Category Archives: Green Movement

Values need Context: #LestWeForget

A Comment on Christmas TV Adverts and a lesson for NGOs.

Monty the Penguin - the John Lewis Christmas Ad arrives with rueful knowing.

Monty the Penguin – the John Lewis Christmas Ad arrives with rueful knowing.

After watching Monty the Penguin, I felt a little teary; after watching Sainsbury’s World War I Truce ad – I felt a little nauseous.
Both appeal to socially responsible values, endearing us to a world of friendship and love; but context is key.

Yesterday, I attended a workshop on the use of “values” in communications.

Conducted in the name of the “Common Cause”, the good folk of PIRC brought to our attention the idea of the intrinsic-extrinsic values map. Using research from social psychologists worldwide, they explained how appealing to certain sets of values is more likely to result in certain behaviours. (The work is fascinating and can be read about in depth on their website here) .

Common Cause Values Map. Find out more at

Common Cause Values Map. Find out more at

The major take-away message for social do-gooders is that to encourage socially responsible action, communicators need to appeal to related values in their work, e.g. inner harmony, social justice, equality (see green areas in map).

What’s more, it is noteworthy that these “universal and benevolent” values are much more frequently considered important by all sectors of society. So connecting with such value sets in most communications is a good idea, especially if you want to truly engage the viewer and encourage generous behaviour.

And indeed, while us not-for-profit lot were eagerly scribbling away, drinking green tea and talking about moral responsibility, the British retailing big-boys were releasing their TV ads. And as usual, they’re ahead of the game. Yet the results are unsettling.

Penguins vs The Trenches
If you watch the Christmas TV ads from either Waitrose, John Lewis or Sainsbury’s you will see that all of them feed into the idea of love, friendship and belonging. They’re activating those universal values, as even FOR-profit organizations realise that activating these values is more powerful than those associated with individualism.

But while some adverts can be considered successful, others seem to be in terrible taste – highlighting the importance of context.

#Monty the Penguin is an all-time favourite. Watching little boy Sam tenderly care for his best friend, a viewer can’t help but engage all those intrinsic values related to universalism and benevolence(see map above) – for example, loyalty, equality, love, friendship, unity with nature, broadmindedness, a world of beauty. The end message of the advert is that the boy’s faithful and unfailing love of his penguin is mirrored by YOUR love of your own children – a love that can be demonstrated by purchasing a nice present from John Lewis.

Nothing too offensive in that – and indeed, something we can all rationally choose against if we so wish.

Sainsbury's WWI Truce Advert. Appropriate?

Sainsbury’s WWI Truce Advert. Appropriate?

The Sainsbury’s advert is, on first comparison, a similar, if not more powerful, emotional roller-coaster. Depicting a fairytale vision of the front line, this exquisite short film tells the true story of human connection breaking the barriers of war on Christmas Day in 2014. Compassion and love triumph barbed wire and bombs. Those lovely intrinsic values of universalism and benevolence are activated once more in the on-looker at home. Moreover, wider group values relating to national security and social order. The end result is a feel-good montage of “BEING PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER” – a message which chimes with Sainsbury’s family focused Christmas campaign last year.

But while I’m a fan of both Monty the Penguin and Sainsbury’s Family advert (I watched the full 60 min montage a NUMBER of times over), this WW1 Truce leaves me reeling.

The reason  = context.
Sainsbury’s, John Lewis and the rest of the corporate gang are clever. Very, very clever in getting ahead on communications territory which by rights, should be the preserve of those trying to serve the public good. They understand that:

  • 1) Viewers want to be told a story.
  • 2) We want to feel that other people feel what we feel (similar values).
  • 3) We want to become the people we want to be by following a certain action (e.g. buying a present, shopping in a certain store).

Yet, despite their canny knowing, they don’t seem to have grasped the idea of social sensibility.

Using the events of World War One is frankly sinister. Sure, there’s some reference to a charitable chocolate bar – and yep, they’ve worked in partnership with the Royal British Legion. And don’t get me wrong – I certainly think that this is a beautiful piece of film about WW1 which if used for the purposes of the Royal British Legion alone would have been glorious.

Royal Lancashire Fusiliers treating a wounded comrade in the Somme during the summer of 1916 during the First World War (c) Nigel Blundell.

Royal Lancashire Fusiliers treating a wounded comrade in the Somme, 1916 (c) Nigel Blundell.

However, is it not cynical to use the deaths of 100,000s of people, fighting for democracy, to sell turkeys? This of course, let’s not forget,  is ultimately the aim of this advert. If you asked those men that died how they’d feel about their story being used for the supermarket retailer to buoy flagging sales – I’m not sure what they’d say.

The result is a tangible feeling of disconnection on viewing the advert.

