Type to search

Maher Nasser, Director of Outreach UN Department of Global Communications with Sergio Fernandez de Cordova (Executive Chairman, PVBLIC Foundation) live at Cannes Lions Festival | SAWA – UNDP “Don’t Choose Extinction” Campaign


Maher Nasser, Director of Outreach UN Department of Global Communications with Sergio Fernandez de Cordova (Executive Chairman, PVBLIC Foundation) live at Cannes Lions Festival | SAWA – UNDP “Don’t Choose Extinction” Campaign

Public-Private Partners convene at Cannes for launch of SDG Lounge at International Creative Festival hosted by SAWA, UNDP, PVBLIC and ESG News


Maher Nasser, Director of Outreach UN Department of Global Communications with Sergio Fernandez de Cordova (Executive Chairman, PVBLIC Foundation) 

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Executive Chairman, PVBLIC (00:00):

Welcome to the SDG lounge, Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman of the PVBLIC Foundation. We have an old friend Mr. Maher Nassar who is here today, uh, is gonna give us a little bit of background on some of the, the work he’s doing and, uh, and what he’s been seeing as, uh, as a veteran of Canne. Maher, give us a little bit about who you are and what you’re working on.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (00:21):

Well, thanks. Thanks. Uh, Sergio, uh, I mean, I work at the United nations and when I’m working at the United nations, I’m actually usually in a suit and tie, but in, in Canne at the festival of creativity, it’s informal dress, it’s really hot outside. So I’m in, what’s supposedly goes in, Canne.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (00:39):

Canne wear

Maher Nassar, United Nations (00:40):

Canne wear. Uh, I think part of the work that I do at the United nations is trying to connect what happens inside the UN to a wider audience, not just through the regular media that covers the United nations, going beyond the newsroom, beyond the headlines, beyond the newspapers. Mm-hmm <affirmative> how do we identify industries, uh, creatives and others who take up the ideas such as the sustainable development goals, uh, building a world where every human lives in prosperity and has potential to grow to the best person they like on a healthy planet. How do we do that while protecting the planet? So the advertising industry is something that I, I started working with, or I came to explore. My first visit to Canne, was 11 years ago where I met, uh, Phil, Phil to Phil Thomas. Who’s. Now the chair of Canne, and of course, Herve Clark, who was behind creating act responsible mm. And Act Responsible, uh, is marking 20 years of its, uh, work, which is bringing creativity for good connecting creative, uh, talent with causes that really need a bigger, uh, audience and amplification.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (01:55):

That’s amazing. And actually, as, as you’re talking about act responsible, um, you know, and, and, and the team was just talking to you a little bit before, tell us a little bit about this, uh, amazing recognition. Um, obviously as, as a, again, veteran of attending these things, it’s, uh, it’s always great to, to hear people being celebrated. And, uh, so give us a little bit about what happened, what, um, what what’s, what’s this, uh, recognition, uh, that happened, uh, yesterday or the day before?

Maher Nassar, United Nations (02:21):

Uh, yesterday? I think I, I was, I mean, very, of course, flattered and honored to, to, to be recognized by act responsible as somebody who who’s trying to bridge between the world of the UN that people see as this formal institution with decisions and resolutions, which are really impactful with the world of creativity, that is all about also businesses and promoting products and, and, and making, helping companies and brands sell. Uh, and I found the breakthrough in being able to create a really good relationship with the sustainable development goals. Mm-hmm <affirmative> before that in 2011, when I first came here, to be honest, yep. I did not land on any, uh, sympathetic year.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (03:09):

And that was, and that was when it was the MDGs, right. The millennium development goals, and you were here basically back then trying to just create exposure and get people involved and, and just create awareness.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (03:20):

And they were in a different, totally different, uh, valley. Uh, yeah, they’re just like, what are these MDGs? You know, the UN world is complicated. We are, you know, not ready for that kind of relationship because also the MDGs is different than the SDGs were focused on really dealing with issues of poverty, uh, and what is associated with that in really developing countries and least developed countries. So they interested did not see a market that did not see a relationship in that when the SDGs were adopted in 2015, first, they were adopted by world leaders unanimously at the United nations. So all governments were behind them. Mm-hmm <affirmative> they also did not come from just negotiations in closed rooms. In New York. There was a process for three years, the world we want reached

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (04:11):

The consultations, furthest

Maher Nassar, United Nations (04:12):

Corners of the planet, talking to people, uh, when there was no internet. And there are many places where ours and internet in actual situations, you know, what are the priorities that you would like to see world leaders agree to beyond the MDGs when the MDGs are reached? So that involved more than 10 million people, including civil society, organizations, uh, academics, et cetera, et cetera. So the, um, the SDGs, when adopted, they actually reflected the ground swell of what people really want to see achieved by 2030. So there was a bit of everything for everyone. So if, like, when people say sometimes, and I’ve heard it’s been working around the MDG SDGs for, for, for seven years, well, there’s so many of them and why are they 17? And I said, okay, let’s, let’s unpack this.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (05:02):


