It pays to be green

Sustainability in the creative landscape has been geared towards promoting economic and environmental actions that reduce our impact on the planet. But, recent success from our Lion winners show how it actually pays to be green.

“Brands need to communicate more actionable insights in their advertising for consumers, instead of calling out the minimal changes that they are doing.”

Senior VP Creative | Media Agency

Consumers now expect brands to step up to address climate issues. Brands are turning to creativity to make sustainable initiatives more inventive, authentic and impactful. We’ve seen creativity help provide alternatives to plastic, provide low-cost solar energy to rural communities, and deliver real-time upcycling of clothing in-store. The amount of work with a sustainability focus entered into the Lions increased from 7% in 2018 to 12% in 2021, which shows that progress is being made. This positive environmental impact is coupled with positive business results. Analysis of the Creative Effectiveness Lions shows that sustainability is now on a par with storytelling as the leading strategy for the most effective creative work. There are multiple reasons for brands to act.

Focus areas for 2022

Scale up solutions

“The difference between the work that got awarded and those that did not was scalability,” says Eduardo Maruri, Jury President for the Sustainable Development Goals Lions in 2021. Bring sustainability to the masses by converting one-off experiments into everyday initiatives.

Emphasise the business impact of sustainability

The most successful marketers are balancing SDG goals with brand growth. Continued evidence proves sustainable business solutions deliver long-term growth and shareholder returns. As a result, investors are placing more focus on businesses adhering to ESG standards. Marketers must help business leaders to embed meaningful sustainable practices that satisfy consumers and grow the brand.

Make sustainability accessible

Sourcing more sustainable materials and supply chains often comes with a price tag - a factor that can dissuade consumers from making ethical choices. The industry must focus on using its creative skills to democratise sustainability so it is accessible for all.

Let consumers see their impact

Marketers and creatives must use their collective knowledge of human behaviour and motivations to prompt people to act, and show the positive impact of that action.

At Cannes Lions this year we’ll hear from global brands, innovators and ambassadors for climate change. You’ll learn how the creative industry can use its collective firepower to drive urgently needed change.


Progress in play from the 2020/21 Lion winners …

Michelob Ultra has already demonstrated the business benefits of acting consciously. Its mission to transform agriculture with a ‘Contract for Change’ provides an organic solution to the product line but will also triple organic barley acreage by 2023. This marks an unprecedented contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The brand is also set to expand production by 25% by 2023.





Further Insight

From the State of Creativity Study, the most pertinent questions related to sustainability are how to avoid green-washing?; how to drive long-term impact?; and how to influence people to make sustainable choices?
The amount of work with a sustainability focus taking home a Lion in 2020/21 almost doubled - from 7% in 2018 to 13% in 2021.
42% of the work entered for the Design Lions was geared towards environmental problem-solving.

Lions Data | 2022

Thought starters for today

  • Think about the product messaging across your engagement strategies, is it resonating with the eco-anxious consumer?
  • Consider the scalability of your ideas. Can you scale your sustainable efforts alone, or do you need to team up to achieve this?
  • Approach briefs with an eco-conscious mindset. As investors continue to scrutinise sustainable practices, demonstrate how the ethical option can achieve longer-lasting impact for both the environment and business.