Ethical Team – Delivering ‘Purpose Beyond Profit’ is a boutique public relations and marketing consultancy able to create high-impact strategies around key moments based on deep insights, unique subject matter expertise and innovation. Focusing on key areas such as media relations, social media, cause and issue-based branding and marketing, corporate responsibility, non-profit marketing and corporate communications – the consultancy is positioned to help clients achieve both business and societal outcomes. A heart-led business.
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It’s quite disturbing this Christmas to witness our high streets glamorising weapons of violence in the lead up to the celebration of Christmas Day itself. A day, which is meant to symbolise peace, and goodwill to all men, and women. Especially post the Paris 2015 atrocities. In the advent of a heightened paranoia around terrorism repeating itself in some other unsuspecting town or city, you would hope that both retailers, and parents would show some sort of leadership around this issue. I was prompted to write this after recently seeing one high street retailer’s front window, stacked high with replica toy machine guns. Whilst most toy guns might bear little resemblance to the real McCoy, many are close identical replicas and, from a distance could prove quite threatening to a casual observer. With names like Shooting Play, Army Machine Gun and Rapid Firing Gun, are we not pretending that these toys are doing anything other than re-enacting death and destruction in a play format? Do these sorts of toys not reinforce and familiarise children with a destruction led, conflict narrative, normalising war and weapons, which is also regularly reinforced through popular entertainment, films, TV and video games?
Whilst gun culture in the UK is not remotely as prevalent as the US where there have been 294 mass shootings so far in 2015 we need to look at society and how our values are communicated as there appears to be no less promotion of guns and symbols of conflict in the retail arena, even though there’s a noticeable rise in knife and gun crime among the young in most urban environments. Certainly to cite the US again for decades, the most dangerous piece of machinery was an automobile. But now, it’s a gun.
It’s also interesting when ones does a search on Google for ‘children’s toy guns’ one finds an array of AK47’s, military assault and hand guns replicas popping up.
As the current programme on Channel 4 called “The Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds” shows. This age is arguably the most crucial period in a child’s development as they cross the threshold from family life into the social arena of school, and the tools of social interaction these children are learning can lay the foundations for the relationships they will form right across their adult lives.
Klaus Dodd’s, Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London is examining the historical and contemporary play with Action Man over the last 40 years. He believes that parental concern with weapons, which also loomed large in previous decades, masks an even bigger issue now.
“There is a kind of anxiety that expresses itself through war toys about Britain and its relationship with militarism. We are a country addicted to war. We are a highly militarised society and I think children and the relationship to toys is one aspect of that broader debate about what Britain is and represents.”
A generation ago or two, it wouldn’t be unusual to see kids running around their neighbourhood wielding toy guns as they played cowboys or cops and robbers. Myself included. But as school shootings have become frighteningly commonplace, playing with toy guns doesn’t seem that innocent anymore?
Many schools around the world have even implemented zero tolerance policies on guns, and in some cases, have gone as far as suspending children for pointing their fingers in the shape of a gun and pretending to shoot another student. Therefore, understandably some people feel that playing with toy guns sends the wrong message, making light of a deadly weapon — or worse, that toy guns increase aggression in children.
Playing with a toy gun can also have painful and even deadly consequences. There have been several incidences that involved children being shot accidentally.
It’s easy to see violence and aggression in society as a whole and in the media, through TV, video and the cinema. And then one hears a sweet, innocent child saying ‘bang bang’ and ‘I killed you,’. It’s not surprising in today’s increasingly violent culture not to worry that he/she could grow up to be violent.
In the same way that we go to the gym to train our bodies, we need to feed our minds, and those of younger generations and our good citizens of tomorrow. We need to do this with the appropriate symbolism through accessories and toys that promote goodwill, harmony and creativity as an antidote to extremism, violence and destruction. And there is no greater time to instil these values in society, than now, at Christmas, through play.Read More »
I’d be surprised if the publicity and coverage surrounding the Magna Carta hasn’t touched everyone at some point during the last few months as the 800th anniversary was marked by an array of exciting celebrations, stories and comment. Its significance is truly timely, and feels remarkably like some kind of synchronicity has taken place. This is because it allows us to reflect on our current place in history and how are our own stewardship of the earth requires an equivalent blue print and route map as we count down to the historic COP21 Paris 2015 climate change talks this December.
