How can marketers end greenwashing and embrace the blue economy?

Solving the climate crisis requires action on multiple front. Can marketers use their skills to unlock the change we need? A NEXT23 deep dive explored this issue…

A panel discussion at NEXT23 about the climate challenges ahead – and how marketing can help us solve them.

The Panel

  • Nele Dageförde, TransMarTech, CEO
  • Jan Pechmann, BAM! Bock auf Morgen, Founder, and Head of Consulting
  • Niklas Wiedemann, Studio Lead & Group Director Design Hamburg, Accenture Song

Warning: liveblogging. Prone to error, typos and howling crimes against grammar. Posts will be improved over the 48 hours after publication.

Nele Dageförde: the problem

Nele Dageförde, TransMarTech, CEO speaking at NEXT23

We’ve filled our oceans with junk. There are explosives, bullets and chemical weapons in the Baltic Sea — and they were dumped legally. As a result, there are now “death zones” in the Baltic: there’s only one route for fresh water, and climate change means less water is getting in. Nutrient in-flow from farming is leading to de-oxygenation, and hence these dead zones where nothing lives.

We’ve reached a tipping point where we can’t fish cod there any more. The seagrass meadows are declining at 7% per year – they store 50% more carbon than the same area of forest in the land, and they help protect against shore storm damage. There are serious consequences of these losses: including a 37% decrease in economic growth, along with reduced storage capacity for CO2 in the oceans.

Biodiversity loss is an increasing risk for investors; many companies’ businesses rely on biodiversity…

Economic green hope

But there’s hope. There are ocean-based methods for active carbon removal from the atmosphere, including sub-sediment carbon storage. We will need technologies like these to meet our climate goals. They’re not in the mainstream of industry yet, but they need to be.

Tech is being used to track fish catches from small trawlers, and track it from sea to plate. That data could give cod more value – but right now, the traditional fishers hate us for that. That’s preventing real action.

Restoring natural habitats can take advantage of industrial processes. We can 3D print coral reef-like structures, for example.

But the problem is that none of these approaches have a business model — yet. We need to create the need for those business cases. We really need marketers to find or create the markets for these technologies.

Jan Pechmann: how marketing can be the solution

Jan Pechmann speaking at NEXT 23

Most people are afraid of tomorrow. They link a sustainable world with a less pleasant, more expensive one. Sadly, to a degree, they’re right. It’s up to us as marketers to help them look forward to that future. Both education and the exchange of ideas have a role to play.

But marketing is a mighty force in effecting change – it’s almost like magic. We can make people feel things, we can introduce them to new products and services. We can make people like things. Not only that, but we can even make people do things…

But that power comes with responsibility… There’s a dark side to marketing. We are part of the problem right now. We distract people. Our work lets us monopolise their attention. And we are responsible for over-consumption. We need to grow our markets and find new target groups. And that leads to a waste of resources.

Breaking good

If we can make people see things, why can’t we make them aware that there’s an alternative way of living and consuming? Let’s make them like the good stuff. Let’s give them positive role models. And let’s encourage them to do the good stuff, to shift from a regular consumption pattern to a more sustainable one.

Do you want to be Saruman… or Gandalf? Currently, we only show people the upside of our products – but not the costs. Greater transparency has to be part of the future. We can create mind shifts, category shifts, and open up new markets. We can encourage people to buy less, while encouraging them to buy us…

So, what skills can we bring to bear? We need to add creativity, without trivialising the problem. Creativity without substance is what we call greenwashing. But substance without kick-ass creativity is boredom. This is our main task. We need to speed up. If science and the creative community can work together, we can accelerate the process of transformation.


ND: Most funding is coming from the government currently. But there are industries that need to decarbonise. And the people who are experimenting with carbon storage are the oil and gas companies. Blue Bonds are a niche investment product right now, but they could be used to generate investment in these technologies. It took us 45 years to get people to pay attention to those sunken munitions.

JP: Greenwashing is a mix of a lack of morals and a lack of competence. Sometimes people aren’t aware they’re wrapping a piece of sh-t in a candy wrapper. You need the sustainability people who understand what’s happening, and you need to work with them. You need the same level of competence we have in digitalisation and AI for the circular economy and sustainability.

NW: Recent legislation makes this a very current issue, as does the Guardian’s reporting on the efficiency of offsetting schemes.

JP: Stopping greenwashing is our job.