WASHINGTON, DC — Leaders, innovators and communicators have to stop following what customers and board members want in order to drive radical change to tackle the climate crisis, PRovoke’s Global Summit heard yesterday, in a session moderated by Finn Partners senior partner Brianne Chai-Onn.

Brad Laporte, CEO of Wincup, a US plastics company that created a marine biodegradable straw called phade, said leaders can’t set out to make money if they want to change the world.

"We can’t rely on the 8% of Americans who recycle or the companies that have invested billions in oil and gas. In order to be a disruptor you can’t follow," he said. "It sounds simple but it’s true."

Sydney Kitson, former football player and CEO of Kitson Partners, a Florida-based real estate company that created America’s first fully solar-powered city, added: "You’d be surprised how many people don’t want solar energy, and have a lot of interest in oil and gas.

"That can be somewhat challenging to overcome as you’re trying to work through being a change agent."

Laporte said that the largest group communicators needed to target when attempting radical solutions was: "Folks who want to do the right thing by the environment but don’t want to be inconvenienced by it. It has to be easy for them." He cited the example of paper straws, which customers requested but then almost universally stopped using because "it wasn’t easy". 

"We’ve made a new product that looks and feels like plastic, completely biodegrades and performs better than paper. The client base really liked it and that turned it into a ‘we have to have it’."

Both Laporte and Kitson emphasised the importance of collaboration when tackling climate issues, from getting buy-in from investors to partnering with other brands and organisations, including environmental groups. 

And Kitson advised complete transparency with communications. "If our detractors wanted something we put it online for them. We gave them everything they wanted," he said. "People had to get used to the fact we meant everything we said."