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Made Thought's own senior partner Nick Marshall on rewriting the narrative of ‘sustainability’ | July 31 2023

At some point, the word ‘problem’ became a problem. Our time and energy became increasingly used for finding positive spin rather than facing facts. When it comes to tackling the most crucial issues affecting us today, avoiding the problem is no longer a solution. At Made Thought, we have always seen real progress as the product of a direct approach, going to the heart of the issue to find potential for change. In this light, problems become no longer just problems but beautiful constraints. Navigating these requires difficult conversations and, most importantly, facing uncomfortable truths. Trust Keats when he said, “beauty is truth, truth is beauty”. Words can obscure issues, but thankfully they also have the power to provide new ways to find solutions.

Approaching briefs by finding and tackling their beautiful constraints has been part of our philosophy from the beginning. No one has ever come to us to replicate the way others do things; we are chosen for our uniquely progressive point of view. Whether examining waste or creation, it is about doing so intelligently, passionately and with originality and many of our recent projects have become the perfect model for this philosophy of beautiful constraints.

At Brewdog, their beautiful constraint was navigating growth with the same originality and rebellious spirit they launched with, now as a billion dollar company. If they had become too big to be the craft beer rebel, why not be the maverick? Rebels smash systems, mavericks build new ones. From the ‘F**K YOU, CO2’ campaign to the ‘buy one, get one tree’ initiative and the landmark Tomorrow Charter, leaning into the beauty of their boldness became the secret to not just achieving ambitious goals that align with their mission but in doing so consolidating their very identity.

Perhaps the greatest strength of Brewdog’s environmental ambitions has been in laying down the gauntlet to companies of similar sizes to go further. That the company has certain freedoms as a founder-led business is important to acknowledge, and also an opportunity to examine how the potential constraints of board-led inertia can be overcome. With big businesses crucial to solving our collective climate concerns, it is in all our interests for these to succeed in making sustainability part of their process.

The constraints of industrialisation were key to an artful solution for Stella McCartney’s Stella skincare line. With an environmental ethos at the core of its brand identity, Stella McCartney is motivated by and observed for its sustainable credentials in equal measure. For Stella, the uncomfortable truth was the reality of replicating the revolutionary spirit of its high fashion at the more challenging scale of an international beauty brand. Many of the ideas we wanted to action either weren’t viable at scale, or proved difficult to align with the look and feel of luxury.

A solid ethical code is a set of constraints on its own. The implications on aspects across production, from sourcing to packaging, mean companies like Stella need not just face uncomfortable truths themselves but make the case for their suppliers and manufacturers also viewing them as beautiful constraints. For Stella, with their profile and perspective, doing so also provided the added incentive to shape both the sustainable aesthetic and the aesthetic of luxury. The power of this combination has untold value for the future of the field.

Doing anything for the first time combines a braveness that refuses to accept the status quo with humility and curiosity. Beautiful constraints is finding inspiration in the under- and unexplored to arrive at an important new destination. Why not, then, cite that icon of industrialisation Henry Ford? “If I had asked people what they wanted,” he once reasoned, “they would have said ‘faster horses’”.



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