For three decades now I have been know as part of a design team that has been known as questioning, independent, and over the past decade or so, champions of social and sustainable thinking.
Over the last few years we have begun to work with large corporate organisations, not to feed turnover, but because it has become increasingly clear that because of the scale and investment available, bold initiatives can be undertaken.
The likes of Greenpeace and WWF (and the legions of small activists) have done wonderful jobs in hounding and naming and shaming corporations who have failed to take the environment, sustainability and ethical trading seriously. Their tireless campaigning has made a significant section of the public aware and helped to build a business environment where it makes business sense to “care”.
Whatever the tipping point has been, my overwhelming experience is of corporate who now hold sustainability, the environment and ethical thinking at their core. They have set up corporate responsibility departments and whole segments of the business who are dedicated to this thinking. They have employed directors who are zealous and “dedicated to the cause”, directors who have significant budgets at their disposal. They now have the economies of scale to really start to make a difference.
The work we are doing with McDonalds (in collaboration with up cycling and re use specialists Worn Again) in terms of working out a system that allows the uniforms of their 88,000 UK staff to eventually be able to be made into new material to make new uniforms ad infinitum is bold, industry leading and takes considerable investment.
The project we have with Coca Cola promoting their move towards plastic bottles that have significant PET content (in simple terms plastic derived from sugar cane and molasses) is forward thinking , helps to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and ultimately, makes financial sense.
We learnt a decade ago, when we started working with (Taylor) Wimpey Homes that sustainable projects of scale that resonate far and wide are much easier to deliver by collaborating with those that have most to gain (and to lose).
So it’s time for people to stop raising their eyebrows and look surprised that designers like us are choosing to work with the kind of corporations that the campaigning bodies that we support once hounded. Big Corporations are not The Devil incarnate they have an ability to lever their tremendous resources and some are now leading the way.