Sustainability is a human issue

Copy & Content Director

As we started our B Corp journey, and began formalising our commitment to people and planet, sustainability took on a new light for me.

Yes, sustainability is about protecting and preserving the world we inhabit and using business as a force for good.

But sustainability is also a human issue.

It’s a way for us, as an agency, to inspire innovation and excellence, and question if ‘business as usual’ allows us to create ‘business for good’.

In his book, Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking, author and journalist Matthew Syed outlines a compelling case for how diversity can make the world a better place.

If we are intent upon answering our most serious questions, from climate change to poverty, and curing diseases to designing new products, we need to work with people who think differently, not just accurately.

What Syed calls ‘cognitive diversity’ is an approach that creates better, more creative, and more exciting ideas, while acknowledging how strong you become when you acknowledge different ways of seeing (and different ways of being). 

Which isn’t the same as it being an easy fix, or easy to enact answers (so if you’re hoping for those, you can stop reading now). 

It’s also not about getting it right all of the time, or getting locked into purity politics where the gold standard is a kind of moral superiority. 

Sometimes, it’s about being open to questions.

Sometimes, it’s about unlearning what you think you know.

Sometimes, it’s about understanding that being accurate isn’t enough to spark creativity.

We’re a creative and communications agency, and I don’t want to be lofty about what a diversity commitment means for us. Diversity and sustainability of people wears a corporate suit: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (or DEI), which is undergoing an exciting transformation from a tick-box exercise to a human-centric way of working, and our work is to create an environment that supports it.

It’s an authentic celebration of the knowledge, experiences, and lives of the humans in our agency who create and deliver the work we do.

It’s about creating a culture where we challenge ‘that’s how it’s always been’ with ‘how can we do this better?’

It’s the start of a journey with no fixed destination, a journey that is as much about how we do it as about what it is we do.

DEI is a vast world dedicated to the fair treatment and full participation of all people, particularly groups who have historically been underrepresented or subject to discrimination on the basis of identity or disability. And my request to write this for Pride month isn’t accidental. As a queer non-binary human, June is a month that I love and dread in equal measure.

One of the constant conversations that swirls around othered groups is the idea of being ‘seen’. Growing up under the blanket of Section 28 meant that I spent the first 17 years of my life feeling mostly invisible. The opposite of this invisibility was exposure, which carried with it the threat of violence, repercussions, and discrimination.

Like many people in my community, my personal belief is that those who want to benefit from Pride financially, socially, or through a convenient timing alignment don’t get to see us in June and close their eyes from July to May.

I’m grateful in the 24 years since its repeal, the world has seemed to become more expansive and able to consider different ways of being a human, but there’s a long way to go.

According to ONS data from 2023, hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation have risen by 112% over the past five years.

Hate crimes against trans people have risen 186% overall in the past five years.

Which might surprise you to read. And it can often feel beyond the scope of you, your business, or your brand, to make any kind of difference. The good news is that there are steps, big and small, to help people feel safe and seen, whether that’s in your workplace or in the work you put into the world.

At Hue & Cry, I’m proud to say we’re taking these steps. And I’m grateful that these steps are being implemented not by or for me but by people who care about improving our work and our workplace.

I’m grateful that, as of this writing, I am the only person who uses they/them pronouns, but I did not have to ask or implore people to include pronouns in their email signatures or use them correctly when talking to or about me.

I’m grateful we have a dedicated DEI committee that just signed a partnership with Creative Access for training which will inform our agency practices.

I’m grateful that we work with brands, and create campaigns that strive to be inclusive, diverse, and lean willingly into what could be, instead of committing to that’s-how-it’s-always-been.

Are we perfect? No, but if you take nothing else from this, may it be that perfection isn’t the aim.

You don’t have to get everything ‘just so’ before you start to acknowledge and include those of us who are underrepresented. You just have to open the door to the possibility that the status quo of right now might not be the only way to do things, and explore the exciting and innovative places that might take you.

The growth of the future will be catalyzed by those who can transcend the categories we impose on the world, who have the mental flexibility to bridge between domains, who see the walls that we construct between disciplines and thought silos and regard them not as immutable but movable, even breakable.

This is why the outsider mindset is set to become even more powerful. That is not to say that we don’t need insider expertise; quite the reverse. We need both conceptual depth and conceptual distance. We need to be insiders and outsiders, conceptual natives and recombinant immigrants. We need to understand the status quo, but also to question it. We need to be strategically rebellious. (Matthew Syed)