As the end of the year quickly approaches, we’ve been doing some reflecting here at Saatchi & Saatchi S. In the spirit of the holidays, we want to give thanks for our incredible clients who have enabled us to advise and communicate around important issues and innovations contributing to making our world more sustainable.
A particular example that comes to mind is Stem, Inc. Last month, Stem announced a unique and innovative financing partnership with Clean Feet Investors (CFI) and Jigar Shah, designed to increase adoption of Stem’s battery storage solution that allows customers to save money and take pressure off of the grid during peak hours. This partnership is a first-of-its-kind, the announcement also gave our Communications team a chance to roll our collective sleeves up and collaborate, garnering some well-deserved attention.
It’s not even my turn to blog, but breaking news waits for no-one. Quick! To the batcave!
As I am sure most, if not all, of you all know by now, last Friday saw San Francisco transformed into Gotham City by the Bay so that the Make-a-Wish Foundation could help 5 year old Leukemia survivor Miles Scott become a real-life superhero – BatKid. Whilst we can sometimes feel trapped by the humdrum monotony of daily life, organizations like Make-a-Wish are changing lives on a daily basis. On Friday, they didn’t just change the life of Miles and his family – they changed an entire city.
The success of Chipotle Mexican Grill’s “Scarecrow” video goes beyond its glossy Cannes-worthy visuals or the 7 million views it has received since its launch last month: the online advertisement is a marketing feat because it taps into the power of storytelling in a way that reflects Chipotle’s ethos and is woven into all of the company’s communications. A look into Chipotle’s broader communications efforts reveals the lesson that for a sustainability message to authentically resonate with audiences, it needs to be part of a strategic communication plan and backed up by real action. These days, skeptical consumers want more than elaborate, inspirational words — they want transparent, consistent messaging and bold action.
The Scarecrow video works because it is not an isolated message, it is part of Chipotle’s ongoing strategy to connect with consumers — and that’s what makes it a winner. After all, the world needs more than 3-minute animated videos and flashy, one-time marketing stunts.
To build a more sustainable future (replete with conscious consumers and sustainable brands), companies must authentically communicate their brand’s story through ongoing engagement and action. In our perpetually connected world of mobile devices, Twitter and Facebook, consumers are bombarded with a flood of messages day-in and day-out — wonder how your brand’s sustainability message can rise above the noise and stick? Below are a few things to consider based on what’s worked for Chipotle and other sustainable business leaders:
Since my last blog post, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. (For those who know me, just the prospect of me thinking should be worrying enough.) Lately it seems that I’ve been consumed with ideas, questions and most of all, just wondering. About life, the universe, the number 42……and about purpose. When this situation occurs, one of two quotes sum up where I find myself. Firstly, and to quote one of the finest philosophical minds of our generation:
“Do you ever stop to think and forget to start again?”
- Winnie the Pooh
The answer to which is, “I do, Pooh, I do.”
This past week, I attended the Net Impact Conference in San Jose, California. With the theme “Change Starts Here,” it was an impressive event that brought together a group of passionate, purpose-driven students and professionals from around the globe. In addition to the energy brought by this next generation of leaders, I was struck by something else — a refreshing level of candor.
In the sessions I attended, I found corporate leaders willing to share their successes, challenges and the fairly messy process of creating products and initiatives with shared value. I particularly enjoyed hearing from brands about efforts that were still in progress as it provided an unpolished view of the tradeoffs, internal buy-in process, and setbacks inherent in this kind of work.
Photo by AMagill on flickr
Recently, the CEO of Barilla Pasta, Guido Barilla, immersed himself and the company he leads into a pot of boiling, hot water with his controversial comments regarding gay and lesbian families. In an on-air interview with La Zanzara, an Italian radio program, Mr. Barilla made controversial remarks which angered many and prompted calls for a worldwide boycott of the Barilla brand, which, according to the Italian daily Gazzetta del Sud, is the largest pasta manufacturer in the world.
Many have already reacted and taken action.
Just this week, Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) announced that it has “[stopped] serving Barilla pasta in Harvard dining halls” in response to these remarks. As they saw it, the problem was clear and the solution was obvious. The Harvard Crimson reported, “When the media shared the comments that were made, we felt like it was the right thing to do,” explained Crista Martin, HUDS director for marketing and communications. “We found out what pastas were available from our vendor, did a quick test to see what could be substituted, and made the switch.”
Consumers, not companies, get to decide what is appropriate corporate behavior. Similarly, they get to define sustainability and sustainable practices as they deem appropriate. If consumer sovereignty is truly to reign in a free-market economy, then businesses have a responsibility to share with consumers any information that may materially affect their choices. Companies constantly demand such information from their vendors to ensure compliance with the standards they set. Individual consumers have that same right.
