If you don’t have small people in your life, you may not yet have seen the sustainability world’s latest tie-up: the United Nations and The Smurfs. The Small Smurfs, Big Goals campaign features a snazzy advert and online quiz to promote the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

I’ll admit it: I didn’t see this one coming. Not least because the Smurfs, with their gender ratio of 99:1, famously inspired The Smurfette Principle, when the one woman in an otherwise entirely male cast exists only in relation to the men. That sits pretty awkwardly with Global Goal 5: ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’.

But, gender politics aside, the UN/Smurf partnership is a laudable attempt to motivate young people to get behind the SDGs and learn that “all of us, even a small Smurf, can achieve big goals”.

In fact, it inspired me to wonder whether there are other children’s programmes that could benefit from a bit of sustainability magic…

SEDEX: Transforming tiny lives

“We will fix it, we will mend it, we will make it brand new, new, new.”

Ah, the clockwork mice – for many of us, our very first introduction to upcycling. Without them, Emily’s shop wouldn’t have been able to fulfil its primary function: returning lost items to their rightful owners.

What is less clear is the conditions under which the mice work. Are they paid a living wage? Does Bagpuss protect their right to freedom of association? Are their grievances treated with the strictest confidence, or would they be better off with a formal whistleblowing process? These questions, and so many others, are left unanswered.

That’s why Bagpuss needs to sign up to SEDEX, a simple and effective way of managing ethical and responsible practices in the supply chain.

As their website says, “Revelations of unfair or unsafe labour practices, corruption, or environmental negligence in the supply chain can damage a company’s reputation and lead to a loss of revenue.” And what would Emily think of that?

Mr Tumble needs a framework

Disembodied voice of child: Hello, Mr Tumble.

Mr Tumble: Hello!

Child: What’s that?

Tumble: My spotty bag! Justin is with his friends today, and I want them to find THREE SPECIAL THINGS.

Child. But how did you choose those three special things, Mr Tumble? Are they really the most important things you could have chosen?

Tumble: [confused face]

Child: You need the GRI, Mr Tumble. It’s the internationally agreed way to define and report against your material aspects.

Tumble: [very confused face]

Child: Just think how much easier it will be to choose your three special things once we’ve developed your GRI index and assigned you an “in accordance’ level.

Tumble: Aha – I see now. It’s time to sign! Scope 3 emissions. You sign! Scope 3 emissions.

How Net Positive could save Mummy Pig’s sanity

Peppa Pig is a brat. There, I’ve said it. Yes, I know she’s only young – but although four-year-olds can certainly have their moments, I don’t know any who have hung up on their friends or been rude to The Queen.

But I believe she’ll be able to turn her life around with the help of the Net Positive movement. It will be much more compelling for little Peppa to commit to ‘doing more good’ than ‘doing less bad’.

She could help Miss Rabbit with one of her jobs: rescue helicopter pilot, perhaps, or aquarium sales assistant. She could raise money for her school so that she and her 18-month-old brother are no longer in the same class. Or she and Daddy Pig could petition the scriptwriters to stop making him so useless.

The possibilities for doing good are endless. And, according to Forum for the Future, Peppa will also be able to “grow [her] brand, deliver a strong financial performance and attract the brightest talent” – far more than even self-confessed clever-clogs Edmond Elephant has managed.


It’s been fun to imagine the potential partnerships between sustainability frameworks and children’s programmes. And even if my suggestions haven’t been 100% serious, it’s critical that the sustainability community innovates in this area, motivating and engaging younger generations to get involved with some of the world’s trickiest issues.

So I’m officially throwing down the gauntlet to all sustainability movements. Who’s next for a Smurf-style makeover? And who will your partner be?

This blog post was originally published on the Futerra website. Image credit: United Nations.