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July 21, 2021
Palm Tree Sustainability

Cannes Lions 2021: Conscious Marketing and Sustainable Development Goals


Participating in the Cannes Lions Festival is a huge milestone in the life of any marketer, no matter which side of the table they’re on. This year, I had the honor to be on the jury of the Sustainable Development Goals Lions in the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2021, and it was a fantastic experience – even if I wasn’t on the Cote d’Azur!

To celebrate the incredible marketing campaigns presented at the Festival, I gathered a team of world leaders in the Marketing industry, including some of my fellow judges. We met at Clubhouse and discussed Creativity, Sustainable Marketing, and brands driving greater purpose in the world. In this post, you’ll find a recap with the highlights of our Clubhouse panel.

At Clubhouse, I was accompanied by this all-star team:

  • Phillip Thomas, Chairman of the Cannes Lions and President of the Essential Marketing Division;
  • Tony Verutti, Lead of Partnerships and Strategy at Parley For The Oceans, and an advocate for anti-plastic pollution;
  • Simon Mainwaring, CEO and Founder at We First Inc & New York Times Bestselling Author;
  • Lindsey Casella, Marketing Lead at Loop, an incredible circular business focused on zero waste;
  • David Shing (aka Shingy), a Futurist and Digital Prophet. For all things digital or the internet, he’s your man;
  • Simon Henzell-Thomas, Director of Global Public Affairs & Advocacy at IKEA Netherlands;
  • Anna Lungley, Chief Sustainability Officer at Dentsu, the fifth-largest advertising agency network worldwide in terms of revenue;
  • Chris Cheng, Founder of Tech Talks Global, a Clubhouse community where you can learn about “the good, the bad, the ugly, the technical, and the business side of things in tech”;
Cannes Lions Clubhouse Panel Participants

What is the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity?

The festival happens yearly in the gorgeous city of Cannes, France, since 1954. What started as a festival for film and TV developed into a celebration of all forms of communications, from PR to print advertising. According to Phillip Thomas, chairman of the festival, “the purpose of Cannes Lions is to celebrate the future of creativity and the great thinking from all around the world”.

This year, the festival was completely different. Due to Covid-19, the 2020 awards didn’t happen, so the 2021 jury had the mission to select the best creative campaigns from the past 2 years. Not an easy task, to tell you the truth – the competition was harsh this year! But so worth it considering the astounding effort eco marketers are putting into reshaping our world.

Sustainable Development Goals Lions

I swear I’m not, ahem, biased, when I tell you these awards are IT. Since its launch in 2018, the SDG Lions promotes that companies all around the world create disruptive solutions to help humans behave more sustainably towards one another and our Planet Earth.

As a jury, collectively, deciding what work we feel should be elevated is a big signal to the industry and the world at large. Since the launch of the SDGs Lions, the Digital Prophet David Shing has seen that “brands have (slowly) been building this idea of sustainability in the work that they do as storytellers, but also in the way that they also influence product”. By choosing the SDGs Lions winners, we also get to influence an entire industry.

Phillip Thomas says the SDGs Lions “have shown just how incredibly keen brands and creative people are to try and help make the world a better place through what they do”. And that’s on the power of sustainable marketing, y’all.

Everything is eco-friendly in the SDGs, from the projects to the jurors, to the trophy itself. This year’s SDGs Lion was created in partnership with Parley for the Oceans and was made with Parley Ocean Plastic® which is a select material created from recycled fishing nets and plastic waste recovered from coastlines by the Parley Global Cleanup Network, according to the Cannes Lions website.

Sustainable Development Goals Lions Trophy Cannes Lions 2021

An interesting note: all the proceeds of the entries go to the winning idea to help make it happen.

Judging At The SDGs Lions 2021

Eduardo Maruri, VP of the Global Creative Board & President/CEO Europe at Grey Worldwide and our jury President, led the jurors in shaping some principles that helped us evaluate the work as we saw it.

As a jury, the first fundamental thing we were looking out for were ideas that have the logic of both strategy and the magic of creativity, which aligns with the nature of the Cannes Lions itself.  We also looked for sustainable innovation and fresh ways of solving the world’s biggest problems, expressed across the 17 SDGs, that can help and push the UN and its members into more meaningful action. Third, we looked for ideas that, if amplified or scaled, could create movements, change behavior, and have meaningful environmental impact not only against one SDG but multiple given that there are 17 Goals, and they all kind of influence and inspire each other. We also looked for disruptive and accessible ideas that transform business models and that can generally move us closer to achieving the SDG goals and targets.