We’ve all seen the surveys; “If there were greener options at the same price point/convenience level as the alternatives, would you opt in?” Consumers frequently respond ‘yes’ to this question and some would even be willing to pay more for sustainable products. Many brands offering environmentally friendly options have seen success, but overall, how do we get the if to disappear when talking to consumers about purchasing and living sustainably? In order for sustainable living to be a truly viable option for the masses, we need to remove three main barriers to entry: price, ease of opt-in and a lack or misunderstanding of information.
Are you a working mom sending out emails to clients…while catching up on the final season of Breaking Bad and doing your laundry…in your pajamas?
From the media and discussions these days, one might figure that’s what flextime is all about. But if you’re a career oriented mother, you know that these assumptions are untrue. That’s one reason the national organization, Working Moms Media, declared October 15th National Flex Day – to promote the issue and urge companies to support flexible working arrangements.
However for the flextime debate, this image is still hard to shake. This may stem from how the issue is often positioned – specifically in terms of working moms needing a flexible schedule so they can also raise children and manage families. Carol Evans, President of Working Moms Media explains that working mothers are a key advocate for these policies, but acknowledges that they are marching alongside many others such as those who care for “elderly parents, millennials, sports enthusiasts, adult students, differently abled employees, people involved in their communities.”
Coming down from the SXSW Eco high is challenging. As a relatively new entrant in the crowded sustainability event space, the conference provided the Saatchi & Saatchi S team with an array of valuable experiences, all set in the backdrop of charming Austin.
At Saatchi & Saatchi S we believe that employees are not only the heart and soul of a company: employees are a company’s greatest asset in propelling and achieving its sustainability vision. At its most inspirational, employee engagement is also about magnifying the power of individual actions to effect large-scale change. That belief underpins all of our employee engagement work.
Known most notably for our employee engagement work with Walmart, Saatchi & Saatchi S has worked with a range of clients to energize workforces around sustainability and enhance corporate sustainability goals using a blend of strategy, engagement and communications expertise. What we’ve seen through our work with various companies over the years are the great rewards that come with energizing employees – from supporting environmental initiatives that reduce corporate costs to fostering authentic connections between employees and their communities.
As part of our Irresistible Minds speaker series, each month we invite a sustainability leader into our San Francisco office for a casual brownbag lunch presentation. These presentations act as a forum for guests to share how they are contributing to making sustainability irresistible through their work.
This month, we welcomed the Taproot Foundation’s Eileen Yang, Senior Consultant, Advisory Services and Rachel Kim, Program Director, Bay Area for a conversation around their expertise in connecting ambitious talent driven to do good with non-profits in need of expert consultants, as well as their work in corporate volunteerism.
Check out our short interview with Eileen, below.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to be invited to participate on a panel at the SOCAP13 Conference here in San Francisco. SOCAP operates out of the Impact Hub and the annual event is designed to connect “leading global innovators – investors leading global innovators – investors, foundations, institutions and social entrepreneurs – to build this market at the intersection of money and meaning.”.
Along with colleagues from Google, Unilever, FSG and the Aga Khan Foundation USA, the panel (moderated by our friends at I-DEV International) was able to dedicate an hour exploring the topic of “Cracking the Corporate Nut: Navigating Bottlenecks and Challengers of Working with Global Corporations.” Thanks to the packed audience and the passion in the room, there was a lot of great discussion. As a brief summary, here are five key attributes that we’ve seen here at Saatchi S that are imperative for a successful collaborative partnerships with corporations:
This week I had the pleasure of starting my Tuesday at San Francisco’s Pier 15, the new home to the Exploratorium, where the California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Cooperative was hosting a “Drive the Dream” event in support of electric vehicle adoption in California.
Before the official press conference, 50 corporate executives sat around a table alongside Governor Brown including auto industry players Tesla, Honda, Toyota and Ford, as well as non-auto companies such as Saatchi & Saatchi S client Coca-Cola, Google, Bank of America, and local utilities, to discuss EV programs, goals and how the state could support EV adoption.
With a 24/7 focus on “making sustainability irresistible,” you have to be an optimist to work at Saatchi & Saatchi S. One of the dangers of optimism, of course, is that it can be confused with naiveté, which would be a grave mistake in the long game we’re playing with climate change. So for those of us with Pollyanna-ish tendencies, it’s a harsh and necessary reminder that sometimes good can come in the form of an old fashioned stick, as well as a happy shiny carrot.
The stick in question? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA was established in 1970 under the leadership of President Nixon with a mission to “protect human health and the environment.” In many ways the EPA serves as the butt of the political joke; it’s become an easy place to slash budgets and stall meaningful work. Most recently, in July House Republicans proposed a 34% slash to the EPA’s 2014 budget, along with plans to block federal rules to limit carbon emissions from power plants.
One of the key roles of the EPA, or at least one we hear about most frequently, is that of litigator against some of the world’s largest industries when they violate policy. The EPA serves as the stick that beats companies for their bad behavior. And it works – losing to the EPA often serves as a pivot point for meaningful positive change.
