How can design respond to the climate crisis in a meaningful way? The community has never been short of good intentions, but turning those into effective action in an industry made up of thousands of small businesses across a diverse range of sectors is another matter entirely.
When it comes to the climate, time is running out for all of us. So it’s encouraging to hear that the Design Council, perhaps the one organisation that has the potential to unite the UK’s design industry around a coherent climate action plan, has announced its ambition to put this at the centre of its activities.
Its Design for Planet conference, to be held on November 9-10 at V&A Dundee in order to coincide with COP26, heralds a “new era” for the organisation, according to the Design Council’s CEO Minnie Moll. Speaking at a London Design Festival event in September, she declared that, “through our shift in focus, we will partner with experts and leaders in sustainability to create resources that will empower designers. We will champion and amplify those who are already creating change. We will advocate for policy and systems change to support the 1.69 million-strong design community to achieve our ambition of a more sustainable future.”
As chief design officer, Cat Drew is at the forefront of delivering this new mission. “We are the only organisation that brings together the whole design economy,” she says. “Design has huge power to shape the world, but that comes with huge responsibility. Looking back to when we were set up, in 1944, [our mission] was to use design to get us out of the biggest challenge of the day – the post-war economic slump. Today, our biggest challenge is the climate crisis. We have to turn all our energies towards helping to rally the design industry, many of whom have been pioneering in this space for many years. That has to be our work.”