability to its list of tick boxes on who they’re choosing to spend their money with. Well, if you’re not delivering on that, if you’re not as a marketer building that into your offer, then you’re probably going to fall off the decision or the choice list.


And we’re certainly seeing that, we’re certainly seeing that in pictures, particularly procurement run pictures where there is a requirement for agencies to have policies and commitments to a number of UN sustainability goals, including things like Modern Slavery Act, but increasingly zero net commitments as well, or net zero commitments.

Hey James, clearly the Australian advertising industry is running behind the eight ball here. It’s dragging its heels compared to, as you said earlier, the UK. But what are some of the things that could be done or should be done to actually help us catch up and move forward on this?


Well, look one of the first things is bringing an industry framework into play that enables everyone who operates in the marketing and advertising and media space to understand what are the changes that they can make.

And I think that’s why I said Ad Net Zero is such an important initiative if you like. Because it equips everyone with the same framework and playbook to enable them to start making changes. And it’s very, very action orientated.

And there are five key actions that they talk about in Ad Net Zero. One is get your own house in order. So, that’s reduce emissions from the operational side of your business, your waste, your travel, your energy usage and so forth.

Secondly or rather action two, three, and four, depending on what type of agency you are, is to reduce the emissions from what it is you do for a living. So, reduce emissions from the creation of content, the activation of events and also distribution, i.e. the media process and supply chain.

And the fifth, the most untapped at the moment and the one with the greatest opportunity to have an impact on society at large is actually how you change the power of advertising and your content to be a force for good.

Because when our industry is at its best, when the business of advertising is at its best is when it’s creating positive behavioral change. So, how do we start to build messaging and not just who we choose to advertise or work for, but how do we change the messaging to support and encourage more sustainable lifestyles and behaviors?

An example of what it doesn’t look like is the billboard I drove past the other day for the new Ford F-150, which is a truck that’s at least as big, if not bigger than the Ram which is filling up car parking spaces all over Sydney.

But this ad came with a line, “Go bigger”. Now the reality is going bigger is only going to create more problems. Maybe choosing to support Ford with a low emissions product and having five people sharing in the car might be a more positive sustainable lifestyle that we should be driving.


So, well that’s interesting because then the danger is in trying to communicate that, not stepping over the boundary of going from encouraging a positive behavior to actually greenwashing or trying to distract people away from the ongoing problems that the advertiser’s creating.

I think marketers particularly really struggle with this because if you are working in an industry and your function is to drive consumption, and consumption is related to greenhouse gas emissions, which then make the crisis worse, where do you draw the line?

Because capitalism, which is the fundamental economic system that we rely on, requires growth, and requires that you increased populations, it is a complex and difficult challenge, isn’t it?


Absolutely, hugely. And I don’t have all the answers to that.


If you did, you wouldn’t be doing this.


Absolutely. I don’t think any single, person or entity has that, I mean, there is a reality. It was an economist I think who coined the phrase, which has been used by many people since David Attenborough or Sir David Attenborough included, which is “anyone who believes in the continued infinite consumption of finite resources is either a madman or an economist”.

I mean, the reality is that we are consuming way more than we can afford to, and what we can certainly do is change the nature of what and how we consume.


How we consume.


And I think we-


James, we’re going to have to leave it there. It’s been a terrific conversation, but time has absolutely got away from us because it is such a … it’s the Gordian Knot that we are dealing with. And sometimes I think as like the Gordian Knot, the only way to untie it is to use the sword to cut it in two bits. But thank you for your time and good luck with The Payback Project. I think it’s a terrific initiative.


Thanks so much Darren, thanks for the opportunity. And thank you very much for the coffee as well.


And before you go, I do have a question. Who, in your mind, globally is probably leading the way in bringing about that change in behavior and most contributing to the addressing climate crisis?