This is our call to action for all businesses: adopt sustainability in the heart of your brand

Published
17.02.2021

Interview en tekst door
Loudi Langelaan

The corona crisis made it official: it’s time for change. Time is up (!). 2021 is the year for radical change. That’s why design studio Another Universe will continue as u-inc. Because everyone should be part of the shift in our society towards an honest and healthy planet, according to Yuri Linthout (Y) and Laurens Franssen (L). Including all businesses.

You’re making a change. Elaborate.

(L) “We want to make a positive contribution from our area of expertise. We are good in shaping brands, and we want to put our knowledge and experience to use by making the world a better place. We’ve always asked the question; what value does this product or service add to the lives of people? Since founding our company in 2016, we’ve always looked for that purpose. Now, we are upgrading our definition of purpose; it has to respect the planet and her limitations. But also her inhabitants, as inclusiveness is another essential prerequisite. We feel it’s time to be vocal about our view on these matters. We don’t want to collaborate with businesses that basically don’t give a shit and ruin the planet for their benefit.”

The corona crisis made you think?

(L) “COVID-19 certainly ignited and accelerated everything. It showed us what it really means to experience a crisis. It forced us to pause. It’s still doing that to a certain extent. It created a moment for reflection. A moment to realise there is an even bigger crisis looming, the climate crisis. When COVID-19 is behind us, our way of life will mostly return to normal. But the loss of biodiversity is permanent. Global warming is permanent. And these issues threaten everything we call normal. And things that are considered ‘normal’ may very well be the real problem. Black Lives Matter further fuelled this flame. It added to the fire. It made us realise: our system is broken, on so many different levels.”

I want to answer to my kids when they grow up and ask me what I did, when I had the ability to take action against climate change.

Laurens Franssen (Co-Founder/Creative Director)

(Y) “This period has been a reality check for both of us. Me and my girlfriend had a baby two years ago. That already made me think twice about the world she’s going to grow up in. It made me worry about the future. Becoming a father gives you an entirely different perspective on all the injustice in the world. And you want to leave behind a better world for your daughter”.
(L) “I want to answer to my kids when they grow up and ask me what I did, when I had the ability to take action against climate change.”

How do your clients react to this all this?

(L) “Many of them are already involved in this change. Some more than others. We’re dealing with a transition. And obviously, we should have been further along with this transition. We should have already put a stop to climate change. But that’s easier said than done. A good example is our partner Super Soda, that is actively fighting the waste of food by making soda from leftover fruits and vegetables. They aim to make their entire production circular, but so far haven’t been able to accomplish this. We’re part of a system where sustainability is usually the more difficult and expensive option. We’re not there yet and it’s a team effort. We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we do want to find them. Together.
(Y) We want to plant the seeds for this change. We want to take them on this journey. We want to help companies make a positive impact. But they have to be willing to join us on this journey. They have to identify with this story and actively make a change. We ask that people no longer turn a blind eye to climate change, and act from equality.”

Or else?

(L) “Or else it’s a no-go. We have to be fundamental if we really want to make an impact.”

In addition to a social necessity, there is also a necessity from a business point of view. You will lose out to companies that are part of this movement.

Yuri Linthout (Co-Founder/Operations Director)

Exciting.

(Y) “Very exciting. Will there be clients that won’t be able to commit to this? Or say: You’re crazy, we won’t be a part of this.”
(L): “But our reasoning is: You must be a part of this. We’re smack in the middle of an purpose economy. Making profit is no longer the only criteria for success. To guarantee your business has a place in the future that is to come, you need to have a vision regarding these themes.”
(Y) ”In addition to a social necessity, there is also a necessity from a business point of view. You will lose out to companies that are part of this movement.”

So what’s the plan?

(Y) “Our ambition is to co-explore new opportunities with our clients, on how we can change their footprint for the better from a brand perspective. We want to inspire new ideas.”
(L) “This thought process already hits close to home for us: before creating a brand strategy, we always research and evaluate the company or business, as well as their products or services. Now is our call to action for all businesses: adopt sustainability as a core value of your brand. Doing so, automatically makes it a prerequisite for every subsequent step. Some companies are hesitant, because they fear they are not living up to their ambition yet. Our message is show what you are doing and be clear about your ambition. And move towards your goal from there. Otherwise, sustainability will always remain a side project. But if you adopt sustainability as a core value, you force yourself to always ask what the impact on the planet is with everything you do. To design this, we work and think from the ethos: planet, people, profit = purpose. This way, we not only make an impact on profits, but also on a social and ecological level. That’s what we call radical impact.”

We Rethink, Repurpose, Redesign everything we do.

Yuri Linthout (Co-Founder/Operations Director)

(Y) “We’re in the middle of this transition ourselves, critically evaluating our own way of working. With the obligation of always making a positive impact on people and the planet, we Rethink, Repurpose, Redesign everything we do. From our office’s location and our lunch, to which bank we use and how we send our emails. Some things may seem small, but we firmly believe it all adds up. We hope to receive the B Corp seal of approval soon. That would be an amazing affirmation of everything we stand for and hope to achieve. All our actions to improve our own social and ecological footprint will be made public, and shared in an open logbook on our website as soon as its ready. We hope this will serve as an inspiration for others and accelerate change, no matter how small or big. The coming period, we intend and hope to spend time with as many of our clients as possible, and discover how we can make a positive impact on the planet. Together. In addition to further driving revenue of course, and creating value in the social domain. We’re introducing an impact-discount in our hours, and we commit to helping the client make a positive impact on the climate in that time. These first talks are already underway and reactions from clients have been very enthusiastic.”

And your name change symbolizes the transition?

(L) “We want to focus more on the planet and justice. That’s not something we can achieve from ‘another universe’. We have to be in touch with our planet. With the people. u-inc is all about inclusiveness, equality, and the future.”
(Y) “It really makes perfect sense.”

Are you really going to make an impact?

(L) “The change to our society is taking place at different levels all at once. Some people may chain themselves to a gate to fight against climate change. And that’s important too. We’re trying to make change in the world of design and branding.”
(Y) “And in the markets where we have clients, if we all go the extra mile, that will most certainly make an impact.

Photography by Joshua Hoogeboom