As a B2B agency that creates humanly relevant ideas for future-forward companies, I know decision makers today put a high value on trust, reputation and experience, and believe in their mission to help their businesses accelerate the shift to a flourishing future. Enter ethics, purpose, morality and sustainability.
Post COP21, there is hope that even the most reluctant of businesses who continue to see sustainability as a dirty word, or use it as a box-ticking exercise, would see 2016 as the tipping point to facing the reality of climate change.
I want us to join in and start making a difference. Because action cannot wait.
We’re observing a surge of shareholder activism around the subject of sustainability. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, recently talked about climate change as the “tragedy of the horizon,” adding that “Once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late.” He proposed that firms “disclose not only what they are emitting today, but how they plan their transition to the net-zero world of the future”.
Our in-depth conversations with the Heads of Sustainability and CEOs of some of the UK’s most prominent companies, along with our experience of being at COP21, has convinced us that we can add value to the communications of any company looking to improve its own sustainability practice.
Our focus is on how organisations can translate sustainability into stories that mean something to its customers and other stakeholders – stories that can stir up passion and translate into an enhanced reputation, as well as positive behaviours.
A 2015 global executive survey entitled “Beyond the Brand” conducted by gyro and Fortune Knowledge Group, found that a partner’s corporate culture is valued more than a reputation for innovation or market dominance. The report, entitled “Beyond the Brand: Why Business Decision Makers Buy Into Strong Cultures,” found that business decision makers are placing greater significance on a business partner’s culture than ever before.
We believe sustainability is a long-term journey for all companies and our aim is to be a long-term business partner on that journey. We can help define corporate intent, ensure this translates into a robust communications strategy and that company values are carried through into internal and external messaging. Hence, the reason to engage our Head of Sustainability to help businesses understand and kickstart the global movement.
Here are my top 5 reasons for needing a Sustainability Czar at the agency:
1. Make a business case
How do you make the case for investing time and money in sustainable initiatives? That is what it comes down to when trying to communicate the vision for corporate sustainable strategies. Like Mark Carney, businesses will need to recognise sustainability as the right way of doing things. We need advocates who can bridge that gap between doing good and economic benefits.
2. Use the right language
In order to inspire business leaders and their employees to make a commitment to a future that is both sustainable and profitable in the future, we have to stop trying to ‘sell the sustainability pitch’. Historically, the vocabulary around sustainability has only meant images of melting ice caps or shivering pandas. This is not persuasive enough on the part of business leaders to implement sustainable practices holistically.
3. Build partnerships
With the use of the right language also comes the discovery that sustainability is much more than warming seas and melting ice sheets. It incorporates corporate culture, issues such as diversity, and CSR — all the touch points that will have a direct impact on employees and communities. Eventually, this will result in a complete buy-in from those employees and the people that businesses impact positively.
4. Appeal to the desire to do the right thing
It is of course imperative that businesses are appraised of their competitive advantage in sustainability practices. But more importantly, it should appeal to their desire to do the right thing. Interestingly, a UK survey conducted by gyro in association with You Gov, found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of executives believe that subjective factors that cannot be quantified (including company culture and corporate values) make a difference when evaluating competing proposals.
However, different businesses might vary depending on what aspects or qualities of sustainability they value. For example, the environment is an important factor for some, but not for all. By focusing on one area, it could help make those connections for the greater good.
5. Start a new way of thinking
Sustainability is not a label or a tag or an add-on service – it has to centre on the relationships the business has with people, both its employees and customers. It has to be an enduring corporate value that challenges the way businesses operate – starting from a commitment to human rights, environment and labour, to providing solutions that help global challenges of climate, water and food crises, inequality and poverty.
As an agency, I want to be part of this transformation. Serious challenges call for serious actions, and we are only getting started. 2016 is going to be a formidable but an inspiring year.
Kate Howe – Managing Director, gyro London
Kate Howe is the managing director of gyro London. Howe most recently served as European president for Draftfcb where she aided in the London acquisitions of digital agency Blue Barracuda and integrated agency Inferno. While at Draftfcb, Howe also managed the global Beiersdorf account and successfully led a number of local pitches and defended the Post Office direct response account.