Magna Carta and Human Rights
Magna Carta, an 800-year-old document contains the idea that no-one is above the law, and it still forms the foundation of many modern ideas, constitutions and documents today. Its emergence came during the reign of King John when there was rampant exploitation of assets by the landed classes and those in power, much like today. Lots of constitutions have been derived and based upon it including the US Constitution, United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. This therefore also marks the anniversary of the Bill of Human Rights. But human rights are fictitious and not our birth right even though they should be and they vary depending on where you live on this planet. We therefore, have to ensure our right to a safe environment is upheld as one of the most basic principles of human rights at the same times as fighting for them.
HRH The Prince of Wales – a Magna Carta for the Earth
As HRH The Prince of Wales recently stated in his Social Impact Blog on theHuffington Post, we truly need a Magna Carta for the Earth. This blog post was part of a series produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in conjunction with the OECD Forum 2015.
Some would argue that the answers to the future lie in our past.
Not all Countries Have Environmental Laws Enshrined in Their Constitutions
It’s interesting to note that only 1/2 to 3/4 of the world’s political and country constitutions take into account environmental protection as a key foundation of their fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. So how about the rest? Does the Earth and its regulatory powers not need to establish a ‘Ministry of the Earth’ over and above the national interests of each of the constitutions where environmental protection is absent? Should a country such as the US and its President, Barack Obama be allowed to sanction drilling in the Arctic which is hardly in the interests of the whole world and certainly not in the interests of its poorest 2/3rds who are without a voice on such issues that affect them indirectly? Or even the future generations who have yet to be born in hundreds of years’ time.
Environmental Protection is a Human Rights issue.
Because human rights are not granted by any human authority such as a monarch, government, or secular or religious authority, they are not the same as civil rights, such as those in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Constitutional rights are granted to individuals by virtue of their citizen ship or residence in a particular country.
Human rights are both abstract and practical. They hold up the inspiring vision of a free, just, and peaceful world and set minimum standards for how both individuals and institutions should treat people. They also empower people to take action to demand and defend their rights and the rights of others
According to the scientist Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, “We control the world basically because we are the only animals that can cooperate flexibly in very large numbers. And if you examine any large-scale human cooperation, you will always find that it is based on some fiction like the nation, like money, like human rights. These are all things that do not exist objectively, but they exist only in the stories that we tell and that we spread around. This is something very unique to us, perhaps the most unique feature of our species.”
Protect the Idea of the Common Good
The Magna Carta in principal essentially sets out to protect the idea of the Common Good. Jonathan Porritt , Co-Founder of Forum for the Future, eminent writer, broadcaster and commentator on sustainable development recently commented that “social justice and environmental sustainability are two sides of the same coin – a coin which has very little value if all you’re seeing is either one side or the other.”
When Magna Carta was confirmed by Henry III’s minority government in 1217, the opportunity was taken to hive off the clauses relating to the forests and place them in a separate charter, at the same time adding to their number. This resulted in theForest Charter 1215. There was much in the 1215 Charter about forest matters because the extent of the king’s forests and the administration of the forest law were both sources of popular grievance. By way of redress the king promised limited disafforestation and investigations into the malpractices of his forest officials.
It’s interesting to note that the Settlement for all time was brokered by the Church – Now we see the mobilisation of the Catholic Church around climate issues and the environment with Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical.
Paris 2015 could turn out to be the modern day Magna Carta. The global pact in Paris should be a Magna Carta for the Earth. Justice should be free to all and our human rights to clean air, water and access to shared resources protected.
Aarhus Convention – Access to Environmental Justice
Access to information, public participation in decision making and access to justice in environmental matters is a key tenet of the Aarhus Convention which was signed in October 2001. It’s been ratified several times over the last 10 years but Article 9 is the key part of the convention of which there are 3 parts.
We should all have access to administrative or judicial procedures for members of the public to challenge Acts or omissions which contravene the provisions for environmental protection and we must fight to ensure these civil rights are upheld. However many in the legal profession would argue that this convention has not been effectively implemented.
