We need to keep working on the narrative around sustainability and its link to corporate success, says Nick Aster, our new Director Marketing, North America, who doesn't start his day without a cup of fair-trade coffee.
Having observed and actively shaped the media and corporate CSR landscape in the U.S for the past two decades, Nick knows what he's talking about:
Prior to joining our team of 300+ climate experts and aficionados, Nick has moderated thousands of panels around the world, interviewed senior leadership at Patagonia, BMW and United Airlines to name a few, and founded the world's most well-read sustainable business publication, TriplePundit.com, which was sold to 3BLMedia in 2017
We had the pleasure to catch up with Nick and talk about the big sustainability trends shaping corporate best practice in North America.
What inspires you to get you out of bed in the morning (literally and professionally)?
Nick Aster (NA):
Besides organic fair-trade coffee? I enjoy work, but work needs to mean something more than a paycheck. I’ve been fortunate over the years to have been able to apply my interests and skills to things I think really matter. In my case that's always been helping the business community better understand the concept of sustainability. When I see issues like climate action being taken seriously by a more and more mainstream audience, and I can be satisfied that I had a role in making that happen, it really keeps me moving.
You’re often referred to as a ‘Media Architect’. What does that mean in practice?
I wish I could take credit for inventing the term, but it was something an old colleague of mine, Journalist Tom Foremski came up with. To me it means taking an intentional design approach to media - across all forms - to make it more engaging and meaningful. When applied to issues like climate change, thinking across many media disciplines and connecting them really matters.
You’ve done impressive work over the past two decades in helping companies and organizations communicate about corporate social responsibility, climate change, clean energy – just to name a few. How did you end up focusing on these issues?
NA: I’ve always been bothered by the idea that “doing good” was somehow a cost to business, rather than an asset. I’ve always felt this false narrative was caused by bad communications and lazy media. Once I started digging into the problem I realized that all of these issues, which I generically call “sustainability”, are deeply connected, and ultimately connected to economic prosperity - looking at it through a communications lens makes it easier to talk about and ultimately to implement.
How have you seen the conversation around corporate sustainability and climate action change over the past few years, namely in the U.S?
In a nutshell, sustainability (to use the most generic term) is finally entering mainstream business consciousness - as a business imperative. Some Americans, and some clever cause marketers have always known there was a market to promote basic improvements, but the idea that action on sustainability is actually critical for the well being of a company is still a relatively new concept for American business, and it’s finally taking root.
What do you think it's going to take for more American companies to make large investments becoming more sustainable?
Investor pressure and top down buy in from the C-suite. Consumer action as well as government pressure matter too, but I really think the big moves are going to happen when the big money starts noticing and pushing for change.
2020 has a lot of expectations riding on it – not least in translating big global climate goals into practical action on the ground. What should American businesses and the general public expect to see more of in the coming year?
There will be more big announcements like recent ones from Microsoft and JetBlue which will add a tremendous amount of momentum to corporate climate action, especially as far as offsetting is concerned. Some will be more significant than others but I think almost every major company will at least start to begin thinking about more cohesive action. I don’t have a lot of faith in American politics right now so I’m not expecting any major political moves (like a carbon tax) but those will happen eventually.
Last but not least, what inspired you to join South Pole?
I've been looking hard for the right group of smart, talented people who are working hard to advance action on the issues I care about. I've been aware of South Pole for many years and had a lot of respect for the company's brand and accomplishments. It really is exactly the company I've always hoped would exist and that I might have the chance to work with!
Connect with Nick Aster on LinkedIn and get to know our team in North America.