It should of course be noted that the vast majority of people commenting on message boards, Twitter, Youtube and Facebook, have had v. many positive things to say about Sainsbury’s. But I’m not sure that they’re aware of the reality of Sainsbury’s aims in creating this advert. They want to increase the shareholder value of Sainsbury’s. The Royal British Legion is a secondary CSR detail.

Lesson for Not-for-Profits?
Values are important. Storytelling is important. Having viable actions for viewers to follow up on is important. But so is the frame within which you’re communicating your message.

Us not-for-profits have a long way to go. And we need to learn more quickly, and implement more expediently. But let’s try to remember the lessons of our corporate route-masters. These guys have got they’re first, they’ve created amazing pieces of artful communication, with more panache and style than many of us. Much of their success is due to healthier budgets, but some is due to professionalism.

But as this proves, corporates haven’t  retained the moral high ground. They’ve been scrabbling for it, as the recent retailers’ “War on Values’ was declared, with Sainsburys & Tescos scrapping about bananas. Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe even went onto do a little piece about the “value of values”.  But there’s nothing substantive for them to talk about. The truth is that their values can be found on a spreadsheet in numerical form, where as civil society’s are held within our collective sense of right and wrong.

Let’s capitalise on that and let’s move ahead – using values and frames to make an unashamed moral difference.


Sustainability: the story of kindness?

ceiling of la sagrada familiaFor me, sustainability is about compassion.

I went to Barcelona this weekend for the first time. I saw Gaudi and Picasso and was completely and utterly blown away. Brain fuzz.

Each artist’s strength lay in the radically new perspective they brought to their work.  Although they saw the same things as everyone else, they explored their focus from previously untold angles. La Sagrada Familia embodies this radical approach – de-constructing and rebuilding the idea of a catholic cathedral so profoundly different to that found across the rest of Europe.

And so my thoughts (as always) returned to sustainability.

The story of kindness, of compassion, is one which – although I’m sure is familiar to many others – for me, has only recently connected to sustainability.  I want to use this story to give a new perspective on working towards a greener, fairer world, and indeed, how we communicate about that ambition.

I think we care about creating a sustainable world because we care about one another.

Of course, “sustainability” embodies a whole host of concepts, from carbon permits to biodiversity offsetting to closed loop recycling. Money, reputation and politics make an inevitable appearance also.

But at the heart of the matter lies kindness; caring for one another – for our families, our children, our society. For our grandchildren and great-grandchildren as yet unborn, and for everyone who we share this moment of existence with.

So compassion can be seen as the driver.

Moreover, it’s also the facilitator. No one can create sustainable change alone – we need to collaborate. And this process requires us working to understand and be understanding with a whole host of people, many coming from perspectives and vested interests we may find challenging.

Only compassion can make this happen.

I don’t think these are just airy fairy words. Check out the great work from Common Cause on intrinsic values, the Dalai Lama’s words on environmentalism, Tom Shadyac’s documentary “I am”, or the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities.

Sustainability both demonstrates and requires compassion. What’s more, perhaps compassion provides a greater setting for the tale of environmentalism than offsets and permits?

Gaudi orchestrated such beauty through connecting the ideas of  creativity, nature and morality. We need to explore every avenue we can in creating a world that works for us all. Why not start with kindness?


So – I am super impressed. Further to last night’s self-flagellation and my email to Marks & Sparks querying the sustainable sourcing of my favourite nut salad – I was expecting at least a few days’ wait for some ethical … Continue reading

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All Talk, No Action – Me, Myself & I.

(c) www.iwastesomuchtime.comI’ve recently realised that while I talk the talk, I don’t always walk the walk of sustainability.

I spend all day working for an organisation exploring how we can fish sustainably; I spend many of my evenings thinking about how we can engage people in these issues, and furrowing my brow over why we’re not living a more engaged democracy at a time of environmental crisis. Yet the rather concerning truth is – I, personally, could do more – a lot more.

I love the chat, chew the fat and then fly to New York for a city break. I eat turkey for breakfast and have a penchant for ready-prepared tropical fruits – whose carbon footprint I’m sure is astronomical.

My personal carbon footrpint’s not too shabby – but much of this is due to passive circumstances rather than my own action. I don’t drive, as I can’t drive; I walk to work, but that’s powered by fat fears rather than eco-love; I live in a flat with an energy of rating is A, but that’s the way it came, not the way I made it.

Not to be too self-flagellating – I do make a few positive choices – I always carry a plastic bag around with me, and I make a point of buying fairtrade/organic/sustainable label wherever possible. I’m a member of the Green Party, Greenpeace and I always turn the tap off when I’m brushing my teeth.

But that’s about it!

