Exploring Urban List’s new Sustainability platform with founder Susannah George

Last week Urban List launched its new Sustainability platform - Urban Sustainability - in partnership with Bank Australia. The vertical will provide content and conversations to encourage social, cultural and environmental sustainability. Hannah Blackiston speaks with Urban List founder Susannah George about the decision to launch during the COVID-19 pandemic and why the topic is still important to consumers.

“At Urban List, sustainability means having a positive impact – on people and on the planet – using our platform to drive positive and lasting change,” says Urban List founder Susannah George. She and her team at the culture and lifestyle publisher have just launched a new vertical, focused entirely on sustainability.

At first glance it might be a strange time to launch the platform – Urban Sustainability – but George says that despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, or in fact because of it, now is a good time to take notice of our ecological footprint.

“2020 will mark the first decline in carbon emissions in more than a decade. We’ve all seen incredible imagery of the reduction in pollution internationally, and we don’t want to return to the levels we were at just eight weeks ago,” says George.

“If this health crisis has taught us anything, it’s that the changes we make as individuals can profoundly influence the world we live in for the better. It’s never been clearer that, to thrive as a global community, we need to protect both our planet and our people.

“We want to act now, launching a dedicated platform to ensure we don’t forget — a platform that continues to embrace the positive impact we can all have, even when the pandemic is a distant memory.”

The platform didn’t come from nothing. Since 2017, the team at Urban List have been reviewing the wants and needs of their Gen Y and Z readers and discovering they were four times more likely to feel responsible to fix the problems of the world compared to their Baby Boomer counterparts. That was the beginning of Urban Sustainability, with the platform’s audience-focused around the 25-45-year-old demographic.

“Urban List Sustainability is particularly geared to connect with this group, inspiring lifestyle decisions that support and reinforce their values,” says George.

“Our audience are voting with their Smartphone wallets, proving they intend to invest in those brands who share their values and commitment to doing more good — 90% have said they’ll switch brands to one that supports a cause they believe in.

“They see social merit in being able to put forward a face that is more knowledgeable, educated and advanced in their journey toward sociocultural and environmental sustainability; and they value content and conversations that empower them to do so.”

George: Readers value being educated and advanced towards a more sustainable future

In June 2020, Urban List launched its Challenge For Change – a movement aiming to support its audience to improve their impact across the areas important to them, from food to travel to fashion to beauty.

The change started small, little daily acts that could drive impact, but with more than 27,000 people signing up to the challenge, joined by Urban List’s 50+ media agencies, the content reached over 1m Australians during its four-week run.

“Sustainability isn’t a fringe issue or a trend anymore but perhaps the most important issue our audience will face, and we have the chance to make a difference. To provide information that sparks change. To show faces that aren’t often seen. To challenge assumptions and instigate conversation. And to improve our own sustainability practices along the way,” George says.

The commitment to providing ways for readers to improve their impact on the world has been increased with the launch of Urban Sustainability. The vertical will both provide articles to support readers, but will also attempt to make Urban List itself a better business. The team have committed to image descriptions across Instagram, making the publication’s feed accessible to the visually challenged.

The Traditional Owners of Australia and New Zealand will be greater represented and acknowledgement will be provided in travel stories, with features focusing on Indigenous Australian and New Zealand Māori creatives and changemakers from around the countries in which we operate.

“As a gay woman, it’s important to me that the LGBTQIA+ community is both authentically and meaningfully represented and there is a particularly poignant story going live this week about the unique challenges the COVID-19 climate poses to this group,” adds George, noting that original series like Getting The Gig will focus on more diverse faces and abilities from across ANZ.

Challenge For Change will be back in 2020 too, bigger and better than ever, aiming to close the gap between intention and action.

But George understands no publication is infallible. While the platform will seek to provide sustainable tips and content on the new vertical for the readers who desire them, the Urban List audience has wider interests and the new commitments won’t necessarily impact the other arms of the business.

“Yes, we will actively encourage businesses and brands to improve their sustainability practices by showing more love to those who do. We want to increase their market share to reward them for their stance – and see them do well for doing good,” she says.

“But we’re not here to judge those who are still on an improvement journey. Just as we won’t judge you for being flexitarian or for planning to fly just as soon as the borders open.”

As for itself, Urban List has committed to being carbon neutral within the year and will push for carbon positivity to neutralise its footprint since launch.

“We are also excited to be partnering with innovative and progressive brands, like Bank Australia, who like us are passionate about the sustainability agenda — collaborating and contributing toward a positive future,” says George.


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