Ecocide – Ensuring the welfare of both people and planet.
Polly Higgins famously coined the term Ecocide. A fully proposed draft of the law of Ecocide was submitted into the United Nations by her in April 2010. The intent behind the drafting is to ensure that people and planet are put first and to create a legal duty of care to a) prohibit the causes of mass damage and destruction, b) prevent future significant harm from taking place and c) pre-empt both human caused and natural Ecocides that put nations at risk of being unable to self-govern.
A law of Ecocide addresses the core issue of today: ensuring the welfare of both people and planet. For instance, Small Island States that are at risk of rising sea-levels (a naturally occurring Ecocide) shall benefit by the creation of a legal duty of care to give assistance before their land is destroyed and their people are left stranded as refugees. The shift to non-destructive industrial activity (such as clean energy) can only be put in place globally by the creation of an overriding legal duty of care.
We can only hope that those in power and authority are able to demonstrate the same sort of leadership that transpired from the chaos at the time Magna Carta so that we can ratify an equivalent route map that sets out to preserve the earth through effective stewardship for future generations. It is doubtful any authority could give an equivalent guarantee to maintain the status quo in 800 years’ time based on our current scientific climate predictions? I doubt I’d be wrong if I said the world will be a very different place in 50 years as a result of our current evolutionary pace in the age of the Anthropocene. The epoch we’re experiencing where human activities have started to have a significant global impact on the Earth’s ecosystems.
We must continue to fight for the ‘common good’ and enshrine environmental protection in every constitution of this earth through the climate change talks this December, and create the corresponding legal frameworks going forward. These must then be embedded in every single constitution around the world without delay. It is only then, that with wishful thinking, people might be able to look back 800 years from now and thank us for our foresight, stewardship and leadership.
Iain Patton is an global sustainability engagement consultant based in London amplifying the sustainability agenda to business, organisations and civil society. He does this by building partnerships, advocacy, outreach, capacity building, stakeholder engagement and challenging business to embed sustainability at its heart. Iain helps organisations pursue large-scale social change efforts, which is the challenge and opportunity of our time. Iain supports initiatives that help create sustainable movements of citizens mobilised to take direct action. If you have a sustainability campaign/project that needs amplifying or outreach to senior decision-makers drop a line to email@example.com or visit www.ethicalteam.com for further details.Read More »
It was recently the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania which was marked by memorial services across the United Kingdom and around the world. For those that don’t know, the RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner and briefly, the world’s largest passenger ship. She was launched by the British/American Cunard Line in 1906, at a time of fierce competition for the North Atlantic trade.
When the RMS Lusitania left New York for Liverpool on what would be her final voyage on 1 May 1915, submarine warfare was intensifying in the Atlantic during the 1st World War. Germany had declared the seas around the United Kingdom a war zone, and the German embassy in the United States had placed a newspaper advertisement warning people of the dangers of sailing on the Lusitania. On the afternoon of 7 May, Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-Boat, 11 mi (18 km) off the southern coast of Ireland and inside the declared “zone of war”. A second internal explosion sent her to the bottom in 18 minutes causing the deaths of 1,198 passengers and crew.
One of the many interesting facets of this piece of history was the fact that the Germans had pre-notified the world of their prospective target before sinking the Lusitania, and yet its passengers falsely believed they would be immune from such a fate. The Imperial German Embassy had in fact placed the warning advertisement in 50 American newspapers at the time, including those in New York. Unbelievably this warning was even printed adjacent to the advertisement for Lusitania’s return voyage but other American newspapers dismissed the claim at the time as an idle threat.
This is a good example of the phase made famous by Margaret Heffernan called‘Wilful Blindness’. I was one of over 80 people who gathered on a delightful summers evening a couple of years ago at the Institute of Business Ethics in London to hear her speak about how as humans, we are predisposed to overlook things that we don’t like and how the concept of ‘them and us’, where catastrophes are provoked by a few ‘awful’ individuals is not actually the case. The conversation went on to focus on the observation that humans choose conformity, rather than standing out from the crowd. And that studies from Europe and the US show that there is also culture of organisational silence, where 85% of respondents said there were issues that they wouldn’t voice in the workplace. This is clearly a societal condition that needs to be addressed.
