June 22, 2024

KT Business

The Business Servicess On for You

Investing in learning to bridge the green skills gap in marketing and advertising

4 min read

When client work takes priority, it can be challenging to carve out time for learning and development. But with the accelerated pace at which new technologies are developing, as well as the adoption of sustainable practices, businesses that don’t invest in equipping their people with new knowledge and skills, will be left behind.  

The sustainability agenda, in particular, is complex. Not everyone is expected to become an expert, but with legislation around greenwashing increasing, creatives and marketers need to know enough to be aware of potential pitfalls and avoid unintentional greenwashing. Upskilling will also equip teams with the knowledge to confidently communicate a brand’s sustainability story and inspire with the solutions we need to combat the climate crisis.

We are seeing more and more businesses investing in educating their people on sustainability. This is necessary, as the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) revealed a widening capability gap among marketers – 35% said they don’t have the requisite knowledge to address the needed transformation in 2022, up from 20% in 2021. Dentsu’s ‘Marketing A Better Future’ study also reinforced the need for capability-building to close the organizational-intention action gap – 31% of marketers surveyed said they are unable to translate what sustainability means for their brand purpose and consumers.

Jessica Tamsedge, CEO, Dentsu Creative UK and Shuntaro Shimizu, Executive Director, Dentsu Group Sustainability Office, reflect on their learning experiences from 2023 and how this has fuelled their resolve to build a culture of learning within their teams in 2024, to help bridge the green skills gap in our industry.

Enlightenment through education

Jessica Tamsedge: “I was fortunate to join the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) 8-week course on Sustainable Marketing, Media and Creative over the summer last year. The CISL define sustainability as long-term wellbeing for all. For all the sustainable business models, regulation and policy we learned about, it was this simple definition that stuck with me. All too often we see sustainability as defined by the planet, something other and separate to us. Wellbeing creates immediate proximity, to our health and happiness and that of the communities around us. It immediately reframes the challenge as one of inclusion and equity. This learning experience prompted some healthy discomfort. It forced a reappraisal of our industry’s role in creating desire and fuelling consumerism. However, we also sat with the definition of marketing as representing the voice of consumers rather than selling whatever product we are asked to promote. At dentsu, we talk about being brief makers rather than brief takers and getting back to our roots as ‘the voice of the consumer’. We should feel pride and confidence in shaping product development and go-to-market strategies that meet people’s genuine needs and expectations, without compromising long-term wellbeing for all.”

Shuntaro Shimizu: “I was also part of the 2023 CISL dentsu cohort and was confronted with the criticality of the situation our planet is facing. We weren’t just introduced to big picture sustainability concepts; we were also presented with practical frameworks and actions to take forward into our roles and organizations. By the end of the course, the role of marketing was abundantly clear. In order to ensure a sustainable future for all, it is essential to change the mindset and behaviours of consumers by leveraging the power of communication and creativity – our industry’s superpower.”

Applying new knowledge and skills to tackle client challenges

Jessica Tamsedge: “When I joined Dentsu Creative UK in June this year after completing the course, my first move was to embed Conscious Partnership into our client work. Starting with each of our clients’ most important Social Impact priorities, we have reappraised casting, partnerships and KPIs to ensure we shift the dial in the areas that matter most to our clients. This has led to partnerships with Ad Net Zero and Brand Advance Group, where we are collaborating on a new measurement framework.”

Building a culture of continuous learning

Shuntaro Shimizu: “Since completing the CISL course, I have organized internal sessions to introduce our people to key sustainability concepts and the opportunity we have as an industry to influence sustainable consumption. I am also focused on sharing insights and best practice, including bringing in expertise from outside of the business, to stimulate my team’s willingness to learn.”

Jessica Tamsedge: “To start building climate competency, we are asking our teams across Dentsu Creative UK to take AdGreen’s 70-minute Sustainable Production Training. Given that up to 85% of jobs that will exist in 2050 haven’t been invented yet, it is critical that we continue to educate ourselves on the skills and shape of creativity needed to support more sustainable business models and behaviours. For creative agencies, these certainly won’t fall neatly into ‘Art Director’ and ‘Copywriter’ buckets.”

Dentsu’s investment in upskilling its global workforce in sustainability is helping to drive the sustainable transformation of its business, and its clients’ businesses. The company reported a 52.8% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 absolute carbon emissions in 2022, and its creative teams are driving the demand to a sustainable economy by making lower carbon products desirable, like plant-based foods with Kraft Heinz and ethical banking with The Co-operative Bank. But bridging the green skills gap in marketing and advertising will also require a focus on upskilling the next generation. In the UK, dentsu is strengthening its pipeline of future talent by launching a green skills curriculum as part of its global schools’ programme, The Code, in partnership with Generation C.


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