The Solutionists with Solitaire Townsend

Solitaire Townsend, co-founder of change agency Futerra, joins us to discuss her book, The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix The Future. Solitaire shares insights about creating effective sustainability marketing and offers guidance on communications using a practical framework based on psychographics. We also explore a new green claims directive and the role of social media creators in promoting sustainability. Use promo code BIGEYE25 for a 25% discount at

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Solitaire Townsend: I think, bizarrely, being one of the people working on the scariest, most terrifying issues of our time, like climate change, actually can be super fulfilling as an individual. 

Adrian Tennant: You are listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Last week we spoke with Emmanuel Probst, Global Lead of Brand Thought-Leadership at the research firm, Ipsos. Emmanuel discussed some of the reasons why consumers increasingly believe that in addition to producing and selling products, brands have a responsibility to bring about positive change in society and the environment. Now, when it comes to tackling the climate crisis, survey data from Ipsos reveals that less than one-fifth of people worldwide believe humankind is capable of and committed to resolving climate change, just 17 percent. Approaching one-third of all respondents say we possess the necessary technology but lack the collective resolve to employ it effectively. Among the youngest respondents, well over half – 56 percent – feel doomed and are questioning the value of long-term investments, such as buying a home and retirement planning under the belief that they literally have no future and will be the last generation. Their pessimism contrasts starkly with the attitudes of sustainability activists and environmental scientists who, despite their in-depth understanding of the severity of the climate crisis, remain positive that catastrophe is not inevitable. Today’s guest believes we can and must shift our thinking on climate change from the context of fear and despair to one of hope, purpose, and confidence. Solitaire Townsend is an entrepreneur, sustainability expert, and popular speaker at global events, including TED, COP27, and the World Advertising Federation. She co-founded Futerra, an award-winning agency that combines sustainability, creativity, and communications to make sustainable development happen. In her role as Chief Solutionist, Solitaire advises organizations, including IKEA, Formula One, Google, and the United Nations, on driving entrepreneurial sustainability. She’s also the author of two books. Her first, published in 2017 is The Happy Hero, How To Change Your Life By Changing The World, which explores how positive thinking about the future can inspire personal and global change. Her new book is entitled The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix The Future, and is this month’s selection for the Bigeye Book Club. To discuss some of the key ideas in her new book, I’m delighted that Solitaire is joining us today from her office in London, England. Solitaire, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS! 

Solitaire Townsend: Thank you so much. It’s a real pleasure to be here.

Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the intro, you are the co-founder of Futerra, the first agency officially named a climate solutions provider under the UN-backed Race to Zero climate campaign. Now, back in 2001, when you founded Futerra, sustainability was of marginal interest to many corporations. What led you to establish an agency focused on sustainable development?

Solitaire Townsend: I’ll be really honest with you. Most people do big business plans. They think through their strategy, and they set up their business with a very clear objective. I fell into a niche, so I had recently done a master’s degree in sustainable development, and that had involved meeting a whole set of business people, including the CEOs of Unilever and others. And on graduating, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with this master’s degree, and some of the people I had met during doing they asked me to come in and do some consulting for them. So I did a bit of consulting, which led to a bit more consulting, which led to so much more that I had to hire a couple of people. Which led to eventually realizing that I’d tripped and fallen into a very successful small niche. And we had to – with the others at the time – we had to sort of retrofit a business into what was already a going concern, and in many ways, that energy is still with us, decades later. Sustainability is a movable feast. It’s constantly evolving. There are new things coming along, and we’re right there, we tend to be on the edge. We jump in with both feet to new ideas and new solutions, and then we work out the business plan afterward.

Adrian Tennant: How has Futerra evolved over time in response to the broader interest in sustainability?