March 2015 – (NOAA) reveal the highest recorded ppm (parts for million)
This sad commemoration resonated as my daily inbox became typically overloaded with an array of environmental and mainstream news digests displaying attention grabbing headlines. One announced that for the first time in our recorded history, global levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere averaged more than 400 parts per million (ppm) for an entire month—in March 2015 (The highest EVER recorded). This seemed to highlight yet another grim, and yet largely unmarked milestone for an ever-warming planet according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) . “It was only a matter of time that we would average 400 parts per million globally,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
What does this really mean to most people I wonder? This environmental narrative seems to hold little sway now as we’ve become so desensitised to these sorts of stories. Charities realised long ago that featuring a child suffering from extreme famine in Africa doesn’t necessarily lead to any immediate emotional reaction or engagement in a world of saturated media. As consumers we’ve developed an immunity and filter to block out these images, facts and figures from our daily lives as they don’t often, or in fact never, impact on our day to day existence.
In the same week, I heard that the Obama administration gave conditional approval to Shell to start drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean this summer. Shell has been fighting for the right to drill in the Arctic for years, despite a number of botched forays in recent years, and it looks like they are still going to get their way. The Arctic is the last pristine wilderness that is financially beyond protection should any disaster strike as a result of an open house policy allowing resource exploitation. These two stories seem to confirm that ‘generational blindness’ in the face of adversity is a human condition. It’s the same with cycle or pedestrian deaths where often preventative urban planning measures have not been implemented unless there are enough tragedies to justify a change in policy.
According to climate change consultant, writer and psychotherapist Rosemary Randall, climate change discourse presents two parallel narratives. One about the problems of climate change, the other about the solutions. When media commentators discuss the problem of climate change, loss often features dramatically and terrifyingly in their stories but is located in the future or in places remote from Western audiences. In narratives about solutions – particularly in the discourse of government – loss is completely excised and we are encouraged to believe that ‘small steps’ and technical wizardry will do the trick alongside the advent of a low carbon economy.
Rosemary Randall’s paper suggests that this division into parallel narratives is the result of a defensive process of splitting and projection that protects the public from the need to truly face and mourn the losses associated with climate change. The effect is to produce monstrous and terrifying images of the future accompanied by bland and ineffective proposals for change now. She suggests that a more sophisticated understanding of the processes of loss and mourning, which allowed them to be restored to public narratives, would help to release energy for realistic and lasting programmes of change.
Old School Environmentalism VS ‘The New Environmentalism’
We therefore need to recognise the limits of what it means to be human and embrace the fact that we’re not going to always react when we need to act. As humans we’ll continue to do what we know we shouldn’t. That’s partly because it’s what makes us human and we’re probably the only species that’s aware of our own demise and yet we don’t often take the precautions necessary to preserve our future. Therefore, as communicators we need to continue to explore and test new approaches to getting the single minded message across that we’ve change ahead, and that we need to be prepared for it. Martin Wright Senior Affiliate, Forum for the Future talks about ‘The New Environmentalism – Levelling the Playing Field’ in his TED Talk where he suggests we need to focus more on the innovation and opportunity ahead, than the threats as there is a lot we will not be able to change or have an impact on at this stage in our human civilization.
Acclaimed self-help guru Tony Robbins also comments in one of his audio sessions that some people in the 21st Century have never had it so good. We’ve the best technology, people are living longer, experiencing the best healthcare and access to products and services that we could never have dreamt of 30 years ago. Sadly, this is not the case for everyone in the world right now. For those that are experiencing the good times they need to reflect on how their quality of living might be curtailed in a world exemplified by resource shortages, pollution and conflict without some clever planning now.
One of the biggest challenges facing the population in years to come will be itself. Not specifically in the form of war or conflict, but in terms of its’ size. In the wake of the birth of a collection of children symbolically referred to as the “seventh billionth babies”, it is now, ironically our quality of life that poses a significant threat certainly in the developed world.
