Partners News

Thomas Kolster, the guide for a responsible communication

When we talk about responsible communication, we automatically think about Thomas Kolster. He believes that being an industry which respects the strakes of sustainable development is also being an industry whose communication is viable. Author of two successful books, Good Advertising and The Hero Trap, he highlighted the weight of the communication between industries and consumers through this responsible transmission. 


Publicity always played an important role for industries. But with the current social and environmental strakes industries are facing, they also have to take into account the sustainable publicity. Thomas Kolster worked for eighteen years in an advertising agency in order to help entrepreneurs in this engagement. Societies’ goal is to show how their organization contribute to create shared values and draws intention on the general interest. Shifting from Mr “Good advertising” to Mr “Hero Trap”, he advises then companies in a world that keep changing, and so ideas and actions.


In this continuity, he created the first platform for societies called “Where Goods Grow” which allows societies to exchange their new and successful initiatives regarding communication. Dubbed “international leader” in 2013 by the Huffington Post, he browsed conferences around the world in order to share his point of view thus helping industries to propose better communications. 



Communication strategies: forgetting “Brand Purpose” and focusing on the real heroes

In this conversation with Karima Essabbak, the communication expert Thomas Kolster describes his vision of the new challenges (that) marketing is facing. Also known as “M. Goodvertising”, he created this theory to support the transition towards a more responsible communication strategy. However, he is now nuancing his idea, warning about the possibility of falling into a “hero trap”.

Thomas Kolster began his career in advertising agencies, where he quickly realised the crucial role of communication in the rise of the consumerist mindset. He therefore started to look into more responsible communication strategies and wondered how they could be used to push for change. This is where his idea of “Goodvertising” came from. For Thomas Kolster (at the time), the solution for a company which aimed to appeal to consumers interested in sustainable development was to look for its “purpose”. Being a purpose-driven brand, focused on economic responsibility, was supposedly a way to meet the new world’s expectations.

However, Thomas Komster realised that many companies which had adopted this strategy are currently facing backlash. Customers don’t see any authenticity in this quest for purpose, but rather self-absorption. He takes the example of the brand Patagonia whose slogan is “Save our home planet” : seems a bit pretentious, doesn’t it ? This is what Thomas Komster calls “falling into the hero trap”. It is irrefutable that a brand’s values have an impact on customers and the way they choose to spend their money. But since every current brand claims to have high ethical and environmental standards, customers are becoming suspicious. In order to gain back trust, companies need to stop focusing on their “purpose”  and start listening to their customers’ needs and desires.

The questions that companies must ask themselves is “who?”: who should tell the story, who should we engage with? The relationship between brands and customers stands at a critical point. In times of crisis, the brands that will remain leaders on the market are the ones which bring joy and have a meaningful impact on people. No one wants to hear the story behind the product anymore; what matters is how the company can fit into the customer’s story. No one wants to hear about all the good things that a company does in society; people care about how it translates into their lives. It is about leadership, not only about branding. 

We need to make consumers the heroes of their own narrative. The Obama campaign “Yes we can” is a good illustration: it is not enough to believe in someone’s ability to create change, we need everyone to feel included in the movement.

Defining a purpose is still useful because it helps to give direction and transform the company to embrace a bigger role. But we need to realise that companies are not the heroes: we all have to write the story together. 



Ning Li: the new business elite

Ning Li, president and general founder of and Typology, is now one of the economic leaders of tomorrow. He is playing a role in the huge transformation in the industry of furniture but also in the cosmetic’s one. He provides us, with his products, a chance to get active, to become an actor of the world’s evolution and to change our environmental impact. This young talented man is one of the main actors of today’s economy and offers us tools to understand the importance of our consumption choices. 

Born in China, Ning Li came in France alone when he was only 16. His career path is impressive and makes us dream. As he rapidly adopted France, his products are 100% made in France although he works around the world.

With, he settled his office in London to change the world of design furniture. While we are used to shop in stores such as Ikea which is good, high design furniture’ prices are often expensive. Ning Li gave himself the challenge to create a brand that will give consumers what they are missing in their lives. The mission of was to make their furniture accessible to everyone with a very high quality and a beautiful design. The strategy of is also inspiring, using internet to democratize the high design. This bet is a success, with twelve countries involved in the journey today. 

After having a daughter, Ning Li was, as everyone, sceptical regarding the ingredients of skincare products. His solution? Building ethic rules by himself, which he did with the creation of Typology. It is widely said that the cosmetic industry is one, if not, the most polluting industry in the world. This makes him pondering the impact of molecules and ingredients on people’s health and on the environment. With Typology, Ning Li succeeded in providing us trustful products.