Solitaire Townsend: So when we started out, we were very parochial in many ways. We worked exclusively in the UK. We ran some of the very first campaigns for the UK government. We designed the first climate change campaign that ever ran in Europe for the UK government. And, it was only after the first few years that we realized that business had a role to play in this. So actually, we weren’t working with a lot of businesses, we were mainly working with governments. And we started to work with people like British Telecom and with Unilever and with others in the very early doors of things such as sustainability reporting, which back then was called “environmental reporting” or “CSR reporting”. Very, very early stages of doing internal communications and in talking to staff about recycling and coffee cups, in the canteen, et cetera. And then that grew and grew. And as the issues and the public awareness have grown and as the idea of there being a small green niche, about 12% of people who care about this, has suddenly flipped on its head, and now it’s the minority who don’t care about this. And well over 70% of consumers are driven by sustainability issues. We’ve now started working with folks like Netflix and Google on massive global campaigns and on huge strategies with some of the biggest companies in South America and Asia. So in many ways, Futerra has grown up with the sustainability movement itself, and the work we’ve done has tracked along that. And as soon as something becomes mainstream – so as soon as sustainability reporting became something that lots of people knew how to do, and lots of agencies were doing, and the big consultancies were doing – Futerra stopped doing it because it didn’t need us anymore. Our job is to break ground on what’s new in sustainability.

Adrian Tennant: Your latest book is The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix The Future. Solitaire, what is a Solutionist? 

Solitaire Townsend: A Solutionist is a solver of problems, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. I discovered the term, and I applied it to those of us who are working in this field because we didn’t have a collective noun. We were change-makers, or we were sustainability people, or we were social entrepreneurs, or we were just business people doing sustainability, but there wasn’t a word that really summed up this huge growing …  thousands, if not millions of business-minded, sustainability-focused, purposeful people who are out there using the power of the business sector to actually make a difference in the world. And so the word Solutionist sort of sprung upon me, and I applied it to myself first to remind myself of every day what I’m supposed to be doing. So as well as co-founder of Futerra, I’m Chief Solutionist. And before the book came out, I noticed there was about 11 other people using it on LinkedIn, so as a word, there are about 11 other people using it. Now, post the book, there’s about 10 pages of people using it. There’s over a hundred people who are now using the term for themselves in terms of identifying as a solutionist.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you are really tapped into something there. Of course, sustainability is a huge topic. Bigeye chose The Solutionists as our featured book for June, because you work at the intersection of sustainability and communication and address some of the marketing communications challenges from a practitioner’s perspective. Solitaire, could you give us a sense of what your book covers and why it’s relevant for brand managers and those of us working in advertising?

Solitaire Townsend: Absolutely. Yeah. And this is my industry – you know, I was very lucky to be named a sustainability leader of the Year by Adweek. I’ve spoken at the World Federation of Advertisers, at the CIPR, I feel that this is my community, this is my world. The book reflects that. So whilst it’s written for anybody in business who wants to have a career that matters, whole sections of the book are dedicated to communications and engagement, and also to the wider issues about marketing, of understanding market need and actually understanding where consumers are and what’s next. I feel that for those who want to raise the role of marketing inside their businesses or inside their organization, if they’re a governmental organization or a nonprofit organization, The Solutionists is for you. Because marketers, we should be at the forefront of our understanding where the market is going and what our consumers and our customers need. And sustainability is right there as an unfilled, as an unmet consumer need. Survey after survey, after survey, after survey shows us how deeply the public cares about it, how deeply they’re worried about it, how much they want to do something about this. Over 80 percent of the public say that they want brands to help them on this and to actually to work with them, to make a difference, both in terms of their own behaviors and they want brands to be giving them sustainable products. And that’s our job as marketers: to convince the rest of our organization that we can meet that need in a really commercially, successful way. So in the book, I go into that market need, I go into what sustainability is. I go through what the different opportunities are for different industries, from food to fashion to transport, and I have a whole section on how you communicate about this. So how do you actually market sustainability? 

Adrian Tennant: At the heart of how businesses can fix the future, of course, are people. Solitaire, what were some of the defining characteristics of the Solutionists you interviewed for the book? 