We need to detach ourselves from that which is no longer sustainable, which is easier said than done, and remake our futures using all the creativity that exists and brought us to this point in the first place. We’ve come a long way in the last 2.5 million years ago since our more recent ancestor – Homo habilis or ‘man, the toolmaker’ appears to have evolved out of the Rift Valley in Africa.
Let’s celebrate the future and look ahead, but with a cautious eye that is weary of our own inherent frailty and absence of mind. It makes no sense to continue to ignore the perilous signs all around us. And, as an industry, communicators have to try harder to interpret the numbers associated with climate change so that they are not filtered out i.e. it’s not going to affect me mentality. As we know from our own not too distant history the risks of wilful blindness are indeed perilous.
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How can we mobilise the masses around climate change? The case to act is now urgent. As you probably know, 2014 was the hottest year in 130 years of systematic record keeping. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. If this wasn’t compelling enough, the symbolic Doomsday Clock moved to three minutes before midnight in January 2015 because of the gathering dangers of climate change and nuclear proliferation, signalling the gravest threat to humanity since the throes of the cold war.
Should we be alarmed? It is the closest the clock has come to midnight since 1984, when arms-control negotiations stalled and virtually all channels of communication between the US and the former Soviet Union closed down.
Whilst ‘sustainability and climate’-related news is more commonplace in the developed nations and part of our mainstream media, even if it is lower down the news agenda, it’s not the case for most of the rest of the world. The majority of the world’s population is more worried about the end of the month and how to pay their bills rather than the end of the world (which seems a long way off unless you’re living in Kiribati island, one of the Pacific Island states that is one of the most vulnerable in the world due to the potential devastating effects of climate change that lay ahead.)
Global warming as well as nuclear proliferation seem to be such abstract notions for the average man or woman in the street, to the extent that they’re unlikely to show any real concern unless it makes an immediate and direct impact on their day to day lives.
The enormity of these unforeseen possibilities is unfathomable within the general context of most people’s lives, and it is therefore no surprise that most people become disenchanted and disenfranchised with this unknown realm of possibility. It is basically down to the fact that the problems seem so huge that no single individual feels that they can make a difference and therefore they cut the umbilical cord which connects them with the supposed prophetic events beholden in the future.
It seems many people in modern societies are still devoid of any significant emotional attachment to the advancement of extreme climate change as they live out their relatively straightforward lives living in their clean houses, streets, orderly neighbourhoods and functioning cities. Renee Lertzman’s research into Climate Change and inaction reported in The Ecologist (Lertzman 2008) alerts us to the role anxiety can play in an apparently apathetic response.
However, in the midst of all this climate doom and gloom, there are many great opportunities emerging. Although most people are experiencing extreme information overload in their daily lives and finding it difficult to process and manage, the advent of social media has allowed us to engage mass populations around climate change and disseminate the truth of our trajectory at lightning speed through online content sharing of news.
Most people I know have an almost inseparable relationship with their smart phone and an insatiable desire for content, new images and captivating videos to share. We have all turned into publishers, syndicating news to our respective social and professional networks at the press of a button. The whole world of viral marketing and word-of-mouth citizen engagement is racing ahead in leaps and bounds as the ‘sharing’ function becomes indispensable to people’s daily lives, feeding our social whims and for many validating our existence as social citizens. This is all good news for the world of campaigning and capacity building i.e. garnering support around popular issues and creating traction. There is now a burgeoning array of online social movements gaining ground and shifting attitudes including Avaaz.org , Change.org, Sumofus.org, the TckTckTck campaign, 38degrees and the more recent Global Catholic Climate Movement which Ethical Team supported with their April Care4Creation campaign and its inaugural Parish Toolkits .
The breadth of these organisations and their global reach is a cause for celebration in the fast moving chaotic world we occupy which now seems to be in a continual state of disarray, conflict and boom and bust economic cycles.
There are also more sector specific campaigns emerging such as the new More than Scientists campaign which recently launched to provide a clarion call from the worlds scientific elite to stand up and be counted in the fight against climate change. And from Greenpeace we have the Save the Arctic campaign which seeks to protect one of the last untapped natural habitats from the ravages of oil exploration.