Maher Nassar, United Nations (05:03):

Yeah. Which one would you not think is important? And let’s talk about it. So, and, and there’s a also relationship between the 17. So whatever industry you are in whatever field you are working in, there’s an SDG that actually touches on that. So this was why when they were adopted, it was easier to come back to Canne mm-hmm <affirmative> and to have those conversations. And actually, uh, the six CEOs of the big holding companies met with sec general, uh, bang at the time and adopted what they, they said, you know, we would come and we want to form something called common ground mm-hmm <affirmative> that we, we will come here rather than, you know, we always compete and we will compete. But on this issue, we want to work and collaborate with UN and support with pro bono campaigns to reduce poverty, hunger, uh, promote health education, and gender equality, encountering climate change.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (06:00):

So they picked six of the SDGs in my regular and follow up engagement. My, my thoughts were that that’s great. Thank you. But what about SDG 12, for example, responsible production or responsible consumption. This is an industry that makes people buy things that helps brands sell, but we are at a point where we need to also be responsible for what buying selling manufacturing does to the environment. And also how do we reduce inequalities mm-hmm <affirmative> so how do we also, not just gender equality that we have to work for, but also reduce inequalities, uh, that are based on income, on social status and minorities, the people of different beliefs, et cetera, et cetera, all of that. How do we bring the entire SDG world in a way that is central to a festival that is about awards mm-hmm <affirmative>. So that led to the conversation, uh, that eventually the, the festival adopted the SDG Canne Lion awards, which, which were first, uh, created in 2018. And I was, uh, on the first jury and I’m here, uh, also on, in the, on the jury, uh, of the SDG Canne Lions. And of course, because in the UN we don’t want to create the perception that the UN itself is part of awarding. The, the SDG Canne Lions. So I am actually here in my personal.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (07:25):

Exactly. Yeah. So, I mean, you you’ve, you’ve really, you know, I think one of the things that, you know, since the first time I met you, you’re always been leading partnerships, right? Communicators, getting creative ideas, sort of worked across the framework of what is the UN, right? The, what people perceive as this amazingly difficult infrastructure, but really, you’re kind of cutting through the fat, if you will, to try to create these partnerships. You know, I remember when you launched and, and it was at the SDG media summit when you guys were all launched this award and everyone got behind it because people were like, wow, I finally, and in a creative community, they, they, they want to be awarded for their work. Right. The quick pro quo is, Hey, you know, we do something good, but, you know, can we also help us grow our business?

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (08:14):

And I think it’s brilliant, right? Because you’re, you planted the seed in 2011, right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And now in, excuse me, fast forward to 2015, right? You had the SG here, amino was here, everyone was here. Right. Like I remember that it was a huge showing and basically, you know, the, the, the, the UN community, sustainable development goals, community, all kind of convening with the creatives of the world and saying, Hey, we need a better way to communicate this. So now looking back at 2015 and today, you know, we’ve been through a pandemic, Australia’s, you know, a billion living, you know, animals and things have died. And like, the world is just, you know, we’re at war now. And, and what ha what do you see here today? Right. Has any, has anything changed? Are we, are we going in the right direction? Or because, you know, I, I believe, you know, your opinion is so important because you’ve been, you’ve watched this at mission. You were what was DPI, right. Department of public information. Right. And you led that organization for a couple years. Right. All the way to DGC now that it rebranded to department of global communications. Right. So, so give us a little bit of context, because you have that you had that foresight, but now you’re in your own personal capacity, putting your own time in too.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (09:33):

I think, look, there’s, there’s no sugar coating it. The world is not in a good place when it comes to, uh, what is happening with, with climate change? What is happening with environmental degradation with, with what is happening with pollution? Yeah. Whether we’re talking about plastic pollution, but also air pollution and water pollution and other kinds, kinds of pollution, um, we are off track to achieving STGs. We were not on track to achieve STGs in 2019. Yeah. Um, but then came the pandemic that actually even made things worse. Yeah. What, what is important to, to bear in mind is that this is not something that can change overnight. Yep. I think to change minds and to change hearts and change behavior is a process. And I think this festival has come a long way, but are they where they need to be in my view?