Solitaire Townsend: I got to meet some extraordinary people. I spoke to one of the co-founders of a new hydrogen business. Hydrogen could be a game-changer for how we solve climate change. I got to speak to the CEOs of companies like Cow Corporation in Japan, IKEA in Sweden, Austin Group, Grupo Bimbo. I got to speak to Bill Gates. And a few things, when I was speaking to all of these incredible change makers, including some indigenous people, including activists like Lilly Cole was, they were all happy! They were all really super positive, upbeat, happy people. And I think there’s a couple of reasons for that. One is that they are working on the solutions, so they know that the answers are out there. They’re not sort of overwhelmed and scared by these awful, terrible things we’re all hearing on our TV screens that our kids are telling us about. That, you know, they don’t feel like sort of frozen and inadequate or impotent in the face of these issues. They’ve actually grabbed the solutions, and they’re doing something about it. So I think that’s one of the things which means that these are quite happy people. And then secondly, they really belong to a community. Once you start working on sustainability, once you start engaging with these issues around environmental issues and social issues and learn about them and start connecting with other people who are working on them within our industry, particularly within the marketing industry, it’s a really strong sense of community and support and people helping each other. It’s not, you know, an aggressive red and tooth and claw type competitive environment. It’s based on a lot of friendships, and so I think actually, bizarrely, being one of the people working on the scariest, most terrifying issues of our time, like climate change, actually can be super fulfilling as an individual. 

Adrian Tennant: Why do you think there is such a discrepancy between the optimism of those people you’ve met who are working in sustainability and the pessimism of the general public regarding climate change? 

Solitaire Townsend: I think that actually comes down to our industry and the greater sense of it. We are the communicators, we’re the storytellers of the world, within the businesses that we work in and within the profession of which we’re part. And actually, overall, we’ve done a really great job at communicating the problem. We know that one in five young people are completely fatalistic about sustainability now. We know that the vast majority of people around the world, in World Economic Forum surveys, put climate change and war as their two top concerns about the world. We’ve actually done a great job at scaring the bejesus out of people. And rightly so. This climate change, especially, I have no desire to undercut how genuinely terrifying it is, but the solutions are equally exciting. We’ve done a very good job of telling people about the problem and a very bad job about telling people about the solutions and the answers. And of course, the Solutionists, those who’ve decided to make a living, make a business, make a fortune, make a career out of sustainability and the solutions, we know how many answers there are out there. We know what’s working. So although the Solutionists know in detail how bad things could be, they also are more aware of the answers. And that’s why in The Solutionists, I go into what those answers are in detail. I hope people find a few surprises and a few things that they didn’t know was going on and that is available to solve some of these problems.

Adrian Tennant: In The Solutionists, you identify three types of change-makers: Architects, Accelerators, and Actioners. Solitaire, can you explain what they are? 

