Chief Sustainability Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi
In 2008 Saatchi & Saatchi asked itself the question, what is the role of an advertising company in the global human effort to create a livable planet?
Serving society was nothing new for Saatchi & Saatchi, with scores of Cannes Lions won for social campaigns and memorable spots for Greenpeace, Amnesty International and the Red Cross. But the question we asked was how can we go further? How do we make the business of Saatchi & Saatchi, building Lovemarks for our clients and increasing their market share, how do we turn that engine towards solving some of the world’s most intractable challenges?
At the time many mocked this earnest discussion as simply a shrewd business decision, a way to curry favor with the most compelling talent coming through university, a tool to attract clients who were looking to reinvent the way they did business, a language to connect our global offices from South Africa to Honduras. They were right. It was a business decision for Saatchi & Saatchi, born out of the passionate belief that the responsibility of business is to build a better world.
Now, entering our fourth year of concerted effort, we’re sharing our results. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with our clients, and we know we have a long way to go.
We separated our challenges into three buckets: People, Product and Process.
It all starts with our people. Our sustainability efforts exist at the core of our talent strategy. We actively recruit and retain people who believe in a larger purpose than simply pushing out the next bit of copy or the next mobile application. All of the successes that you’ll read about in this report are directly due to the beautiful alchemy of passion, creativity, execution and reinvention that lies at the heart of every true Saatchi & Saatchi employee. Our internal engagement effort is called True Blue, based on our belief that sustainability goes far beyond being green.
We don’t make widgets; we make tools to entice people to take action. Advertisements today are largely electrons on one of the many screens in your life. As such, the greatest impact of our product is what we communicate through those electrons. We’re fortunate to have as our largest clients companies that are recognized as sustainability leaders like Toyota and P&G and General Mills. We set out to recruit a new batch of emerging sustainability clients as well, and we’ve been proud to sign up over 55 new True Blue clients since we’ve launched our effort.
Changing the process for what we produce has meant reducing our use of paper in our offices, changing our procurement policies, increasing our use of video-conferencing, and consolidating small offices to reduce our energy impact. Since 2008 our business has increasingly become digital, which has sped along many of these initiatives.
Saatchi & Saatchi is part of the Paris-based Publicis Groupe. We’re fortunate to have their support and attention to this initiative. They’ve encouraged us to be the laboratory and tug-boat for the rest of the network. The Publicis Groupe recently enacted a prohibition against greenwashing across all of its agencies. We were proud to support the development of this policy, and we’ve seen universal support for it across the agency network. Ensuring that we do no harm is not enough though. The next step in our sustainability journey is accelerating our work with our clients to popularize products and services that lessen our impact on the planet, serve society and celebrate the cultural diversity that makes our world worthwhile.
We live in a complex world. Resources will become scarcer as the population increases. Humanity as a whole now consumes nearly 60 billion metric tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and plant materials, such as crop plants and trees for timber or paper. As resources tighten up, there will be an even greater call for a different way of consuming products, from leasing to collaborative consumption, as well as calls for altogether less stuff. This is where the world is heading, and we’re here to help people get through the transition.
Our work is just beginning.
But we have the one thing that can make it happen and we have it in spades.