This commitment was also a challenge, especially during the pandemic. It questioned the recruitment, as getting people in the office was hard. Consequently, the standards had to be lowered. Moreover, the crisis contributed to change our way of taking care of ourselves, provided speed of change and accelerated everything. With companies such as Typology and, we are no longer afraid of ethic and affordable consumption. Despite the difficulties the recruitment represented during the pandemic, both of these companies established practical means of management. 

Ning Li proved he’s a leader. His work brings concrete results and changes the impact of cosmetics and furniture on our society. People want to feel they have a significant impact on theworld, which is made possible by and Typology. 


Hannah Nasseri

Philip Fimmano, Polyvalent actor on Responsible Design

Philip Fimmano is a polyvalent artist and expert on responsible fashion. He works as a design consultant, curator and writer in Trade Union’s books, magazines and strategic studies for fashion, interiors, and lifestyle. He also teaches forecasting masters at Polimoda in Florence and is part of the board of directors for the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe. 

His life is driven by innovative initiatives such as the co-foundation of the Talking Textiles in 2011, assisted by Lidewij Edelkoort. This project aims to promote environmental awareness and innovation in textiles. During the decade, he has juggled between the organization of responsible fashion design events such as the World Hope Forum in 2020, and the organization of public exhibitions in museums and cultural institutions in the world. 

The discussion animated by Elisabeth Laville and guested with Lidewij Edelkoort, his co-associate, was centered on the main aspects of their last co-organized exhibition, La Manufacture, A labour of Love. This latter takes place in the Gare Saint Sauveur in Lille until the 8th of November 2020. It explores the power of materials and manufactures to change our connection to the world. From a neo-materialist philosophical perspective, materials convey emotion and energy.

To sum up, Philip Fimmano is a polyvalent actor on responsible design. 



« Meet Lidewij Edelkoort : towards a more responsible design »

Lidewij Edelkoort is an exhibitor, educator and one of the world’s most famous trend forecasters. 

Named as one of the most influential people by Time magazine she inspires the creative community in different fields such as beauty, well-being, architecture and lifestyle. She travels around the world to study socio-cultural trends before sharing them with her clients coming from various domains in the fashion industry.

Since today, all the sectors are trying to reinvent themselves. However, Lidewij Edelkoort uses awareness on textile to show us that the materials we use can have consequences both on the environment and on ourselves. Actually, most processes do not feel concern with it. On the contrary, Lidewij Edelkoort focuses on how to include people in the creation of design. The aim is to bring together a new generation of designers that are involved on the reduction process in a move to develop a more virtuous economy.  

Lidewij Edelkoort points out that promoting economic and development through design and manufacture is possible. She published an anti-fashion manifesto in 2015 to prove that the current fashion system is coming to an end. It is truly an opening towards all possible fields of reinvention. This is the point of a meeting opened to all of those who are reinventing the system to make it more sustainable, responsible, positive and caring. She has created a real platform of expression to support initiatives as well as designers committed to the renewal of fashion. 

She is returning today for a powerful exhibition in Gare Saint Sauveur in November about the manufacture labour of love. In any case, it pushes us on how we can reinvent our lives through fabrication processes. Design turns towards people’s hands to give life to a deep dismay. Even after a long period of crafts, the hand wants to use the machine and the computer again. Then, if we match both the hand and the machine together, it gives an incredible outcome: astonishing objects and materials are created, preparing us a safe future. Eventually, this exhibition predicts the beginnings of what can save humanity.

« We need to adapt to the future » says Lidewij Edelkoort. This can be possible through local production of manufacturing. Design helps to boost social resilience in a sense that it allows societies to have smaller productions units, recreating local arts and objects. On top of that, design can be a tool to rethink our relationship with the factory. 

Ultimately the goal is to use a philosophical concept as new materialism from which each material can be considering alive, releasing energy. She pushes her commitment as far as possible to create strategic tools that will be, then, used by international designers and marketers. In this regard, Lidewij Edelkoort is inspiring and the outcomes of her commitment leave us fascinated.   


Hannah Nasseri

Vaughn Tan, a free thinker for a responsible management

Save management to save our last chance. Vaughn Tan exposes a new social way of managing business in the context of the sanitary and ecological crisis.

Vaughn Tan is a polyvalent research associate. He combines a job as a professor in Strategy and Design at the University College London’s School of Management and works as a consultant in innovation strategy in term of crisis for businesses and non-profitable organizations. Surprisingly, Vaughn was not formed in management but has a PhD in Organizational Behavior and Sociology jointly from Harvard University and Harvard Business School. His career path seems to be in accordance with what he describes in the conference as the figure of “free thinker”. It is someone that does not follow societies’ norms. He argues that education should encourage the development of such profiles.