Solitaire Townsend: I love this framework, and all of us are a little bit of all of them. But most of us have got a preference. We’ve got a type that really reflects who we are and what we’re good at. And then we’ve learnt to be at least competent at the other types. So Architects are big-picture people. They look at the huge map of what’s happening in the world. They put things together in a way that haven’t been seen before, and they come up with a plan for the future. But sometimes they can get a little bit lost in those plans. They can sometimes struggle to communicate them, and they tend not to be very detail-focused, and they sometimes struggle with being completely finished. So I’m an Architect. I see these massive meshes around the world of how things could work and what the big, you know, 30,000-foot solutions can be. But I sometimes get lost when things become about the details. Then you’ve got the Accelerators. And the Accelerators are the people people, they pull teams together, they make sure everyone’s trained up. They identify the right person for the right job, and they keep people going on actually making stuff happen. And often, those accelerators tend to be overlooked in some other typologies of change makers because, you know, it’s all about the head, actually. The accelerators are about the heart. And if we don’t have those people, folks who are brilliant at generating and motivating teams, nothing ever gets done. Sometimes those accelerators can get a little bit lost in the team. They can sometimes get a little bit too obsessed about whether the team is okay or not okay. And they can sometimes struggle to take the hard decisions about the team, but without them, we won’t recruit or bring anybody else into this solution because they are the people people. And then the Actioners are the get things done as the completer finishes, “Just tell me what to do” kind of people. They don’t want to spend hours on big plans. They don’t want to game-plan everything and think about what their overall strategy is. They just want to get going, and they make things happen. If there is a problem, there is a solution. If there is a challenge, there is a way to overcome it. Or if you bring them something you’re struggling with, they will not only come up with a solution to it, they will try to make that solution happen. And they are the doers. Of course, if there isn’t a great strategy, if there isn’t a great plan, then the doers might keep going in the wrong direction. They actually do need the Actioners, they need to work with those Architects to make sure that all that wonderful activity that they’re doing is pointed in the right direction. So what you can see across those three groups is they need each other. And in the book, I go into how you can map out your team on this and even how you can map out perhaps some of the other teams that you work with, because particularly if you’re talking to your boss or to your client and you don’t know which type they are, you can definitely sometimes jar if you are of one type and the person you’re speaking to is of another, the way in which you tried to convince them would be something which would convince you. Actually, if you want to convince an Accelerator, you have got to bring them the people-based argument. If you’re going to convince an Architect, you’ve got to bring them the big strategy piece. And if you’re going to convince an Actioner, you’ve got to show them exactly what to do, not all the “why” about why they should do it.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in consumer research, retail, and branding. Our featured book for June is The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix the Future by Solitaire Townsend. Featuring compelling stories from top entrepreneurs and businesses, the book showcases how Solutionists are addressing our planet’s greatest crisis through sustainable innovation, highlighting transformative examples, including plant-based foods, net-zero technologies, and circular platforms. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 25 percent on a print or electronic version of The Solutionists by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all Kogan Page products and pre-orders and applies to their free paperback and e-book bundle offer. Shipping is always free to the US and UK when you order direct from Kogan Page, and it helps the authors too. So, to order your copy of The Solutionists, go to

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Solitaire Townsend, Chief Solutionist at the global change agency, Futerra, and the author of The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix The Future. Solitaire, could you talk a bit about demographic versus psychographic approaches to marketing and promoting sustainable products and practices?

Solitaire Townsend: I find that the typologies, and the trying to understand publics on sustainability fascinating. Because we’re also used to using demographics when we’re working in marketing. In fact, a significant number of sort-of even sales tools online and our Facebook sales tools and our Shopifys, et cetera, all based on demographics, age, geography, reading habits, et cetera, et cetera. But when it comes to sustainability, sustainability tends to be about your values. It’s a different part of who you are, and often demographics don’t have very much to do with it. That the classic ways in which we’d categorize people start to fall down when it comes to some of these issues, which have got some morality and some emotion associated with them, such as sustainability. So in the book, I go into the psychographics, and it’s very much based on Jungian inner-directed versus outer-directed psychographics, and even the neuroscience in terms of how people process information. And what that tells us is that if you are talking to somebody who sees environmental issues as very much around their local community, around dog poo on the streets, or when cutting down local trees, and those are what they value – if they value those local issues –  and then you suddenly talking about climate change, you’re going to go way over their head. But if you’re talking to someone who values our global planet, who thinks of things on a planetary level, who are thinking about oceans rather than about local ponds, and you go and talk to them about cutting down a couple of local trees, they’re not going to care. Because what has that got to do with climate change? So to really understand what people value and what their values are that they hold is much more important when you’re trying to convince them on sustainability or if you’re trying to sell sustainable products, than classic demographics. And it’s where a lot of marketing campaigns around sustainability have fallen down – that although our traditional tools in our industry are useful, they are not without limitations when it comes to this very unusual topic around social issues and environmental restoration.

