Dahlia Nahome, Marketing Director of New Ventures at Ecotricity – and more recently Skydiamond, speaks about her career journey in marketing and advertising. Dahlia worked with advertising agencies in London for over 15 years with clients including M&S, Virgin and Oxfam, she then migrated to ‘marketing for good’ roles, with themes of sustainability, fundraising, environment and communication running through each role.
Marketing through the climate emergency
As the climate begins to change it’s not just apparent, but crucial that we now need to change to reduce the harm being done across the globe. But, how does this fit in with marketing?
“Marketing has a responsibility to look at the bigger issues out there and relate them to the business they are in, and that they can raise the public consciousness of,” explains Dahlia.
“One of the biggest things we need to get people understanding is loving the soil, for example. And that’s not something to do with my job, but it has something to do with everything. So, we need to get behind these bigger issues and find ways of supporting them and grassroots activism.”
Soil and marketing, perhaps not two things you’d expect to go hand-in-hand, but Dahlia makes a raw statement. These issues don’t just affect our business, but something much bigger and closer to home – our lives and survival.
The art of storytelling
The power of marketing is conveyed most effectively through content, it’s essentially a form of storytelling.
“That’s why a job as a marketer is so important; your job is the job of the storyteller. Yours is the job of explaining things, telling people about things they don’t see first-hand,” says Dahlia. As marketers, our words are designed to encourage people to take action, so there’s a lot of potential to use them for good.
This is a conclusion that Dahlia came upon after emigrating to Central America in 2008.
“We went to live in Central America for 8 years…We lived on a beach, and there was so much plastic washing up on the shore…
At that time, I knew that when we came back to England, I was going to use my marketing skills for good,” Dahlia tells us. “It’s when you actually see these things, you just can’t unsee it. It has a massive impact on the way you then want to act.”
Know your power
So, how can we become active players and make changes that are sustainable?
“Every company needs to be auditing where they’re at from a sustainability point of view. To become better at what you do, you need to understand where you are right now,” advises Dahlia. She goes on to say; “That’s the starting point and, ultimately, marketing can drive that conversation because marketers are responsible for pushing those conversations out into the world.”
Strategizing is not a new concept for marketers. So, those in the industry need to use their strategy-devising know-how to leverage this pressing topic of sustainability – environmental, social and economic – analysing their current position in line with future aspirations.
Sustainability beyond communications
It’s important when planning a strategy around sustainability that efforts are made with good intentions. More and more businesses are bringing sustainability into the centre. However, it can lead to greenwashing.
“Some businesses know that their marketing can be for good. Others are more focused on showing what they are doing. This gives the impression that a company is becoming more conscious, but does it mean that they are systemically looking at end-to-end how their product is being made in a more sustainable way?” Dahlia questions.
Sustainability in marketing is not something that should just evidence itself through communications, but a responsibility that needs to be practised through every layer of a business.
Taking responsibility, asking questions
“I fundamentally believe that everyone’s job on this Earth should be to take care of the planet. Whatever they do,” states Dahlia.
Another way that marketers – and other people within a business – can use their role to improve how they operate, benefitting the planet and reducing harm, is by asking questions.
“Everyone in the process has a duty to ask questions. If I’m being asked to promote something, I want to understand things like ‘how does it work?’, and ‘why is this the right way to do things?’ or ‘why is this the wrong way?’. We all have to take responsibility and ask difficult questions in the companies that we work for. Transparency is essential”
We are in an era of embracing being uncomfortable. It is becoming increasingly clear that by asking questions, and accepting discomfort, that we can all improve, both personally and professionally.
It’s not about sustaining, it’s about regenerating
“If you’re going to take from the planet, you have to double the amount you put back. If everyone took that approach, we’d get to a better place, quicker. We need to grow exponentially on the good stuff we do.”
A phrase that is often used by businesses to prioritise growth and profit over planet, it’s time we took the ‘exponential growth’ mindset and put it towards how we tackle acting more sustainably in business.
“My boss Dale Vice often says that ‘living sustainably isn’t about giving up the good stuff. We just need to have a different way of living’. The more we can bring that into the norm and businesses make that shift, the more we can all afford to do those things that we enjoy,” Dahlia says.
There’s no one silver bullet
Sustainability is a term that’s thrown around a lot, and used to cover so much ground. “It shouldn’t just be about one word, there isn’t one silver bullet that’s going to fix the problem,” says Dahlia.
Dahlia’s experience from creating an arctic base camp at the World Economic Forum in Davos to feeding hundreds of everyday heroes with Jamie Oliver to turning atmospheric CO2 into diamonds with Ecotricity’s Dale Vince, evidences her commitment to practising what she preaches on experimentation being the key to success and sustainability.
“For real transformation there needs to be loads of crazy ideas, thoughts, questioning and curiosity! Collaborate with people outside your normal ways of working – otherwise, you’ll do the same things over and over again. Experimenting is good, you’ve got to do this and be prepared for things to go wrong. Only by going completely wrong can you find the answer.”
Change breeds change
Ultimately, only change can bring around change. We can no longer abide by ‘business as usual’ but step outside our comfort zones and surrender to the transformation that needs to happen. As marketers, using our voice for good has never been so drastically important.
If we can work to build a momentum and keep it going, encouraging as many people as we can to get on board, then real transformation can begin to take effect.