Vaughn Tan is the author of the Book, The Uncertainty Mindset: Innovation Insight from the Frontier of Food, a revolutionary manual on innovation and adaptation in the fine culinary sector. The professor’s main innovative concept is about “productive discomfort”, which argues that in a period of uncertain times, business should not aspire to be the most optimal. On the contrary, manager should take care of their employees and suppliers to create trust and sense through the supply chains. To compensate the loss, business should rise the prices of goods. According to Vaughn, this will induce positive impact on the long run. To sum up, business should be ethical and less competitive in time of crisis.

As a French resident, Vaughn asserts that he “love the French culture although he does not speak French”. From a professional point of view, France is a good place to induce responsible management change since society is not driven by business schools’ management ideology.

In the context of ecological and sanitarian crisis, the field of management has been forgotten as a vector of societal changes. The conversation with Vaughn Tan introduced us to a post crisis managerial strategy and invite you, CEO and business representative, to think about other strategies that could make better the living together.



Could uncertainty be the key for innovation and economic responsibility?

Could uncertainty be the key for innovation and economic responsibility?

In order to truly transform the way we do business, we must place new governance models at the heart of the transition for a more responsible economy.

In this conversation, Katie Hill, the President Executive of B Lab Europe, interviews Vaugh Tan about his stance on innovation in times of uncertainty. Vaugh Tan is a Strategy Consultant and Professor at the London School of Management. He recently published his first book , which dives into the high-end culinary world to show how we can learn from culinary teams in order to better innovate and adapt to change. 


On the necessity of being a free thinker

Vaugh Tan believes that when adopting a free-thinking mentality, we embrace the fact that there is no right route to follow. This allows us to solely depend on ourselves and therefore search for the best quality without wondering if we are on the right path or not.

If Vaugh Tan is able to think so freely, it is probably thanks to his “lack of discipline”. He claims that in such an uncertain world, the best solution is to take uncertain actions. Starting with small steps, even if we are not sure, always ends up having a crucial impact. It can either lead to innovation if the experiment works, or it can improve our confidence and encourage us to take an even bigger step towards uncertainty. As he said, “it is just like lifting at the gym, no one begins by lifting a 100 pounds”! 

The professor also regrets that the current education system seems to prevent students from flourishing in situations of uncertainty. Getting the right answers is indeed not the only path to success. Sometimes, acknowledging and learning to cope with what we don’t know can actually help us to move forward.


What should the guiding principles for organisations and leadership be?

CEOs usually think that they must run their businesses in the most optimal way. However, to maximize a business’ organisation and profit, it must be tailored to its environment and resources. But when these external factors change, then the whole structure falls apart. Therefore, in times of uncertainty, leaders should intentionally become less optimal in ways that make them more resilient and adaptable. Businesses can decide to be more ethical by accepting to be more constrained: paying their employees and suppliers fairly, who will in return do everything they can to support the business if it faces difficulties.

In addition, having some constraints makes decisions easier. How can we choose when there is an infinity of possibilities? Constraints help us to take concrete actions, while ensuring the respect of ethical and economically responsible principles. 

The current working framework is one with clear objectives, with goals that are set far in advance to be as profitable as possible. But in a situation of crisis, how can we forecast what will be achieved?  We need to change how we think about business by forgetting the idea of reducing risks and maximizing profit. Instead, it is essential to focus on who the business serves, how we can work without sacrificing the welfare of everyone involved and on how everyone can act autonomously to cater for the business. Organisations should not be afraid to work in unconventional ways.


Recruiting new profiles, putting the emphasis on adaptability and responsibility

Since our environment is changing, especially with the Covid-19 crisis, jobs and roles descriptions inside a business are also reshaped. It is urgent to start hiring adaptable people, who are not afraid to take risks and initiatives. Just like jobs, the rules of the system are not set in stone: we just need to think differently about the structures. It is possible to impose a strategic shift by adapting to the current situation instead of staying stuck with rules that we tend to see as predetermined.

Generally, regulation can be set in two ways: either businesses decide on their own that they want to make a responsible change, or policy makers declare new norms. Vaughn Tan imagines a world where business leaders come up with new strategies that show that economic responsibility is an achievable goal and that it can even be fun. He observes these changes especially in the agricultural sector and in the culinary world, where farmers and chefs constantly innovate and look for new ways to be sustainable and respectful of the environment.

Going for a more responsible and respectful economic strategy is achievable, even more so when we are in highly uncertain situations, as they encourage innovation. Conventional organisations must be turned upside down to incorporate some uncertainty into their structure. From now on, what matters the most is creating a system of values based on adaptability, economic responsibility and innovation, which will lead to a complete change in the way we do business.


Jeanne Pavard

BrandsEye: Understanding Social Medias, Understanding the Demand

31A – How Technology Can Be Used to Encourage Stakeholders to Change the World?


Jean Pierre Kloppers is a robotic engineer and the director of BrandsEye group, the most efficient opinion mining business in the world. In 2016, BrandsEye predicted the election of Donald Trump and the result of the Brexit.


How would you define BrandsEye?

