Masters of words and creators of perception. There’s no doubt communications is an incredibly skilled profession. But given we don’t burn fossil-fuels or manufacture products in a factory have we somehow convinced ourselves we have less responsibility to look after our planet and our people? From climate change to mental health, there is no quick fix to all the pressures facing our society. But has doing the bare minimum become acceptable practice?
It’s not what you make, it’s the way that you make it
Most of us are in the business of making money. It’s a vital commodity in our economic system and the reason many organisations exist. But how much should making money cost?
Profit is not the enemy. In fact, the very creation of profit enables the funding of purpose. The notion that good business is ‘good’ business puts money and morals on equal pegging. We use this belief to challenge everything we do – and don’t do. Putting words into action doesn’t make running a business easier – quite the opposite in fact – but the results haven’t let us down yet.
Does anyone really care?
The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020 suggests that, despite individual challenges and personal sources of anxiety, the pandemic has reinforced young peoples’ desire to help drive positive change. They continue to push for a world in which businesses and governments put people ahead of profits and focus on environmental sustainability. In short, an unchallenged prioritisation of profit is unlikely to sit well with the next generation of PR leaders.
Similarly, good business attracts good business. Since achieving B Corp accreditation in 2019 we’ve been fortunate enough to partner with some of the most purpose-driven – yet profit-making – companies around the world. This includes solar-powered technology that turns complex water into drinking water and health providers in East Africa who are providing lower-income consumers with safe, quality medicine.
Teamwork makes the green work
Over the last 12 months, I’m proud to say we have become a plastic neutral and carbon positive workforce through our partnerships with rePurpose and Ecologi. Both companies help us offset our impact, educate the team on the ongoing danger to our planet and show us how to take small steps towards bigger change.
During 2021, our Ecologi partnership means we will plant at over 3,500 trees and remove at least 350 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. The best part is, as our team gets bigger these numbers will grow as our impact is directly related to our team’s footprint. The profit we invest to support these initiatives is paid back ten-fold to the team in purpose.
The push and pull of profit
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not run by a team of Mary Poppins who think it’s possible for everything to be practically perfect in every way. Saying no to commercial opportunities that we can’t justify taking on because of their effect on people or the planet is not easy. We weigh up the data, discuss it as a team and make a decision. Things aren’t black and white; it’s actually the grey areas that are the hardest to navigate.
Simple things such as a code of conduct for clients, team happiness surveys or simply encouraging the team to be themselves are indicators of values; good practice takes time, but it doesn’t cost anything. The real value comes from putting words into action and testing them time and time again.
Having worked in PR for almost 15 years I still find it sad to hear negative comments about our sector such as ‘sweatshops’ and ‘spin’. As an industry, we still have a long way to go. But by putting our people and planet at the centre of our operations – rather than a tick box exercise – we can make work better now, and for the next-gen of comms professionals.