Some of these organisations have achieved massive leaps in their membership – a case in point is Avaaz, which now has about 42 million subscribers. This is significant by any publisher’s standard and at this level Avaaz’s donor activation campaigns should be able to sustain them organisationally simply through the sheer numbers who are able to give small but regular donations, alongside traditional funding from foundations and HNWIs.
Another example of movement building and a sea change taking place within the world of politics is the emergence of the UK’s Green Party which has now become the largest youth movement in the country. It’s about time the Greens gained a foothold in the UK which no doubt spawned the impetus behind some of these new European online campaigning platforms. The green movement is in effect ‘coming of age’. It’s either now or never, and the future generation seem to be realising their potential in that they have a voice through digital engagement as well as through more traditional activism. Like the Arab spring they need to embrace this social tide and embark on a crusade to ensure they have a future worth living for long after today’s politicians are out of the frame.
So how do we stop the silent collapse? Why are we still facing an impeding gargantuan disaster similar to many of the apocalyptic science fiction movies we’ve all seen over the years if we are indeed such an ‘intelligent’ species? Why is sustainability such a hard sell? On the one had we are facing catastrophic and impending climate crisis and yet on the other hand we have the powerful solutions that could allow us to reduce the impact humanity has on the environment, maintain our rich biodiversity and habitats for future generations. Isn’t this just about basic stewardship? Is it that hard for our elected leaders to understand? Does it really make any sense polluting our water systems that are the essence of all life on earth or the air we need to breathe? I don’t think so. And yet we’re still seeing governments opting for short term measures such as fracking over cleaner energy solutions that are proven and ready to scale up.
Why is there so much scepticism and what’s holding back the true green revolution or should we say revelation? The tipping point will be creating and engaging these mass movements. There are also lots of large captive and in some cases untapped audiences that can be mobilised further and used to promote the climate agenda including in sport, religion, universities & colleges, unions and in popular culture with celebrities. Anywhere in fact where there are existing large organised groups that can be harnessed for a greater social good with clear channels of communications for cascading ideas and sharing best practice. Let’s hope that James Lovelock, independent scientist, environmentalist and futurist who pioneered the theory of Gaia isn’t right. His comment on BBC Radio 4 recently said we should focus ALL our efforts on adaption as opposed to mitigation as it was just too late to make the changes necessary. So the best advice is sign up to the global campaigning platforms that are now challenging global corporations and governments so that through mass online protest we can create a fairer, more equitable and more transparent society. And let’s hope that these movements pool resources and join forces to stand behind one single unified message as we count down to the historic COP21 Climate change talks this December in Paris. It really doesn’t make any sense that according to a report released by Oxfam last year, the richest 85 people in the world, who could fit onto a single double-decker bus, have just as much wealth as the poorest half of world. This shock finding from anti-poverty campaigners Oxfam came as world leaders, business chiefs and academics met in Davos for the World Economic Forum in 2014.
So start your journey as an armchair activist today and start petitioning and joining these climate change campaigning organisations as there’s just no excuse not to engage in 2015.
Ethical Team is an engagement consultancy amplifying the sustainability agenda to make it relevant and attractive to people who don’t care. It does this by building partnerships, advocacy, outreach and capacity building, stakeholder engagement and challenging business to embed sustainability at its heart. We help organisations pursue large-scale social change efforts, which is the challenge and opportunity of our time. We support initiatives that help create sustainable movements of citizens mobilised to take direct action. See www.ethicalteam.comRead More »
As we begin 2015 amidst the doom and gloom in the news surrounding a deteriorating climate and the general political turmoil in the world there’s a huge opportunity ahead to carve out a new sustainable route map, and reality, that binds us to a secure and equitable future. Could it be the year that the world finally embraces it’s responsibilities and recognises that ‘Nature doesn’t do bail outs’ as the science is repeatedly telling us? As a species we face some stark choices ahead about our own future let alone the legacy we leave future generations. The reality is that we need to embrace the window of opportunity presented ahead this year, seize the momentum of all the knowledge gained and heed the clarion call from the scientific, academic and now the religious communities that time is running out. Continue ReadingRead More »