Adrian Tennant: What’s your advice for marketing organically farmed products?

Solitaire Townsend: So number one, understand who is currently buying from you. We all we understand that and what values they already hold. Are they buying from you because you are a local, organic brand? And actually, they are very much connected with the sense that you are helping from an organic perspective, protect and enhance and conserve the local farmland, which they can even imagine visiting there that they can imagine at that connection. That would mean that you’re selling to people who very much value organic from a local perspective, it’s actually helping to help their community. Or perhaps your current consumer base are people who believe that agriculture needs to transform on a global level, and they actually think about organics as being a sort of activist movement that’s challenging the status quo and thinking about things differently. In which case,8 you can see that those are two different sets of values. So if you go to a whole load of people who care deeply about organic farming in terms of the UK’s farming, and start talking to them about challenging Big Ag globally, they’re not going to care because they want to know what you’re doing in the local community. And if you start talking about sort of your little local farm and what it’s doing around butter in the neighborhood to a bunch of people who care about global issues, they’re going to go, “Oh, it doesn’t feel like it’s that impactful. Tell me about how you’re challenging the status quo.” So really understanding these different psychographics. And there’s a set of them that I go into in the book that can absolutely transform how we communicate about these things. Because a lot of marketers are sort of assuming, are making a whole lot of knee-jerk judgments about how people respond to these issues, which means I see the same mistakes being made again, and again and again. Not understanding the values that your consumer holds. Talking as if you are Greenpeace when you’re not – you’re a corporation! Overselling, overclaiming on sustainability because you think it’s more compelling, whereas in fact, actually, consumers really like humility when it comes to sustainability because they know the world isn’t perfect. So there’s a lot of sort of myths and traps around marketing on sustainability, which if you overcome them, suddenly you’re going to fly.

Adrian Tennant: You recently presented at a World Federation of Advertisers event. Solitaire, what topics were delegates most frequently seeking your advice on?

Solitaire Townsend: So the WFA [is a] fantastic organization. It was a gathering of many of the CMOs of many of the largest brands around the world, So, I did a series of sessions, and I did a lot of one-to-ones with folks, and there were a couple of things which was top of mind for everyone. One was greenwash. We’ve got a new greenwash directive that’s been proposed by the EU, which comes with very serious consequences, including losing 4 percent of your turnover or actually having the entirety of the revenue from a product taken away. So very serious consequences being put forward in terms of EU marketing. Here in the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority has really started to use its muscle after the Competition of Markets Authority, the CMA, said that 50 percent of green messaging in the UK was greenwash. So greenwash is top of mind. Also green hushing – so, the opposite of greenwashing is green hushing, which is when you don’t talk about sustainability, when you sort of keep doing it, but you are too anxious about greenwash or too anxious about pushback that you don’t talk about it, and then you end up with consumers thinking that you’re not doing anything or with new staff not wanting to come to work for you because you’re not talking about your sustainability. So that was really top of mind. But another major topic, and it’s something I’m working a lot on, is this exciting role of social media creators, TikTokers, Instagrammers, YouTubers, et cetera, on sustainability. Those social media creators are really eager to talk about sustainability. I know they are because some of those platforms have hired me to train up their creators on sustainability. So they’re super excited about talking about this, and they’re looking for brands with great stories to tell that they can engage with much more interest. They can engage their followers on sustainability topics. There’s a lot of anxiety about greenwash and greenhush, but there’s also a lot of excitement about the role of social media creators and brands partnering around sustainability.

Adrian Tennant: How can advertisers contribute to reshaping public perception and encourage sustainable behaviors?

