Tobias and Cecilie Kongstad, aka Kongstad Studio, are, to their knowledge, the only B Corp-certified artists in the world. If you’re aware of the B Corp stamp, you’ll know that it’s not easy to get certified, with each candidate having to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. They tell writer Phoebe West how they manage to focus solely on projects that have a positive impact on the world, and why they’re encouraging other creatives to do the same.
Together, Danish couple Tobias and Cecilie Kongstad make up Kongstad Studio, creatively approaching projects together which they believe will have a positive impact on the world. Having met at high school 12 years ago, they’ve been together ever since, both exploring solo projects before deciding to join forces and create Kongstad Studio. They recently marked the one-year anniversary of their being a certified B Corporation (making them, they think, the only B Corp accredited artists in the world). As well as giving a minimum of 2% of their annual revenue to “worthy causes,” the certification shows that, as a studio, they have been independently reviewed and verified as a company that meets high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.
For them, the stamp translates their ethos to others, and acts as a motivator, reminding them to live up to their name. “It’s also a huge inspiration to be in the network,” says Cecilie, reflecting on the other B Corp businesses. “I think it’s about 6000 now. We talk to a lot of them and follow their work—it’s a great way to see what they’re doing and how they’re going about doing something good for the world.”
Being part of the network has made them more ambitious, bringing their collaborations to the fore as they think about who they can partner with to make the biggest impact. Rather than feeling restricted by the moniker, they use it as an opportunity to layer the positive reverberations of their work, down to the materials they use to make it: “we just worked with an Italian company who have made this really innovative paint which purifies the air,” says Cecilie, “and we always work with bright and clear colors, because they’ve been proven to have a positive effect on our psyche.”
“We’ve worked with vegetable pioneers fighting food waste and natural winemakers working earth’s soil sustainably. Being able to contribute to causes, people, foundations and businesses of this nature is our mission,” reads the duo’s website; for both of them, a partnership which stands out was their project designing and making beanies for children undergoing treatment for cancer. “That was really special for us,” says Tobias, as Cecilie adds, “and our beanies are now offered to all children getting treated for cancer in Denmark—to hear that it puts a smile on their faces in a really bad situation, that definitely feels good.”
They were involved in every part of the design, ensuring seams were absent to remove any irritation on the heads of kids wearing them. “That’s the beauty of working with different people” says Cecilie, “we all have different backgrounds, stories, and needs, so it’s always something new and we learn things on every project.”
Another highlight saw them transform a stairwell of a Danish highrise with joyful murals climbing the walls. Since completing their work, in a building within a group of high-rises they used to live in themselves, the space has become somewhere inhabitants choose to play, keep clean and feel safe in. It’s these projects which Tobias and Cecilie love to see unfold, where what they create takes form within a community and transforms it at the same time: “our understanding of art is about telling stories,” says Tobias, “and we’re in this very lucky position where we can choose what stories we tell, so we would like to make them meaningful.”
As a business they wish to grow, but are also conscious of the complexities that come with magnitude: “we want to reach as many people as we can” Tobias says, “it’s about finding that golden middle way…as things get bigger and bigger, the picture can get a little muddy” he muses, “when you’re working with tiny grassroots projects it’s a little bit more one dimensional—it can be pure goodness!” Ideally, their future will allow for both “really local stuff that touches a community, and also works on a bigger scale.”
“I think maybe it’s difficult for the creative and artistic world to identify themselves with being a business,” reflects Tobias, thinking about the scarcity of B Corp creatives. The intersection of art and business doesn’t always feel like an easy space, one being compromised by the other while also relying on it, but how does this change when collective action becomes the fulcrum? “Art has this ability to touch people and communicate with people in a way that facts and scientific papers don’t,” says Cecilie, “I would love to inspire the younger generations coming forth–all generations actually–to think about what you’re doing, and realize that you can make a difference on your own and turn it into a collective change.” Sort of like the butterfly effect, says Tobias, briefly bringing time travel into the conversation. “Everyone worries that if you step on a butterfly the whole of time will be totally screwed, but very few think they can make a difference today.”