How to brand a sustainable business

Previously, sustainable branding found itself firmly stuck in the eco-cliché trap, conjuring up images of green rolling hills, earthy tones, and the obligatory leaf motif. But this is changing, writes Aimée McLaughlin

Thankfully for eco-brand enthusiasts, as well as the health of the planet, attitudes towards climate change are finally on the move. As green initiatives and organisations such as Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement continue to gain traction around the world, consumers are looking at how they can contribute to the fight against climate change through their lifestyle choices.

The success of startups such as reusable bottle brand Chilly’s in turning an eco-friendly product into a fashion statement have helped fast-track the demise of the single-use plastic water bottle, while plant-based food and drink brands such as Oatly – which is known for its witty tone of voice rooted in Swedish humility – have proven that planet-positive brands don’t need to take themselves too seriously.

Along with thinking about its behaviour as consumers and individuals, the design community has also been considering how it can use its creative talents to make a difference. This isn’t an entirely new concept – the term ecological design has been around since the 19th century – but over the past few years it has been reimagined for the heightened state of climate consciousness we are living in today, with initiatives such as creative collective Climate Designers leading the way.

Top: The Office of Ordinary Things’ colourful visual identity for healthy snack range Byte Bars; Above: The studio’s printed guide to Boulder, Colorado for Patagonia


The studio’s design for Soil, a book published by Slow Money, a non-profit dedicated to catalysing the flow of capital to local food systems

Founded by designer strategist Marc O’Brien and UX designer Sarah Harrison, Climate Designers started out as a website for anxious creatives who wanted to take action but has quickly grown into a collective of like-minded individuals and studios, acting as a kind of social network for those who want to integrate climate-consciousness into their practice.

One of the first studios to sign up to Climate Designers was The Office of Ordinary Things (previously known as Cast Iron Design). Originally based in Colorado and now San Francisco, the studio was founded by Richard Roche and Jonny Black in 2010 and has since carved out a niche for itself, practicing sustainable graphic design. “Jonny had a lightbulb moment after reading Brian Dougherty’s Green Graphic Design, realising that his passion for sustainability and design could not only overlap but merge entirely,” say Roche and Black.