World Environment Day 2019

Creativity has the power to help tackle major global challenges and change behaviour

Since 1974, World Environment Day has been a day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. This year, something has changed, and the call-to-action has taken on a new sense of urgency. The United Nations estimates we have only 11 years to limit a climate change catastrophe, and around the world communities are coming together to ask what we can do as a society to help avoid a crisis.

At WPP, we believe creativity has the power to help tackle major global challenges and persuade people to behave and think differently. For our clients, there is a major business imperative too; it’s estimated that sustainability business model innovation could open up economic opportunities worth $12 trillion and create 380 million jobs.

This year’s World Environment Day focuses on air quality, and there are projects where we have helped clients reimagine how we can help address this environmental challenge, such as our work for Volvo in India to create a filter than can be easily fitted onto domestic fans.

We have also prioritised using our creativity to work with clients to help reduce single-use plastics and change how plastic can be recycled, re-used, or refilled.

The scale of the problem is clear: earlier this year undersea explorer Victor Vescovo discovered sweet wrappers and plastic bags alongside undiscovered species including translucent sea-pigs during the deepest ocean dive in history, at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench. Today there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris littering our oceans, threatening the existence of entire species of marine life in even the most remote and inaccessible parts of the planet.

This month, more than 100 people from different WPP companies, clients and partners attended our summit at WPP’s London headquarters to discuss how – in partnership – we can collaborate to help reduce the impact of plastic on the planet. Discussing new innovations from refilling stations for haircare to super-concentrated dilute-at-home cleaning products, we also debated how to challenge some of the conventions about what it means for a product to be ‘luxury’. Could less be more?

Many of our companies are already working with clients to help their customers reduce, reuse and recycle plastics. We’ve worked extensively with Hindustan Unilever on campaigns around waste and recycling in India, while H+K Strategies is supporting the launch of Loop, the new global circular shopping platform designed to eliminate the idea of waste by transforming the products and packaging of everyday items from the world’s largest consumer goods companies to durable, multi-use, feature-packed designs. 

At Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2019, The WPP Beach will be free of single-use plastic and we’ll be holding a panel event exploring the role brands can play in tackling the challenge of these plastics and the opportunities reducing their use can bring.

Over the summer we also plan to hold a creative transformation hack in London to work in partnership alongside clients to find creative and innovative solutions to unpack the plastics problem and look at new offers for clients. Kantar Europanel has launched a new panel in 20 countries, #whocareswhodoes, which will explore which environmental issues matter most to consumers including waste, climate change, food safety, protecting nature, water scarcity and pollution, and will go further and ask which behaviours consumers have changed.

We know that across our global network, we have the opportunity to help drive awareness and action on environmental issues through our work with clients and partnerships with government, corporations and civil society. It is through these collaborations that we will use our creativity to help bring about the shift in attitudes and behaviour needed to tackle some of the greatest challenges of our time.

Read more about WPP's approach to Sustainability

Hannah Harrison

Director of Sustainability, WPP

published on

24 July 2019



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