IEMA event highlights power of storytelling

29th February 2024

A thought-provoking discussion on how storytelling can change the world took place in Central London last night, alongside an exclusive sneak preview of an upcoming IEMA film series.

St Paul’s Cathedral provided a stunning backdrop for the event hosted by consultancy firm Turner & Townsend, which was delivered to a packed audience of marketing and sustainability professionals.

IEMA CEO Sarah Mukherjee MBE kicked off the evening by highlighting how over 60 countries will be heading to the polls this year, with more than 40% of the world's population eligible to vote.

“Stories, good and bad, fact or fiction, have the power to motivate people like nothing else,” she said.

“We must win the argument on climate change and we must win the argument on protecting biodiversity and restoring natural habitats, supporting our facts, our evidence, with powerful storytelling.”

Mukherjee explains power of storytelling

Turner & Townsend’s head of UK sustainability, James Hardy, next outlined the importance of communicating complex issues clearly to build a consensus around climate action and influence policy makers.

It was then time for keynote speaker Gemma Butler, co-founder of Can Marketing Save the Planet, to give a presentation on how effective storytelling can have a positive impact for people, planet and profit.

Butler and Mukherjee discuss marketing

On the current climate and environmental crises, she said: “Marketing has and continues to be a big part of the problem, let’s not kid ourselves – we drive consumption and we drive waste.

“But we do have the power to communicate and tell stories which can drive hope, motivate action and change mindsets and behaviours.

“Awareness and concern is growing, but understanding and relatability is still extremely low. As Sir David Attenborough has said, ‘saving our planet is now a communications challenge.”

Butler outlined how marketing and sustainability teams can work together to deliver a positive message on climate action and not fall into the greenwashing trap. “Start with the evidence and then work back your claims,” she said. “Don’t make a claim just because you can.”

The audience was then treated to a preview of IEMA and production company Content With Purpose’s ‘Transforming the World to Sustainability’ digital brand-building campaign series, which will launch next Wednesday 6 March.

This will involve a combination of short films, case studies and interviews, highlighting the inspiring work of companies leading the way on sustainability.

Mukherjee previews new film series

A panel discussion with members of IEMA’s Futures and Fellows networks followed, who reflected on questions posed to the audience via an interactive poll throughout the evening.

Topics included public awareness of the economic transition needed, understanding of key terms like ‘net zero’ and ‘carbon neutral’, and companies’ sustainability commitments vs implementation.

Panel discussion on sustainability commitments

Kirsty Peck, education engagement officer at IEMA, said: “Students can be very enthusiastic with a ‘change-the-world mindset’, but sometimes they will go to an organisation and feel quite disheartened about the work that is actually going on, compared with what the think they can do.”

By championing green skills and inspiring businesses and professionals to share knowledge, it is hoped that IEMA’s new ‘Transforming the World to Sustainability’ film series will help address some of these concerns.

Mukherjee said that “communication, collaboration, inspiration and innovation” will be key to delivering a sustainable transition across the economy, and effective storytelling is needed now more than ever.

A new microsite will be launched next Wednesday 6 March by Content With Purpose to host video content for the campaign.

St Paul's Cathedral


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