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Marketing ESG Climate Crisis

Solving the problems of people and the planet calls for special talent

By Peter Bardell | Co-founder



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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May 19, 2022 | 6 min read

‘Purpose’ isn’t just the buzzword du jour; it’s become an essential element of an organization’s self-understanding and proposition – for brands and agencies alike. Peter Bardell, co-founder at agency Revolt, tells us that responding to the needs of people and the planet requires commitment at the highest level and investment in dedicated roles.

Revolt consider how businesses can be more sustainable and think planet-first.

Revolt considers how businesses can be more sustainable and think planet-first

As society’s values evolve, and as the threats to our environment continue to intensify, purpose is both an opportunity and an obligation that brands simply can’t ignore.

Like digital transformation 15 years ago, the focus on purpose is being led by consumer change, which is forcing companies to address how they operate and how they communicate. Consumers now want to know why a brand exists and what good it’s doing in the world.

An astonishing 90% of gen X consumers say they are now willing to spend an extra 10% or more for sustainable products, compared to just over 34% two years ago, per FirstInsight. Businesses waking up to this are reaping the rewards. Purposeful businesses outperform the stock market by between 80-133%, according to the likes of Kantar Millward Brown and Deloitte.

It was this combination of growing consumer awareness, pressure on business to address issues facing people and planet, and the clear growth opportunities afforded by embracing purpose that led Alex Lewis and I to set up Revolt five years ago.

Responsible growth

Focused on three key areas – purpose consultancy, activist (purpose creative and activation) and purpose-led innovation – the agency has expanded rapidly. We’ve seen 50% growth in the past 12 months alone and we’re increasingly working with bigger, established companies as purpose moves from ‘nice to have’ to ‘have to be nice.’

This growing focus on purpose and move to ESG (environment, social and governance) investment is changing our relationships with clients and the way we work. This was noted at The Drum’s recent agency/client panel, with speakers acknowledging that “the answer can’t begin with marketing” and that the focus has to be on “the infrastructure of the organization.” We rarely just deal with marketing any more. Our relationships are with corporate affairs, sustainability teams and chief diversity officers, reflecting the fact that purpose starts at the heart of a business and travels across the organization.

This changing agency/client relationship has led Revolt to assess the talent we need to address the increasing focus on strategy and how ESG is incorporated into planning and activation. Again, this point was made during The Drum panel, with speakers recognizing the need for more experienced talent as “agencies are being asked to solve problems not just by chief marketers but by every department.”

People and purpose

Revolt’s response to this need for the right talent recently led us to bring in new leaders in four critical areas: innovation, creative, strategy and international. Innovation has been a real growth area for Revolt, as purpose is a lever that enables businesses to change their standpoint to one of bigger impact outside of their familiar world. We took on Jenny Bust to be our head of innovation studio. She previously led account management at Virtue and has also worked at Lucky Generals, Nike, AMV BBDO and Ogilvy. Jenny is now focusing on helping corporates to embrace purposeful innovation and launching startups with purpose baked into their business model.

We’ve seen a far greater emphasis on creative as companies realize that a corporate press release isn’t enough to engage the consumer in their purpose-related policies and activism. So we’ve created the new position of executive creative director, with Graeme Hall taking up this important role. Graeme joins Revolt from Google, where he was creative lead, Google Creative Lab. He has also been creative director at 180 Amsterdam and Y&R New York.

With strategy now front-and-center of much of our work, we needed a strategy lead who could help us respond to the broader business challenges inherent in purpose strategy. Sophie Lord has taken up the mantle as executive strategy director and head of strategic development. She was previously executive director of strategy, innovation and sustainability at Landor & Fitch.

The fourth area of development for Revolt is international, as purpose is increasingly being embraced by global and US-headquarted companies. Having spent the past 18 months establishing our US business, Richard Arscott has now taken on the role of US president, with additional responsibility for all overseas operations.

We believe that these leadership appointments will help us to address the purpose challenges and opportunities faced by growing companies. They also reflect the changing client/agency relationship and the new areas of strategic and creative focus that this necessitates.

Our business has changed a lot since we launched five years ago, and I believe it will look very different in five years’ time. As with the digital natives forcing companies to change how they operate, we’ll see a new generation of people demanding products and services with a clear purpose. More and more companies will need have to have a clear purpose and an ESG plan if they want to thrive.

Marketing ESG Climate Crisis

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The world is on fire. There’s no time to watch from the sidelines. The most successful brands of tomorrow will be the ones that take a stand today. It’s time to pick a fight. We are Revolt. A purpose consultancy built to start and spread revolutions with partners that want to change the world.

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