So. A decision has been made. I have committed to doing at least two proactive things per week in order to “make a change”. Ghandi and all that. etc.

The first is a letter to Marks & Sparks regarding their delicious and I’ve no doubt nutritious “Nutty Super Wholefood Salad“. This is a salad I simply adore – I eat it for lunch five days a week – and last week, I had it for breakfast too.

But I’m guessing that the soya beans (in the soy sauce) may have come from somewhere suspect. My worse fears is that my love for vegetable protein is leading to the deforestation of some glorious prime rainforest. Moreover, I’ve recently read some troubling reports of how quinoa production is causing food security fears and poverty in South America.

Accordingly, I need to act.On consideration, I’ve decided to write an email to the lovely people at M&S. My plan is that this will, if nothing else, prove that some of their customers are concerned regarding the sustainable and ethical sourcing of their goods. Of course, I could avoid all doubt by trying to stop eating the salad altogether. But realistically, my will power is too weak, and I’d simply end up trying to suppress some well-placed guilt.

So the email’s sent off (screen shot attached), and I’ll let you know if they respond. In the meantime, I need to think of another action before next week. I’m sure there tons – so let me know if you think of any?

I want to take responsibility for the world I live in, but realise that I’ve been shirking my role in doing this, while trying to orchestrate others to take the path I haven’t yet travelled.

Time to talk less, do more.

Email to Marks & Sparks 2nd June 2013


I’ve recently discovered a theory of change which suggests we should appeal to human values rather than rationale – “Common Cause”. Could such a movement could take some cues from religion? Common Cause is a group of researchers who have … Continue reading

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Fish Fight’s Value: Getting Us to Give a Damn

Fish_FightHugh’s Fish Fight has come in for a bit of a roasting today.  As plastered over the Twittersphere, Dr Ruth Brown, a scientist interviewed in the TV show’s 2nd episode – has accused the producers of “glaring inaccuracies” regarding their portrayal of bias science and the effects of krill fishing in the Southern Oceans. Worse, her comments seem to have been deleted from the Fish Fight website, appearing to many as an attempted “cover-up”.

Thankfully, this mess-up has now been addressed – with Hugh commenting directly on her accusations, as reported by Fish2Fork here.

But the error has fuelled the fire of criticism. So I want to explain why despite this, and despite many of the shortcomings of the movement frequently cited by both individual fishermen and their representative organisations – I think Hugh’s Fish Fight has tremendous value.

Fish Fight’s crowning achievement is that it reminds everyone in the UK, that UK oceans are collectively, ours.

I know that MPAs are not a black and white issue, I know that fishermen need continued livelihoods – I know that many fishermen work hard to protect the seas that they live in.

Lundy Island (c) Mike Deaton

But I also think that the seas are the “commons”. Sure – they are a source of income for fishermen – but they also provide a whole wealth of ecosystem goods and services and INHERENT values for the rest of us.

Urbanised humans are increasingly disconnected from nature. This, combined with growing political apathy and impenetrable bureaucracy, means that it’s becoming difficult for citizens to think about and investigate, let alone care for, much beyond their house and home. The great outdoors is too great for our attention.

The result is that members of the public interviewed on the beach in Lyme Regis believed that as much as 50% of our oceans were protected for conservation reasons, while the sad truth is we protect less than 1%. As consumers, we don’t know about fish – and so 80% of our purchases consist of only five species – meaning fishermen have to throw the rest of delicious, but unknown species back into the sea.  The wonderment of the oceans is buried beneath the waves; out of sight, out of mind.

Because we don’t know it’s there – we don’t know its ours. And because we don’t know its ours, we don’t value it.

So yes, Fish Fight has some problems, some simplification and doesn’t always give progressive fishermen a fair hearing.

Protesters on the MPA March on 25th February, organised by MCS and Fish Fight.

Protesters on the MPA March on 25th February, organised by MCS and Fish Fight.

BUT –  Hugh is leading people, other than fishermen, to value our seas. He’s leading us, from students in Cardiff, to families in Hampshire, from a super-yacht operator from the Western Highlands (just a selection of the people I met on yesterday’s #127march) to give a damn.

And that, is priceless.


Marine conservation gets political: the FishFight March in Pictures.


Emma Mclaren behind the Greenpeace folks as we gather in front of the London Eye.



Myself & Emma with some friendly sea creatures.


Innovative jellyfish costume.


Elisabeth Whitebread from Pew as a mackerel!



Jack Clarke, the coordinator of the UK’s first ever Community Supported Fishery, Catchbox, and a very nice man dressed as a crab.


Cara Batt from The Wildife Trusts as we wait for Hugh FW.


And Hugh’s Up!


The groups behind #127march


Many dressed the part!


1500-2000 came to the rally.