Hello all. Welcome to newsletter four.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the question of whether individuals were really responsible for climate change, and whether individual lifestyle changes were a necessary part of the fight against it – or whether they were a meaningless distraction. (Spoiler alert: I think lifestyle changes are definitely a part of the fight against climate change – but an important and essential part.)

If we are responsible for improving our impact on the environment, does it logically follow that we should feel guilty about the things we do that aren’t good? And if we should feel guilty, does it make sense for brands to dabble in that emotion too – to make people feel guilty for their choices, using guilt to try to encourage them to make better ones?

It’s something you see a lot, most recently with Oatly’s new TV campaign aimed at converting dads (out-of-touch dinosaurs that they all clearly are…) from their destructive, despicable dairy addictions to the oat-filled future that their smug kids are already living in. To me, it feels like a rare misstep from a brand that’s generally got the tone of their sustainability messaging right.

This week’s article explores this thinking, and the potential hazards brands open themselves up to when they get into the guilt game. Just think how bad you’ll feel if you don’t read it… think of the sad polar bear’s face… you wouldn’t want to disappoint him, would you?

This week’s article

Guilt and sustainability

Guilt can be an effective way of inspiring consumers to make sustainable choices, and so the world of sustainability is full of messaging designed to make consumers feel guilty. But should it be? Does it work, and is it right?

Click here to read the article »

This week’s two interesting links

The Energy Charter Treaty: the greatest threat to the planet you’ve never heard of


“On 4 February the German energy giant RWE announced it was suing the government of the Netherlands. The crime? Proposing to phase out coal from the country’s electricity mix. The company, which is Europe’s biggest emitter of carbon, is demanding €1.4bn in ‘compensation’ from the country for loss of potential earnings, because the Dutch government has banned the burning of coal for electricity from 2030.

“RWE is suing under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), a little-known international agreement signed without much public debate in 1994. The treaty binds more than 50 countries, and allows foreign investors in the energy sector to sue governments for decisions that might negatively impact their profits – including climate policies. Governments can be forced to pay huge sums in compensation if they lose an ECT case.”

Withdrawal from the treaty is tricky but possible; OpenDemocracy urge people to sign the petition started by the Transnational Institute and Corporate Europe Observatory. #

LOC Serendipity

The Library of Congress holds literally millions of items, many of which have been digitised. But how to approach such a huge collection? LOC Serendipity is one amazing answer: surface content at random, and allow people to follow whatever rabbit holes they find interesting.

Even just the randomly selected titles are great, like some sort of Oblique Strategies prompt:

Miscellaneous studies in prose
Politics and pen pictures at home and abroad
Virginia in the making of Illinois
Interest tables used by the Mutual life insurance company of New York for the calculation of interest and prices of stocks and bonds for investment
La dame aux perles
Elements of logick
Elisa von der Recke
The present world situation
Military character, habit, deportment, courtesy and discipline
Memorial of Mrs. Agnes Renton
Vade mecum
Ballot box and battle field

I’m particularly fond of the “Infinite 78RPM Records” section, which throws up a never-ending stream of old, public-domain records – mostly ’20s and ’30s jazz but also some scratchy gospel, bluegrass, and folk and ancient stand-up comedy. #