Solitaire Townsend: Well, actually, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, which some folks might have heard of, who are the pre-eminent scientists around the world. Every seven years, they come up with a big report about what we need to do about climate change. And for the first time in 20 years, they actually included our industry in that, which is quite a big deal because that will trickle down through governments and will trickle down through regulation to us pretty quickly. There are two things that they said that they needed from us. One is they need us not to greenwash, not to support destructive industries, not advertise the problem, and to avoid climate misinformation. And that is a difficult and true challenge for the industry. On the other side, they said sustainable lifestyles. We are the people who can show that living in a more sustainable way, eating, traveling clothing, buying in a more sustainable way is desirable. That’s what we are good at. And so there’s a whole chapter in the IPCC report that goes into how we can as marketers, for example, make plant-based eating much more desirable, help people to transition towards electrifying everything in electric cars, help people desire different ways of consuming, particularly consuming better quality and less repairing of vintage. There’s a whole section in there around how we travel and making it so that people can feel that actually perhaps they don’t need to take their car for a 15-minute trip, that they’d be able to walk for it. So they set out 61 behaviors that would make a significant difference to climate change. And they call upon us, the marketers and the influencers in the world, the people who affect society, to help make them desirable and to help change behaviors. And so, you know, we’ve now been given our marching orders by the climate scientists in terms of the role of our industry.

Adrian Tennant: Oil giant Shell’s media account is up for review, yet reporting from Adweek found that most media agencies they contacted would neither confirm nor deny that they’re pitching for Shell’s estimated $240 million-a-year business. Adweek pointed out that agencies who do pitch Shell risk alienating their existing clients who do have strong commitments to sustainability. And according to survey data from Glimpse and YouGov cited by Adweek, more than 60 percent of UK-based creatives aged 18 to 30 said working on high-carbon clients would be uncomfortable for them, while 40 percent indicated they’d refuse to work on high-carbon accounts. Holding companies like WPP and Dentsu are publicly traded and ultimately answer to shareholders. Solitaire, what’s your advice for ad agencies? How should they approach these kinds of ethical questions?

Solitaire Townsend: So for the start, I think it is a challenging situation right now because, you know, there’s nothing illegal as yet about those industries’ marketing, although there’s a significant number of countries and cities in the world where there are ongoing and actually passing through parliament, laws about, oil and gas companies not being allowed to advertising anymore. There are lots of industries that are perfectly legal, such as pornography or cigarettes, that we don’t allow to advertise because we don’t think it is in the public interest. And I suspect very soon, oil and gas advertising will go the same way. So where you are sitting in 2023 as an agency owner is, you’ve got this big, juicy fish that’s sitting there, but you are worried it’s laced with poison. In fact, if you grab that fish, of course, you’ll then be going into a contractual obligation over a number of years to continue working with an industry that is under extreme pressure, maybe even under legislative pressure, perhaps even with quite significant financial implications. And, of course, all of the activists are very aware that Shell has got that brief out and are waiting to sue the agencies that take it on, as they sued the agencies who took on the opioid accounts in the US. It’s a very difficult decision to make. What I would encourage every agency leader to think about at the moment is not what their bottom line looks like, and what their management accounts look like in 2023, and whether that would be a nice juicy addition to it, but whether in 2025, whether in 2026 and even going through to 2030, whether they think it will still be sustainable for them to be doing that work – because that’s what you are locking yourself into. At the WFA, one of the other big topics, along with sustainability, was the war for talent. We’ve got a real challenge with talent in our industry. We have a real problem with some of the recruitment of the brightest and the best into our industry because of course, if you are a fantastic, naturally wonderful communicator, a lot of young people are going into being social media creators and monetizing and commercializing on those platforms, rather than going into our industry. Do you really think you are going to be able to bring in the best account leads, the best planners, the best ideators, the best creators, if you are asking them to work on essentially a greenwasher? And I can say that without being sued because the ASA has said that Shell green washes. So you are literally, at the moment in this very, very, very challenging position. And if you truly believe that you are part of the solution, that your agency can be part of this amazing, wonderful role that’s been given to us by the IPCC of helping to sell a sustainable future, taking an account from a company that’s just been declared a greenwasher by the ASA, who has just said that they are not going to meet their net zero targets, who have just downgraded all of their commitments to sustainability, who have just closed their renewable energy business in the UK, to which the IPCC has said, must not invest in further oil and gas exploration and yet, they as an industry, has said they have no intention of not investing in oil and gas restoration..? Pick a side. Basically, you’re going to have to pick a side.