Maher Nassar, United Nations (10:22):

Not yet. Yeah. And I think this is something that we, we have to keep challenging and that I heard Malala yesterday. Uh, she spoke here and, and one of the things she said that stuck in my, my head is, uh, challenge yourself to be ambitious. And I think that is something that this industry also needs to challenge itself to be ambitious. I know brands wants to sell, but sometimes also can we consult with expertise in saying, well, this product that they want to sell, where does it fit in terms of promoting their discussion on climate mm-hmm <affirmative>, does it really do we, do we really want to work on this? What is the relationship between advertising and fossil fuel companies and, and, and promoting, you know, continuation of reliance on carbon addiction, our carbon addiction as, as a secondary cold.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (11:12):

Yeah, exactly.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (11:13):

So these are kind of questions that are really serious questions that, uh, people in the industry have to reckon with. And we, we have the information, we have the data to show that we can actually move away from fossil fuels. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> invest in and growing in, in renewables is the future. That’s the future that sooner or later they’re gonna be there. Yeah. If you look back, um, a hundred years ago or, or a bit more, the main mode of transport in big cities, like New York was a horse driven carriage. And when the motor car came, people said, oh, that’s not gonna work exactly. You, the horses and what’s gonna happen with then, then like, we need to move beyond. So the future is clear. We have to move. I mean, nobody would invest in horse carriages in 1910. Yeah. Because that would have been useless. Yeah. So now let’s,

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (12:10):

Let’s, let’s get, let’s get into that transition.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (12:12):

Let’s move to renewables and, and there’s more, more work, um, more employment. Yep. But cleaner employment, uh, than going down a dark hole in the ground to pick, to get oil or to get, uh, yeah.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (12:27):

But when you look at that renewable in a transformation and all these amazing communicators that are selling us tells what to do, what to wear, where to travel, you know, what’s cool. You’re right. We could change a conversation. Right. And I have another question for you real quick. Cause

Maher Nassar, United Nations (12:40):

Just on that one, we shouldn’t only think of terms of the energy and the manufacturing, because when you talk about the climate, there’s also our food production.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (12:48):

Yeah. Of Course.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (12:49):

In food production, uh, our choices, there are certain foods that are really more harmful to the environment, the way, the way industrial, uh, farming of let’s say red meat and the impact on deforestation, the impact on single crop and di diversity by diversity, etc, etc. So all of these things have to be discussed,

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (13:10):

But I think one of the things, uh, get into is that, you know, everyone here, private sector, right? So they’re all very much focused on revenues. So one of our partners here for the SDG lounge is ESG news who had a chance to meet, uh, Matt and, um, you know, to me, I, I feel like never thought that ESG would, would adapt and be adopted, excuse me, as quickly as it has since the pandemic started. And, and I feel that people are now more aware, right. But also now money is saying, if you’re not focused on ESGs, right. Really the SDGs at the end of the day. Right. Because the ESG mm-hmm, <affirmative> what, what’s your, what’s your feeling on that? And, and again, because everybody here is motivated by profit, right? So the only way you change the environment back to your point about the horse carriage to this, to the car, to where we’re going to electric, right. Is, Hey, look, if you’re doing good for the planet and you’re doing well, then, you know, we’re getting into the economic development where we shouldn’t have anybody living in poverty without connectivity, without water, without electricity.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (14:16):

Well, we live in a world today where there’s more transparency. So the younger people on the planet today, most of them, if you do surveys, or if you talk to your own kids or, or, or, or your nephews or nieces or people in your family, they, most of them base their decisions to buy or to commit to a product or a service. Yeah. Based on whether that is seen as doing the good things for whether social in the social space, in the income equality space or in the environment space. So that is something that brands are also becoming aware of. Yes. This is why they are now. I mean, adopting sustainability isn’t necessarily just coming from like, yeah. You know, it’s good. Let’s, let’s, let’s be sustainable because they recognize that unless they are really committed to sustainability, people will move away from their products or services. Uh, and that is, is, is clear. Yeah. This is self-interest economic,

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (15:18):

Which is still about money. Yeah. Yeah, of course. I know. Exactly. So, so thank you so much Maher. And, and, um, one last question. Um, so give us a, you know, you talked about the sustainability and again, um, you know, we, we’re here celebrating, uh, Don’t choose extinction campaign. A lot of, you know, some of work that we’re doing with the U N DP, get the word out, getting a lot of these marketers and, and creatives, the marketing creative has already been created, but to tell the story, right, mm-hmm <affirmative> to get the word out. So we have Frankie, the dinosaur, and obviously you’ve, uh, you know, played a very important role in helping, you know, working alongside Boaz and just getting through the politics. And again, you’ve been very much a pillar. Some people see it, some people don’t because you’re just pushing right.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (16:01):