Brands Eye tracks social media to help companies understand the demand of customers. Our goal is to medicate the risk, improve people’s buying, reduce people leaving and improve the customer services that companies offer to clients.


© Maxime Dufour Photographies


Do you believe that your technology is a good tool to build a better society?

Yes, I do. My technology is helping to reduce frustration because, by listening to what people are saying in social medias, you are able to understand what they want and thereby, to bring up an appropriate answer to their problem.


Do you believe social medias help improve the society?

The core of social medias existence is to give people a voice. As long as people keep speaking about their experiences, and as long as they are people who really want to listen to each other and not manipulate. Then, social media enable change in society. However, when people start to control and manipulate each other, that’s when they stop sharing their opinions. It’s been true for hundreds of years.


To whom do you sell the information you get from social medias?

Most of our clients are in the big B2C’s base: banks, cellphone companies, energy companies, insurance. All our customers are in the corporate business. So, we don’t do any political work. We do have public clients like the Cap Town city but again, it’s the same thing, we focus on understanding the services deliveries issues with social medias. But it is a customer service before all.



Success Beyond Numbers

23A – Positive Impact Finance: the Power of Money to Boost the Responsible Economy


© Maxime Dufour Photographies

“What is the key success behind the six trillion Black Rock company of Larry Fink?” asked Leor Rotchild, executive director of CBSR Canada. Is it about finance, marketing or management? Rotchild reveals that focusing on the purpose of business’s actions is necessary. In other words: you have to explicit the value of your work or you won’t last.

How can the financial industry really become a leader in the area of impact investing? Banks have to show that this is profitable. When times are tough, economic actors want to make sure they are investing properly, and to do so, they will invest in the leaders thinking long term. One of them is Raoult Gufflet, general director of Mauritius Commercial Bank, which advocates that there is room for finance to do good. As there are 1.2 million inhabitants in Mauritius and MCB adds up 1 million bank accounts in the territory, he takes responsibility to “build a better Mauritius” by encouraging clients to adopt its positive impact philosophy. In concrete terms, MCB prioritizes the well being of individuals and collectives (through education, gender equality, well being of workers, etc.), a local economy and a protection of the environment. Their introduction of a new debit card with recycling materials illustrates this engagement.



Assuming that the world has come to its limits, pushes the financial industry to accelerate the field of sustainability investment as much as possible and come up with very radical changes. According to Patrick Odier from Lombard Odier, financial industry and mostly banks must act as asset educators, by making sure investors drive capital into the right direction: “To invest efficiently, you have to invest correctly, and that is not an easy thing to do.” In order to invest correctly, investors actions must align with the Environmental, social and corporate governance issues (ESGs) such as climate change, sustainability, human welfare, employee compensation... These criteria help measure the sustainability of an investment or business action. Patrick Odier is convinced that success is guaranteed if investors incorporate these issues into their investment decision-making and ownership practices.

There is a popular belief that all bank managers care about is numbers. It might have been true for a day but with the urgency of the situation, the finance world can no longer act as if success is only about profit. This new era of impact investment has to be considered as a giant opportunity to transform the financial world.

This is a win-win situation : banks give back trust to consumers and investors by adopting a young, green and virtuous business as well as encouraging new solutions.


Clotilde AVENEL

Hackaveret: Guiding Social Entrepreneurs Toward Social Changes

14A – The Power of Startups to Change the World: How Companies Self-disrupt Their Model


Gili Swary has been the director of Hackaveret for 3 years, a platform of guidance, support and networking for social entrepreneurs. Beforehand, she had developed a project for person with motor disabilities called “Go Ahead” along with Israelis startup.

© Maxime Dufour Photographies


How would you define Hackaveret?

We are a non-profitable organization; we take no acuity from our entrepreneurs. All of services and content are free of charges. I would say that I am part of the ecosystem around the entrepreneurs that supports them. And our goal is to help them reach scale.


What are the specificities of Hackaveret compared to a regular consulting firm?

Well, in Hackaveret, we are looking for 3 things:

1. We are looking for enterprises that have a social core. It means that they help vulnerable populations, or they help reduce social gaps.

2. They must be innovative. They are either suggesting a model that is new to existing problems or they provide a solution to problems that simply do not exist today.

3. We must recognize their potential to scale: we don’t want the enterprise to be placed in niche. We really want them to reach scale, and to deliver their services and product everywhere in the country.

We help enterprises that are both technological and non-technological. We help either single entrepreneur or teams of entrepreneurs whether they work for profit or not. Those informations are not relevant for Hackaveret if the three pillars (social core, innovation and a potential to scale) are respected.


What made you want to devote yourself to a socially oriented organization?

I personally think that I have the best job in the world because I get to work with people that are changing society. I think it is an exciting era and individual can really design and help shape the way society looks. If I can be the facilitator of that movement, I am more than happy.