01st Dec 2023
Our fireside interviews are short digestible interactions with senior business decision makers across marcomms, corporate, innovation, DEI and HR. We explore their international experience and how culture has impacted some of their key projects, ambitions and ways of working.
Today we’re delighted to be speaking to Gregory Schwartz who is a Research Associate at Oxford University and the author of “Bright Green Future”. Gregory has also contributed to the development of one of Creative Culture’s latest products: our Sustainability Mapping, which enables international companies to better understand awareness and applicability of various areas of sustainability across markets.
Mélanie: Hello and welcome to the Creative Culture Fireside interview Series. Today, I’m delighted to be speaking to Gregory Schwarz who is a research associate at Oxford University and the author of ‘Bright Green Future’. Gregory has also contributed to the development of one of Creative Culture’s product; our sustainability mapping which enables international clients to better understand awareness and applicability of various areas of sustainability across international markets. Welcome Greg and to get us started could you please tell us more about yourself and your role at the Geography and Environment Department of Oxford University and how culture plays a part in that?
Greg: Absolutely, hi Melanie good to see you! I am a research associate there and and really my main role is with Oxford Net Zero, which is basically the world’s leading sustainability Think Tank and they are an amalgam of various departments. Basically you know the world has seen and shown that yes we’re causing climate change and now the sort of challenge is well how do we fix it and why? Oxford Net Zero is producing a lot of good data to show how companies can decarbonise and I have given talks there at Oxford Net Zero and at TedEx and things like that about well yes we have the technology to change but what are the belief systems and the mindset shifts and the cultural shifts that need to happen that are still making that transition sluggish. So that’s sort of my niche there.
Greg: Basically there’s this misconception in the business world that becoming more sustainable and going green will hurt business and even more broadly that the climate crisis will hurt business and it’s crass to say but every crisis has massive opportunities within it. It’s the same with you know ecosystems as it is with businesses, these species or the businesses that adapt to these changes can then gain competitive advantage and dominate. And really what happens with companies is when they become more socially or environmentally sustainable is they get more efficient, they become more self-aware so they have better communication between their silos. They tend to tap sort of social capital better by having a more diverse workforce and that necessarily makes them more agile and adaptable to respond to any market shift not just environmental shifts so it definitely improves and there are many indices that show that it improves profitability as well.
Greg: I mean the opposite of doing that would be to just impose this you know monolithic development or marketing strategy on a culture or a location which we’ve seen in like colonialism or IMF structural adjustment policies are a one size fits all and sometimes those work out and sometimes it’s terrible. One interesting example of this is Costa Rica. Costa Rica in the 70s and 80s, Burger King came in and cut down a lot of their forests to raise beef for their burgers. And I get it they wanted to make money but there’s a very strong ecological ethos in Costa Rica so some locally ecologists and government ministers noted that they were deforesting in areas that cut off Natural migration patterns of local Wildlife. So they developed and created these payment free ecosystem services and basically protected these corridors and allowed these animals to thrive. They started diminishing deforestation and what happened is the companies that didn’t match with their local environmental ethos left and they started producing more ecotourism and it all shifted to match with that country. Now there’s sort of this shining star of that example and one more example is and it’s a slightly different example. American companies like Kellogs and Post and Lays that produce all these products, they sell the same exact product in the US and in the EU but with different ingredients, because the EU has stricter standards and maybe a little bit more aware consumership. So for instance with high fructose corn syrup, certain food dyes, other artificial sweeteners and also GMOs (genetically modified ingredients). They’re not only thinking about well sell what a culture needs or wants, it’s be aware of what they can tolerate as well so there are these different levels of cultural awareness that are important.
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