Five Minutes With Jakob Trollbäck
As the founder of sustainability and design agency the New Division, Jakob Trollbäck wants to bring positive environmental practices to brands around the world. He discusses the challenges this presents, and best practice in effective sustainable design.
How do you and your team approach sustainability?
We at the New Division contribute to a sustainable world the best way we can, using ideas, words and pictures to make complex questions easy to understand. We believe there are ways to change people’s minds, to create engagement around crucial issues, and lead to a prosperous life on the planet.
What do you think are the best choices to adopt today for businesses who wish to become sustainable?
Sustainability means long term survival, and that should be obvious to any serious business. But to get real change, you need personal engagement from key people. The foundation for a sustainable and profitable business is always a drive to make our lives better. The days of pointless consumption are over. Young people – tomorrow’s consumer base – are rebelling against a society that worships material things. They are not buying it – literally. This means that there is a huge new sector of sustainable quality products, smart solutions, and services that will gain a loyal following. Take a stand for the planet and justice and you have future-proofed your business.
What are the biggest live challenges towards sustainability?
I think the most practical challenges are surprisingly incremental. The hardest thing is to consider our purpose in life. Why are we running our business? Is it just to make money – even if that means to destroy the world for your grandchildren, or do you want to be a force for a better future? Sustainability is by definition necessary for survival. Maybe you can get by without it, but your legacy will be one of ignorance and selfishness. Right now, it is all about the planet. A stable climate is a condition for all life, all business. You can try to save things from a burning house, but the best action is obviously to make sure that it doesn’t catch on fire.
Which example, among your work, is the project you’re most proud of?
My New York company Trollbäck + Company is continuing its 20 years of brand building and I’m ridiculously proud of the team there. From a design point, the work that we have done for the TED conferences (about 20 of them) still excites me when I see it. But I have always told everybody that all design has to have a purpose, and for me, nothing beats the work that we are doing today for sustainability, justice, and equality. It is a dream come true.
As designers and communicators, how did you approach a task as big as the Sustainable Development Global Goals?
I could talk about this for a very long time, but perhaps the most important aspect is that we came at it from a 100% commercial point of view. I have always wondered why some of the most important issues have such uninspired communication. We approached the work the only way I know, which is to make it intelligent, accessible and compelling. To make something this complex easy to understand was hard, but I hope that our work can be an inspiring example for other people who need to communicate complex issues. After all, fixing the planet should be more exciting than to buy a new pair of socks.