Swedish Greening

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Swedish Green Party members Nina Akestam and Max Ahlborn
Swedish Green Party members Nina Akestam and Max Ahlborn

On September 20th we launched Miljopartiet New York, the first local branch of the Swedish Green Party to be founded outside of Sweden. We'd been tossing the idea back and forth for months, feeling that even though we do have some of the best jobs in the world and live in the most amazing city, we have time on our hands. There's more to do. As two of New York's 40, 000 Swedes, we wanted to create a platform for other expats who want to be involved in important issues without being physically present in the country they vote in.

In the first couple of days the initiative got some pretty good media coverage back home--there's nothing Swedish journalists like more than writing about New York. But along with cheers and retweets, quite a few eyebrows were raised. Can advertising professionals volunteer for the Green Party? In fact, can marketers be involved in any green cause at all, given that our main focus Monday through Friday is to get people to consume more goods?

It's an interesting question. There's no doubt that pro bono work can lead to a lot of good things-- but at what point does it become hypocritical? What can we do without compromising our dual roles as professionals AND idealists?

When discussing this, we came to the conclusion that us ad people can, and should, get involved. It is true that advertising is mostly about increasing consumption but our industry is not the cause of the problem. It's simply a symptom of a currently non-sustainable system. If ad people can't work for a greener society, who can? Most companies contribute to damage. In fact, it's hard to think of any job that doesn't come with some negative side effects. Does that mean no person holding a job should get involved?

One of the biggest problems facing the green movement is that it so easily becomes a blame game. Instead, let's recognize that for as long as we're part of industrialized societies, we're all part of the problem. Rather than sitting around waiting for that saintly person who never tosses a soda can in the wrong recycling bin to come around and change us, we believe we have to change ourselves. That being said, change can't be primarily individual; it has to be systemic. To quote Al Gore: "Changing laws is even more important than changing light bulbs." That's our main reason for getting involved.

Adding to this, people of our trade are communication professionals. It's our job to get consumers engaged in brands. To get them to act. It seems like a waste not to put that skill to use to change people's minds on important issues.

Finally, being "green" is about more than buying organic tomatoes. It's about looking at the world from a holistic perspective. It's about equality across borders, genders, races and religions. It's about figuring out a new kind of society that is less based on 150-year-old inventions, and more on what we know now and what we need to move ahead.

We believe that one aspect of that society is finding new ways for political engagement and activation. And we're willing to make all the communication skills we picked up from 4-am-in-January shoots, day-before-launch server crashes and never ending client calls work for that goal.

You with us?

Max Ahlborn, Executive Producer at B-Reel and spokesperson for Miljopartiet New York

Nina Akestam, Creative at Wieden Kennedy and spokesperson for Miljopartiet New York

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