Why Ad Agencies Need to Become Climate Activists

Konstantin Popovic, CEO Grey Group Singapore

The pandemic and the US election may have stolen the headlines in 2020, but there is no denying that the Climate Crisis is the defining issue of our time. It’s not a cause you chose to participate in or focus your CSR activities on. It is actually not even about the climate. It’s about humanity. Saving humanity, that is.

Debates about what caused the California wildfires are important. But what about the 9 million people who die each year from air pollution. Equally disturbing, are we having enough conversations about the 24 million climate refugees that are displaced annually – three times more than those who get displaced by violence and wars?

These are some of the facts I learned as I went through my training with Al Gore’s Climate Leadership Corps. These are the facts that made me pause and think about not just what I would want to do with my time in the future but what the role of our industry should be.


How often do we stop and reflect to what degree marketing contributed to the problem? Over-consumption, pushing fast fashion, ignoring plastic – we cannot liberate ourselves from the role we play in today’s unsustainable ecosystem.

But what if marketing could also become part of the solution?

If there is one lesson I took away from my training, it is that the #1 thing we can all do is to use our voice. Spread the word. Create more awareness. Seek the dialogue.

This is exactly what we as agencies pride ourselves on: communication. Putting forward compelling arguments for behavior change. Influencing attitudes. Driving change.


You could argue that sustainability gets enough media coverage these days, but how much time have you spent lately discussing COVID-19 with your friends vs. discussing the climate crisis? And more importantly, how often are we, the agency community, seeking dialogue with our clients about this subject? Whether you create a dedicated Practice like Grey has done or not, I encourage everyone in our industry to become an active part of the solution.

We just posted on www.sustainablygrey.com 30 different video call backgrounds with climate action commitments for all to download. Millions of people spend hours every day on conference calls and our backgrounds can be impactful 1-minute icebreakers at the beginning of each meeting. We created many of them not just because the issue has many facets to it but also because we all have different passion points in what part we want to play as individuals. Here are a few examples:

This one simple and free idea illustrates how easy it is for the marketing community to drive awareness and behavior change. Obviously, this is just one small contribution but when we come together across agencies, marketing clients, Governments, NGO’s and start-up’s there is a lot we can do. So please join us in becoming agency climate activists: unearth your client’s sustainability story, work with NGOs to raise awareness and drive funding, fuel sustainability start-up’s that can change the world, and keep inventing small ideas that can have a big impact.

Perhaps someday the marketing community will be celebrated as an important part of solving the climate crisis. At least, we owe it to ourselves to try hard.

Picture of Konstantin Popovic

Konstantin Popovic

Konstantin Popovic is the CEO of Grey Group Singapore

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