Photo from iTunes
With keen interest in the latest developments in technology, combined with my love for food, I am always on the lookout for the newest, top rated apps that promote healthy eating habits. I was really excited to hear that in August, New York City’s Health Department introduced “Calcutter,” which helps cooks cut calories in foods they are preparing. And last week, Forbes listed “10 Top Apps For Eating Healthy,” including apps such as Substitutions, Fooducate and Superfoods in their list.
Also last week, Fast Company rated its “Top 10 Apps, Sites, and Guides for Sustainable Travel Inspirations.” What caught my attention is that the only food-related app included on the list was SHFT’s debut app, Food Tripping, which helps consumers find healthy alternatives (farmers markets, juice bars, microbreweries, etc.) to fast food, no matter where they are. SHFT is a digital media platform founded by film producer Peter Glatzer and actor-filmmaker Adrian Grenier that explores the cultural shift toward sustainability with fresh, inspiring coverage of green ideas in design, art, food, politics and music.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with Scott Sutton, Sustainability Engagement Manager for Duke Energy and he shared some of their recent successes to achieve both reach and scale in their employee-engagement efforts. In our conversation, Scott shared recent efforts to jumpstart the sustainability conversation and invite deeper involvement within a workforce whose size and geography had expanded greatly through a 2012 merger. Two cornerstone activities included a pretty significant CSR roadshow where they spoke face-to-face with approximately 1% of their national workforce and an interactive, online and completely voluntary training that got over 60% participation.
As many corporate sustainability professionals struggle with how to broadly engage employees in sustainability, I thought it would be worthwhile to share a bit more about Duke Energy’s progress. But first, heard of Duke Energy? If not, you probably should have as they may be powering your lights right now. They are the largest US provider of electricity and gas serving nearly 7 million+ customers over 6 states. They also have international operations in South America and are one of our country’s largest commercial producers of wind power. With 27,000+ employees in a range of positions from admin to power stations, getting the word out about sustainability and making it matter is a tough job. Saatchi S also worked with Duke Energy a few years back to develop a set of programs to engage employees and leadership in their sustainability goals. (Learn more our work together via this case study.)
As part of the sixth annual Outside Lands music festival, more than 65,000 people convened in San Francisco’s Golden Gate park several weeks ago to listen to the likes of Paul McCartney, Pretty Lights and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Throughout the three-day festival weekend, thousands of smiling faces could do more than take in an eclectic mix of sounds; concert-goers could also stroll from stage to stage and check out the sustainability focused EcoLands, eat local cuisine, tune up their commuter bicycles and partake in urban gardening workshops along the way. The sold-out music event is a success on many levels — and as we’ve previously mentioned, in many respects Outside Lands is the poster child for sustainable music events.
Unfortunately, the same kudos cannot be given to Outside Lands’ annual Ocean Beach cleanup, nor its efforts to create lasting positive change in San Francisco beyond the festival’s three days. While Outside Lands has made great strides to produce an environmentally responsible event, it falls short in its attempt to actively engage its masses of fans around its commitment to sustainability. And as any sustainable business recognizes, sustainability is not a one-time stunt; it’s a 24/7, year-round journey that requires continual engagement.
Back in June on the eve of the Supreme Court’s rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 (Prop 8), I wrote a blog, “The Opportunity of Tomorrow,” encouraging companies to “seize the moment” and engage in a dialogue with their employees and customers, regardless of the Court’s decision.
On June 26th, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down key provisions of DOMA as well as California’s Prop 8 same-sex marriage ban.
Within days of the ruling, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) laid out its plan to offer benefits to same-sex employees and their families.
Earlier this month, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced its plan to do the same, “ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs.”
Can you name three things your company is doing to be more sustainable? This is one of my favorite questions from our discovery process, as it always gives us great insights into what initiatives and stories have gotten traction within a company. What is also interesting to look at is how divergent the answers are between senior executives and front line employees. Those in the C-suite will more than likely spell out the big priorities they are tackling and what goals they have set to stay ahead of the competition. Front line employees, on the other hand, often talk of volunteer activities or a specific environmental initiative they’ve heard about.
This difference in perspectives is not surprising, but sometimes it can also be a telling barometer of whether a company is talking more than doing. It is certainly more concerning when the question is followed by a blank stare, especially at a company that has put significant time and effort into making themselves more sustainable. It shows that their people aren’t yet aligned with their efforts and that they have a long way to go on their sustainability journey.
Like many, I savor the weekend ritual of picking up my Sunday NYT from the porch and usually work my way through the mental meal (with many coffee and kid interruptions) until finally I get to the dessert: the magazine. This week the story that caught my attention was a Max Chafkin piece on Charity: Water, the tech-savvy philanthropy started by Scott Harrison, and a recent trip he led to Ethiopia for mostly Silicon Valley tech millionaires.
The story painted the scene I can imagine pretty clearly- tech entrepreneurs, mostly in their early 30s as well as a few actors (Sophia Bush) and cool celebrities (Tony Hawk), on a multi-village tour to actually see the wells that their own donations were contributing to building, led by an enthusiastic Harrison.