How does your city encourage and drive sustainability initiatives in terms of lifestyle? Are these practices carried forward into your agency?
Great question – where to begin.
Amsterdam is home to the world’s OG stock market, and the city takes credit for being the ‘Cradle of Capitalism’ - so this re-brand to leading Eco-Creative City might feel surprising at first. But for Amsterdammers, flipping the script on the status quo is a matter of civic engagement.
The story behind Amsterdam’s transformation into model bikeable city is a testament to that. Designed by the 1960s Dutch counterculture movement known as the Provos, the ‘White Bicycle Plan’ set out to solve Amsterdam’s traffic problem. Initially rejected by the authorities, the plan became an iconic part of the city’s collective memory when Provos painted 50 bikes white and left them around the city to be used by anyone – including Yoko and John, who took one into their ‘bed-in’ at the Hilton in 1969. A story turned city planning inspiration, the movement contributed to the proliferation of bike-first roads and parallel cycling paths pretty much everywhere in the city.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amsterdam became the first city to turn Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economic Theory into transformative action. Poised for change, the city government introduced infrastructure and employment initiatives designed to bring the entire city ‘into the doughnut’: the sweet spot between the minimum required for people to live a good life, and the “environmental ceiling”, beyond which growth is no longer sustainable for our Planet.
And examples of “pure Doughnut” initiatives, as deputy mayor Marieke van Doornick calls them, have been budding ever since. The city collected and refurbished thousands of broken laptops to distribute to those without digital access when the pandemic began. New real estate construction cannot begin unless developers provide a ‘material passport’ which ensures all materials assigned to demolition are fully recycled.
Amsterdam’s first Vegan-only supermarket, Vegan Fresco, opened in 2021. The world-class Fashion For Good Museum is a shining example of what is possible when the fashion industry opens its doors to natural or sustainable innovations and practices. Neighborhood budgets of millions of Euros are set aside for resident-driven plans to develop community health and sustainability initiatives, and everyone in the neighborhood aged 12 or older, can vote.
This sense of civic engagement is part of our everyday life – and it plays a key role in our professional life, too. Havas’s offices recently moved to the Houthaven neighborhood, which is Amsterdam’s first climate-neutral district.
We’re proud to be part of a creative network with three B Corp Certified agencies – a distinction first garnered by Havas London in 2018, followed by our sister agency Havas Lemz in Amsterdam in 2020, and then Havas New York in 2021. We’re also honored to count B Corps like WeTransfer among our client partners. With WeTransfer, we had the opportunity to unpack new-to-conversation insights about the global creative community for their annual Ideas Report. Helping shape the global conversation around the importance of creativity and culture is not only fun, but important, if we consider UNESCO’s ongoing preservation and development efforts in the space.
How does living in a sustainability-supportive environment help inform your work?
The beauty of being fully immersed in this environment is that you feel like you’re a part of the fabric, quite literally. Client partnerships focused on sustainability in verticals like footwear and apparel have been a key component of TRIPTK’s area of brand transformation expertise and have been supercharged by the great knowledge and network resource that is the Fashion for Good Museum, for example.
Which brands have been helping consumers to make eco-conscious decisions in your country and what kind of messaging do they use in their campaigns?
I recently attended a great webinar co-hosted by Amsterdam-based B-LAB, The Terrace and Havas Lemz, during which the issue of ‘stock sustainability’ was raised: like stock photography, sustainability communications have relied on standardized sets of words and imagery for too long. Radley-Yeldar even identified 8 clusters of words and phrases that are used so often by brands that they are now soporific at best.
Great sustainability communications on the other hand, are brand-specific and honest: they address the good and the bad. For example, Dutch Chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely joined the conversation about the global obesity crisis by actively pointing out how they’re part of the sugar problem.
To incite action, brands must think like behavioral economists, drawing on principles like loss aversion (we hate to lose more than we love to win) and social norms (we’re instinctively drawn to conformity). For example, the Palau Pledge, a campaign by HOST/HAVAS, turned tourists visiting Palau into environmental stewards by having them sign a pledge stamped into their passport upon entry.
How do your city’s arts and culture inspire creativity and assist in brand communications?
The Dutch Rijksakademie is a fantastic example of an international arts residency that doesn’t just inspire creativity, but that draws from highly contemporary issues to be a force for good. In response to Ukraine’s current humanitarian crisis, artists, graphic designers and art professionals teamed up with the Rijksakademie to develop an artist-to-artist aid package for the Kyiv Biennial’s Emergency Support Initiative.
Among these pieces, one that stood out to me was Florence Jung’s work Jung68: a book series that was financed with the sale of data from everyone who reacted to the online ads featured in the book. The ads were for New Office, a dummy company Jung created by using a fake identity. The book is a loophole, produced by its own content. The EUR 87.5 collected by selling the ad data was enough to source the ink, paper and glue needed for 7 handmade, original books.
Do you think that the marketing industry can and should be a force for good, doing more to advance sustainability locally and globally?
I think it can, should and must be a force for good. Our industry is one of the largest, most influential platforms at our planet’s disposal, and it is our responsibility to use this power in more meaningful ways.
For one, because people who buy the products, services and experiences we market simply expect this from us.
According to the Havas Meaningful Brands Study, more than half of consumers globally believe companies play a more important role than governments in shaping a better collective future. Yet almost 6 in 10 consumers are disappointed in the quality of marketing content created by the world’s leading 1,800 brands – and almost 8 in 10 brands could simply disappear from the face of the Planet and no one would care.
And if that is not enough, evidence suggests that building for the betterment of society and our planet is good for business: Meaningful Brands outperform the stock market by 77%.