Iceland's Banned Ad Had the Potential to Democratise Sustainability

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The news last week that the Christmas advert from Iceland — a UK supermarket chain specializing in frozen food — has been banned is a bad decision.

Iceland’s advert — a repackaging of a short, animated film by Greenpeace released earlier this year with a powerful, consumer-friendly sustainability message — shows a brand that is trying to do good work by improving its impact on the world.

It is also incredibly important for brands such as Iceland to be making this stand, as it democratises the idea of sustainability. The whole ‘brand purpose’ movement has for some time been in danger of becoming overly directed towards a left-wing, middle-class audience who have the time, money and resources to be able to get involved). Iceland has been broadening its base of shoppers over the last three years, but a large proportion of its customers are lower-income families. Through the actions of the business, it is working to make sure it acts with purpose in the decisions it is making. Through this campaign, the brand is making sure that sustainability generally, and complex issues around the impact of products such as palm oil, becomes more accessible.

In an op-ed on Friday, The Guardian’s Jessica Brown called the Iceland ad “brave and necessary” — it is absolutely critical that big, mass-market brands are able to shout about the good work they are doing. If Iceland, and other brands like it, don’t have the opportunity to present and connect big social and environmental issues to less affluent audiences, sustainability and social responsibility will forever remain ’someone else's problem.’

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