Adrian Tennant: If anyone listening who works in brand marketing or advertising would like to become their department or agency’s Solutionist, what’s the best way to start?

Solitaire Townsend: So I get asked this all the time and people go, “How can I get into sustainability? How can I get a sustainable job?” And they go online on LinkedIn looking for jobs with sustainability in the job title because they really want to work on purpose on climate, on solutions. And I always say, start where you are. That’s why I love the question you just asked me, because how do I become a solutionist within my own organization? So first up, get yourself a bit informed. Follow some of the solutionists online, read a few books. Make sure that you are aware of some of these issues. And you know, I’m so sorry, but sustainability is full of terrible terms, like Net Zero, et cetera, but they’re not as complicated as they sound. If you can, you just get yourself informed. And then, bring solutions. So if you’re a solutionist, your job isn’t just to bring solutions for the outside world. It’s to bring solutions internally. How can sustainability help your organization find new clients, find new customers? How can sustainability help with your recruitment? How can sustainability help save your organization money? If you start bringing those solutions inside your organization, then unless your boss is mad, they’re going to ask you to bring them more. So start where you are and start small and also do what you think is most fun, most interesting, most aligned with what you are good at. Don’t turn yourself into a martyr for the cause. Actually, if you are fantastic at creativity, then come up with some creative campaigns. If you are fantastic at finding ways to make money, make some money from sustainability. If you’re fantastic at engaging and driving staff, then bring your staff along and enthuse them with sustainability. Use the skills you already have internally. Inch them towards sustainability, and you are a Solutionist.

Adrian Tennant: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Solitaire Townsend: I hope they’ll take away from The Solutionists that we all have a role in solving this. Now, within that, there’s two things. One is, it is solvable. We have everything which we need. And when you talk to the climate scientists about climate change, they are absolutely committed to the fact that we have the answers that we need. This is completely solvable. The chemistry is sort of to our advantage in terms of getting this fixed. So this is solvable, and it’s going to take everybody, not just experts, not just people with the job title, not just people who have studied this at college. It’s going to take everybody to go, “Do you know what? I’m going to be the person who puts my hands up inside my organization, and ask a question about climate change. Ask a question about social justice. I’m going to be the person who puts forward some answers and they might get shot down, but that’s okay cause I’m going to put forward some more.” If everybody takes that up, then we actually start to get a bit more of a hopeful future for our kids. And for anyone who’s listening, who’s sort of having to look into the eyes of their eight-year-old, I know what that feels like, and I promise you, it can be much, much, much better to have that climate conversation with your kids if you’re doing something about it in work, than the opposite.

Adrian Tennant: Solitaire, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to know more about you, your work at Futerra, or your book, what’s the best way to connect with you?

Solitaire Townsend: I have quite an unusual name, so it is quite easy to find me. So I tend to go under the handle of @GreenSolitaire. So color green + Solitaire on Instagram, on Twitter, et cetera. You can find out much more about Futerra at And if you scoot over to the section called Thinks, we give away all of our thought-leadership, all of our research, all of our guidance for free. And, of course, please do look for The Solutionists in any good bookstores – I think that’s what you’re supposed to say!

Adrian Tennant: And we’ll be sure to include links to your books and reports in the transcript for this episode. Solitaire, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Solitaire Townsend: Oh, thank you so much for having me. You are truly a Solutionist!

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Solitaire Townsend, Chief Solutionist at the global change agency, Futerra, and the author of The Solutionists, How Businesses Can Fix The Future. You’ll find a transcript of this episode with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. And if you enjoyed this episode, please follow us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for joining us for IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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