Constantly pushing. And that’s why things I love about you cuz you just, you just go right. You make it happen. And I think that it’s also really exciting to, to know that the video that you guys all worked on, where you there Boez is there has already been seen 1.8 billion times. So give us kind of a little bit of like, do you feel, give me a little bit of that, that, that feeling now having been involved when, when, when you, and Boez were kind of helping push this thing through to where it is today and where it’s going tomorrow. Because I always say to everybody, mm-hmm, <affirmative> at an event the other day and I say, it’s not the end, it’s the beginning. Right. And it goes to show you that when you start to activate people and, and talk about something as important as climate, it’s not one size fits all. If I’m from Sri Lanka, I have a different perspective than enough. I’m Miami, I’m from New York. I haven’t been involved in that. And, and the element of, again, we’re here and it’s the media, right. It’s gotten out to so many people giving me a little bit of like how, how, how do you feel about where we are with that and where it’s going?

Maher Nassar, United Nations (16:57):

I think one of the things that actually we, we first discussed in the first SDG jury is that the work that we are going to elevate to get a ground Prix, it isn’t just about the beautiful idea and the execution, but it’s also about the impact and scalability mm-hmm <affirmative>. So it is this something that is scalable and really serves sustainability beyond just being done for an award mm-hmm <affirmative>. So if, if you are thinking to submit and to come here for an award, then that’s really, um, superficial. I think what is important is that really the work is being done to move the dial and create change. Exactly. And I think most of the ones that have won a gram pre do that in the SDG lion category. And I think don’t choose extinction is also, it’s a very new concept because many people and majority of people don’t even know or can cannot quantify that governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidizing fossil fuels that are actually hurting the environment. And that if those funds are redirected in real poverty reduction and social, um, inclusion project, yeah. Can, can move both. They help us on the people’s side of the SDGs, the human can also help us with reducing the consumption of the fossil fuels and investments in fossil fuels because the cheaper they are, the more people are gonna use them. And the more and less investment, well,

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (18:27):

The rely on humanity is 200%.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (18:30):

So, so this is, this is important to, to bear in mind that a campaign and an initiative that talks about sustainability needs to be something that is willing to stay for years and years and decades. Exactly.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (18:44):

That’s what I said before. It’s and it’s just

Maher Nassar, United Nations (18:46):

The beginning.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (18:47):

Exactly. Because we have to change policy. Yeah. As we saw at UNF C yes. They talked him and said, let’s listen to Frankie, but to your point, right. Like I, the, the scalability, the sustainability and quotations, because it’s not just the element environment, but sustainability of the conversation staying alive. And, uh, so that’s, uh, you know, really exciting. And I think that we need more of those type of initiatives where we’re leveraging all the different key stakeholders, right. To, to, to get people activated, to get people, to wake up. I mean, I’m excited to see what the, the, you know, don’t choose extinction will look like in two years, three years, let’s see if we’ve had some real policy change. Let’s see if governments are waking up. We had somebody yesterday when we had Frankie in here a woman, and I’ll send you the link on LinkedIn who took a video and she walked around and she looked at all of these ads and she says, why isn’t anybody talking about fossil subsidy?

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (19:41):

Right. And to Frankie. Right. And then she just learned about the campaign and she sat there and said, you know, finally, somebody is actually pointing out these conversations that people don’t really know we’re happening. Cuz the government’s are saying, Hey, we’re gonna reduce carbon emissions. We’re gonna do this. We’re we know we’re gonna get our people to do this, but what are you doing as a government leader? Right. And I think that, that takes time to also look at, to see, you know, I, I, I think that as this evolves, maybe by year two, year three, then we can look back, quantify the data and say what have we’ve learned and then how can we use that another segments? Right.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (20:13):

Yeah. And, and how do you, I mean, I think the next step that this initiative needs to look at is it mainly targets governments because it talks about, they are the ones who are providing the subsidies, but how do you make the link to make it relevant for the private sector and for the industries? Yeah, exactly. So how do they see value in them supporting this and coming on board and being part of the conversation with governments to stop fossil fuel subsidies and redirect funding somewhere else.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (20:39):

Yeah. And the impact that that will create and, and how we measure that. Yep. Well Mahar, thank you so much for being here. Uh, I know it’s actually, as you said, it’s a beautiful day. I love being out here in con just the energy, the vibe, um, it just, just makes you just happy.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (20:54):

<laugh> so I’ve mean seeing the, the work is, is, is so inspiring.

Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (20:58):

Yeah. No. And, and again, thank you for all that you do. Thank you for, thank you, your partnership over the years with us with the SDG lounge, SDG media zone, um, and all the different pieces. So again, thank you for, for being here and, uh, thank you everyone for tuning in and for watching the SDG lounge.

Maher Nassar, United Nations (21:14):


Sergio Fernandez De Cordova, Chairman, PVBLIC (21:14):

You. Thank you. Mahar cheer.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *