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20 questions with… Anna Simpson



Anna Simpson answers 20 questions on life, sustainability and everything.

The editor of Green Futures, the magazine published by Forum for the Future, she is author of The Brand Strategist’s Guide to Desire, which is available to purchase here.

The book proposes a new role for brands: not manufacturing desire through clever campaigns, but responding to it with integrity. Simpson wrote about how to do this in an article published on Blue & Green Tomorrow in March.

We want the world to be as blue and green tomorrow as it was yesterday. What’s your mission?

The same, but delving into the complex questions about how to get there.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Always a writer.

How would your friends describe you?

Too busy!

What was your ‘road to Damascus moment’ in terms of sustainability?

In 2006 I spent some time working for a science magazine in New Delhi, where it’s difficult not to see quite how interrelated social and environmental issues are.

Who or what inspires you?

Galleries. Concerts. Books. Twitter. The sense of ideas with a life of their own, stirred up and sent on by interesting people.

What really grinds your gears?

Shopping for the sake of it.

Describe your perfect day.

Climbing a big hill and sitting at the top admiring the view in the sun, then coming down and having a great meal with people I love.

What do you see when you look out your window at home?

A big tree (which is great in Kilburn).

What do you like spending your money on?

Books, cinema, concerts, meals out with wine, whisky… and some flights I’m afraid.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

Anywhere with hills, light, good food, lively cities and a foreign language. Turkey and Japan are up there!

What’s your favourite book?

Too difficult! But the best so far this year was Susan Sontag’s Reborn – followed by Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

What’s your favourite film?

Les Enfants du Paradis.

You’re made prime minister. What’s the first thing you do?

Select the most diverse cabinet ever to grace parliament.

If you were stuck on a desert island, which famous person would you like to be stuck with and why?

I think I’d rather have a friend.

What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given? And the worst?

Best: Salman Rushdie – “You can be what all you want” (Midnight’s Children).

Worst: I don’t think I was listening!

What would you like to be doing five years from now?

Writing as part of a large global community of future shapers.

What’s your biggest regret?

I try not to regret, but I often wish I’d simply taken more time to be in the present and enjoy the moment. I’m terribly focused on ‘what next’…

What one thing would you encourage readers to do to make their life more sustainable?

Think carefully about what really matters to them, and let the rest go (including the useless shopping sprees).

What’s the one idea that you think could change the world for the better?

Equality: more decisions taken by the people most affected.

What’s your favourite quote?

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” – Hamlet.

Further reading:

Understanding desire: how brands can respond to what people want

Existing city infrastructure can be ‘reprogrammed’

Taking the lead: how to govern for sustainability

Why businesses must ‘shape and innovate’

The Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013