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Young creatives pen open letter to industry execs over fossil fuel clients


By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

March 24, 2023 | 4 min read

200 design and advertising students reject working with fossil fuel clients.

Glimpse exhibition

Three in five young creatives would feel uncomfortable working with fossil fuel clients / Glimpse

Advertising and design students have penned an open letter to agency CEOs, imploring them to commit to no longer working with fossil fuel clients if they want to attract the best young talent. The letter begins: “We all started our careers believing in something. Sometimes, you just forget what it was along the way.”

In addition to the letter, 200 students have taken part in an exhibition that asks their older selves to reject working with clients that don't reflect their environmental values. It was curated by Glimpse, a non-profit collective that is encouraging young people to ‘divest’ their talent from agencies that support fossil fuel clients. Last year, research by Glimpse found that three in five (63%) young creatives were uncomfortable working on high-carbon clients like airlines and oil companies, but only two in five (40%) said they would feel comfortable refusing to work on them in an agency setting.

Alongside the research, its members also distributed a ‘Sabotage Handbook’ to agencies known to work with oil companies including Ogilvy, Wunderman Thomson and Edelman which encouraged them to ‘wreck a brief, save a planet’.’

In order to help them express their current views on climate change, and urge them to stick to these values as their career progresses, the students were given the prompt of a note to their future selves. The work they produced includes an evocative perfume, sandcastles that get trampled on, and a tapestry that hangs in a parents’ shed as a reminder of their connection with nature.

‘Note To Self’ will take place from 24 March at 9 Club Row in Shoreditch and features work from some of the top design and advertising schools in the country including Falmouth, London College of Communication, Leeds, Oxford Brookes and Kingston University.

Stephanie McLaren-Neckles, senior lecturer at the London College of Communication’s Design School welcomes Glimpe’s work, saying that in recent years, the faculty has seen a noticeable shift in students’ expectations of the industry at large, as well as building their careers. “Values and sustainable practices are at the forefront of many students' priorities when considering future employment,” she says.

Looking to the future, Laura Nix, a student at Leeds Art Institute whose work features in the exhibition, says she feels optimistic about the opportunities available to her. “As a collective, I believe we are all working towards a sustainable future, and it is creatives like myself who will change the way we work. Of course, I’m worried about going against the grain but at the same time entering the job market with a passion for sustainability should be praised and welcomed by companies. If a company isn’t moving towards helping the climate crisis, then I’m not interested in working for them.”

Glimpse exhibition
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