If you’re not familiar with the SDGs, all you have to do is visit the UN Website and take a closer look at their 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals Lions 2021 Winner: The 2030 Calculator

This year’s Grand Prix Winner was a project called “The 2030 Calculator”, made by a Swedish company called Doconomy. The company combined effective UX Design and a burning desire to create a positive environmental impact to launch an innovative business idea that allows people to track the carbon footprint of the products they buy. 

According to Simon Mainwater, this tool is extremely empowering “because not only did they make it possible for consumers and brands all around the world to use this tool to improve their carbon footprint, but their very powerful and simple UX empowers consumers to track the environmental impact of the purchases they make and the way they live their lives”. Simon adds that tools like this Calculator will change how our economy works, eventually forcing brands to manufacture products more responsibly, which will also motivate investors to choose companies based on their environmental impact. 

Simon Henzell-Thomas reinforced that this project set itself apart from others and eventually got the Grand Prix for being “an example of that perfect nexus between creativity and impact”.

Doconomy 2030 Calculator Cannes Lions 2021

The 2030 Calculator allows consumers to measure the carbon footprint of the products they purchase.

This tool is so much more than a Calculator and it goes way beyond the carbon footprint. Considering the intimate connections and dependence between the environmental movement and the social-economic movement, when we look at environmental issues, we also have to look at what’s happening at the end of the supply chains and give people an opportunity to elevate their lives at the same time, supporting the environmental transformation. So this tool is actually about the transparency crossing into the social-economic livelihoods of people at the very end of the supply chain and giving these people the power to demand change.

How Conscious Marketing Helps In Designing A More Sustainable World

The incredible work I saw at the Cannes Lions this year proves that we’re moving towards a massive transformation in the way the economy works. Tony Verutti, from Parley for the Oceans, says that “we’re at the beginning of what we call a material revolution, and it’s the power of brands to engage their customers and give them the choice to take action”. He also states the importance of brand partnerships in changing our reality, and considers that they’re “really critical to not only creating new products but new blueprint symbols of change into the future, also engaging these consumers all over the world on what these options are”.

Loop is one of the companies partnering up with the big players to drive positive environmental impact. They work with large companies such as Haagen Dazs, and also huge retailers like Ulta Beauty to rethink and redesign their packaging in a sustainable way. Lindsey Casella, the Marketing Lead at Loop, says that, if we’re trying to drive meaningful ecological impact, it’s crucial “to not just work with the brands but also with the large retailers” to “bring together some of the largest polluters to actively adapt and switch their packaging for the future”. According to Lindsey, it’s essential to consider the stakeholders when designing sustainable packaging because “sustainability shouldn’t come as a sacrifice”. All sustainable innovation should be designed in a way that makes the life of the consumer effortless – and that makes it easier for them to support conscious brands.

Final Thoughts

Anna Lungley, Chief Sustainability Officer at Dentsu, sees a “big opportunity to shift consumption in the right direction to drive positive human and societal behavior change as an industry”, but highlights that “it’s going to take time, fast-thinking, and creativity” to get there. But the foundation is already laid out. The Cone/Porter Novelli survey found that 91% of consumers would switch to a product from a purpose-driven brand. That’s where tools like the 2030 Calculator come in, as “being able to evidence that your products consume less carbon or less water, for example, in the manufacturing process, is a real advantage for a brand”, according to Anna.

And that’s the effort marketers need to make. Coming up with sustainable innovation, partnering up with the big guns to drive stronger environmental impact, and, when presented with the opportunity to judge an industry-leading award like the SDGs Lions, choosing campaigns and projects that show real potential to change the world on a larger scale, making sustainability an accessible reality to the customers. 

And if you’ve been following my tracks for a while, you’ll know that shaping my brand and content has been rooted in making sustainability not only aspirational but exciting.

Cannes Lions 2016 Sign

This picture was taken during my presence at the 2016’s Cannes Lions

Don’t miss the next Clubhouse Panel

I’m always teaming up with great minds to talk all things Business, Marketing, and Sustainability on Clubhouse, so if you don’t want to miss our next panel, make sure to subscribe to The Conscious Drop here.


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