How A Creative Studio Can Be Climate Conscious Too: Meet Fern Studio

Climate consciousness needs to be integrated in all aspects of our lives. Meet entrepreneur Kia Hartelius who’s challenging the status quo and shares how it can be done in the creative industry.

The conversation and information around leading a more climate-conscious life is muddy and clouded with input. Everything we do has an impact on our planet. The often spoken-of are traveling, food consumption, and plastic use, but there is an ocean of invisible elements that also factor in. One of the hidden components are the media productions behind the campaigns and videos we enjoy from our digital life. All that we engage in, support, or chose to partake in supports a certain way of treating the planet, but in order to make the educated choice the world requires transparency.

Transparency and a deliberate approach are key elements, elements that the founders of Fern Studio, Kia Hartelius, and Jeppe Kolstrup, have deeply integrated into their way of working.

Seeking to challenge outdated ideas within the industry in several ways, Fern Studio not only want to flip the script when it comes to race, gender, sexuality, politics, and religion. They’re taking it up a needed notch in challenging the lack of climate consciousness when it comes to media production. Their campaigns are climate-neutral from idea to production, and Fern Studio is transparent about it. Each of their cases featured on their site comes with a breakdown of exactly the carbon footprint used for the particular campaign. We dug a bit deeper to the how’s and why’s with co-founder Kia Hartelius:

Photo by Sissel Abel

What is Fern Studio?

Fern is a hybrid creative studio that creates climate-neutral campaigns from idea to final production. Hybrid means that we work as a wide network of talents.  Art directors, music composers, game developers – you name it! It is the creative idea that defines which skills we involve in the creation of our climate-neutral campaigns.

We, the founders, are fashion photographer Kia Hartelius and film director Jeppe Kolstrup. We both have many years of experience in creating visual and story-driven creative campaigns. With Fern, we can now finally combine our creativity with the urgent action we all have to take to protect our planet. Something that until now has been totally ignored in the creative business.

For many years we have worked to reduce our footprint on climate and the environment in our private lives, and have since tried to merge the same values into our professional work. But we got to a point where we realized that if we wanted to succeed in joining the two, we had to create our own creative studio. And Fern was born!

How do you calculate carbon neutrality in creative work?

It is our belief that we all have a responsibility to do everything in our power to fix the world we live in – that also includes the creative industry.

We’ve built a creative agency and production company in one basically because we love developing ideas, creating concepts, and producing them. But when talking about climate neutrality creating campaigns from idea to final production has the advantage that we are responsible for both the idea and the production and thus we can create a campaign with the smallest footprint possible.

That being said producing carbon neutral is really not a possibility. Just by being born in Scandinavia, we have one of the worlds highest carbon footprints per person. “What?! Didn’t you just say that Fern is all about producing climate-neutral??!!” you may think. Here’s the explanation.

In Fern, we do everything we can to lower our production’s climate footprint by being proactive and finding alternative ideas and ways to produce. As a tool, we use a checklist of 45 specific measures that reduce the production’s carbon footprint in pre-production, on set, and in post-production. The remaining footprint, which cannot be lowered further at this point, is then calculated and offset, thereby making us climate neutral. We compensate through a CO2- reducing Gold Standard project, certified and verified by the UN, that helps replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Have you experienced your approach as a limitation with skeptical clients, or do people see it as a superpower?

At the moment we are stirring up some debate in the creative industry and we are getting some skeptical looks from some of the bigger and more classic ad agencies in Copenhagen. Getting that much attention from the industry tells us that we are on the right path. 

We ourselves do not consider our approach as complicated nor limiting but rather as the most natural way to conduct our kind of business when starting up a company in 2020. We don’t want to do business as usual and neither do our clients. Therefore our clients definitely see our approach as a superpower that helps them on their sustainability journey.

So we guess that clients that are not interested in making a positive impact when it comes to climate and the environment will not be interested in working with us either. We have such a strong purpose that we’re sure we’ll scare off any climate-skeptical CEO’s.

On the contrary, we wish to work with brands, companies and organizations that are on a sustainability journey. Whether the company was born with a climate agenda or have just started their journey is not so important, as long as they do their best at this moment and they have a realistic plan on how to turn the business in a greener direction. 

Since you’re a start-up, I imagine you have a bunch of environmental goals on your checklist that you can reach in time. What are those and why?

To reduce our footprint is a never-ending journey. We will never stop pushing our ideas and production methods in a more sustainable direction. This is the core of Fern – alongside constant creative curiosity of course.

However, to give an example we are currently looking at our data consumption and the data transfers that happen through our website. We need to find a greener alternative for our website hosting, cloud services, and so on. We wish for all our online activities to have as small a footprint as possible and the energy we use should at least come from renewable sources.

Another issue that we are struggling a bit is to totally avoid palm oil. Palm oil is the leading edible oil by volume. It is used in about 50% of packaged goods in a supermarket, but it doesn’t always appear as its name suggests. Therefore it is quite hard to figure out and thereby avoid completely. It is used in personal hygiene, cleaning products, and most foods with some sort of vegetable oil contain palm oil. So we need to find and establish collaborations with catering companies and other suppliers that can guarantee us foods and other products without palm oil. 

How can individuals, organizations, and companies be inspired by Fern? 

To inspire is a huge part of the Fern spirit! That’s why we are very expressive about what we do and what we stand for. To inspire is also why we strive to be completely transparent in all of our processes. For instance, we publish a climate report for each campaign we create. All reports can by the way be found on our website.

Tell us about your recent Greenpeace campaign. Do you create the concept as well as the creative?

Yes, we created the full campaign from developing the concept to the final production. We came up with the idea and pitched it to Greenpeace. They loved it and five intense weeks later we published the “No return to normal” campaign!  

It was a pleasure to work with Greenpeace as well as the amazing talents that featured the campaign. Bodil Jørgensen is just rock-solid cool! Alex Høgh was a bundle of energy crawling trees and running through the woods. And Danica Curcic was standing in the rain for almost three hours straight with no complaints – on the contrary, she was so lively and full of good ideas. Danica is a star! One of the rising stars in the campaign is the artist Klara Mkhatshwa. Only fifteen but with so much charisma and power – definitely one to watch! And of course a huge shout out to Kwamie Liv, Mags, Carsten Bjørnlund, Mattias Kolstru, the power girls Laila & Tibe from Pumapunk and the activists from Fridays For Future. Every single one was a huge pleasure to work with!

Any last thoughts you would like to share with the Girls Are Awesome audience?

We are always looking for talented people for the Fern family! So please kick in our door if you have any ideas, passion projects, or talents you want to share with us. 

And hey! Let’s keep being greenkeepers of the world. Together. 

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