Episode 24 | 24.06.2024

A Call to Arms: Leading the Charge in Advertising for Good

This week, we sat down with Thomas Kolster, founder of Goodvertising Agency and author of “Goodvertising” and “The Hero Trap.” Thomas shares his insights on the evolving landscape of advertising and its potential to drive positive change. He delves into the challenges of balancing consumer engagement with sustainability, emphasising the need for transparency and accountability in the industry.

Listen to the full podcast episode on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

The Evolution of Goodvertising

Thomas Kolster is a pioneer in the field where marketing, business, and sustainability intersect. With his first book, “Goodvertising,” he popularised the term to describe advertising that delivers positive environmental or societal benefits. His second book, “The Hero Trap,” warns of a post-purpose market, where people no longer buy into your values or your “why,” but rather who you can help them become.

Thomas’s journey began on a small island in the Baltic Sea, where he witnessed firsthand the collapse of the local fishing industry. This early experience shaped his understanding of the fragile relationship between industry and nature. However, it was the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen that catalysed his career in sustainable advertising. Disappointed by the lack of action from world leaders, Thomas decided to take matters into his own hands.

“I experienced what can happen when we can’t just take nature for granted and the services that nature provides to us,” Thomas recalls. “That’s actually where my journey started.”


A New Kind of Leadership

Thomas is vocal about the need for the advertising industry to grow up and take its responsibility seriously. He believes that the industry has significant power to drive GDP growth but also has a negative side effect on overconsumption and environmental degradation. For Thomas, the solution lies in redefining leadership within the industry.

“We don’t really have any responsibility per se, you know we can’t really… And so that’s disappointing,” Kolster laments. “We need to take a much more human-centric approach to this. We know people want to live sustainably, is it really that difficult to help them on that journey?”

Kolster criticises the industry’s tendency to chase the next trend without establishing a long-term vision. He argues that brands need to focus on offering sustainable choices and showing real leadership.

“The industry’s inability to create any sort of long-term vision is disappointing for an industry that is creative, that talks about leadership, that talks about purpose,”


The Role of Advertising in Overconsumption

One of the central themes of our conversation was the inherent conflict between advertising and sustainability. At its core, advertising aims to stimulate consumption, which often leads to environmental harm. Thomas acknowledges this paradox and urges the industry to rethink its approach.

“I don’t think we as an industry have ever had such impactful weaponry at our disposal to target people with,”

Thomas points out. “We need to redesign how we advertise. For every decision we make, we should think like a public service channel: What’s best for society? What’s best for our children?”

Thomas emphasises the need for the industry to set guardrails and take proactive steps to reduce its negative impact. He calls for a shift away from harmful practices like excessive promotions and misleading sustainability claims. “There are so many things we could just say no to. It’s not that we cannot take leadership on that stuff, and that’s what pisses me off the most.”


Digital Advertising and Environmental Impact

As digital advertising continues to grow, so does its environmental footprint. Thomas highlights the importance of addressing the carbon footprint of digital media and the need for the industry to take a stand on this issue.

“The impact of digital advertising… it’s one of the more growing media types in terms of how people actually spend their media money,” Thomas explains. “Finally, I do see some discussions around carbon footprint, which is amazing in our industry. But again, we need to put up guardrails and start raising this cute little Lion Cub in a sensible manner.”

Thomas stresses the importance of creating a positive digital environment that minimises harm to the planet. He calls for a unified global approach to regulate and guide the use of emerging technologies like AI in advertising.


Optimism and Realism

Despite the challenges, Thomas maintains a cautiously optimistic outlook. He believes that the advertising industry has the potential to lead meaningful change if it embraces a more responsible and sustainable approach.

“I think as a creative person, you need to be inherently optimistic. You need to be able to envision a future and set forward a vision and a direction to which you wanna move and can move,” Thomas says. “But let’s be honest, we are right now in a capitalist system that seems to have a built-in inability to deal with long-term changes.”

Thomas calls on young advertisers to remain bold and persistent in their efforts to drive positive change.

“If you believe in something, keep fighting for it, because there’s other people who are gonna believe it as well. And I’m absolutely sure that if you’re young, creative, and you do passionate work in this space, it’s gonna inspire other folks.”



Thomas’s insights highlight the urgent need for the advertising industry to reevaluate its role and responsibilities. By adopting a more sustainable and human-centric approach, the industry can leverage its considerable influence to drive positive change. As Kolster aptly puts it, “The least we can do as an industry is to offer people sensible green choices.”

For more insights from Thomas Kolster and to explore how the advertising industry can lead the charge for good, tune in to the latest episode of The Responsible Edge Podcast.

Want to be a guest on our show?

Contact Us.

The Responsible Edge Podcast
Queensgate House
48 Queen Street


Never Miss Another Episode.

Subscribe now to receive a monthly email featuring all new episodes of The Responsible Edge Podcast. We won't email you for any other reason.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

© 2024. The Responsible Edge Podcast

© 2024. The Responsible Edge Podcast