Judged by an external standard
Alongside working collaboratively, Smy believes that more agencies should be looking into, and signing up to the ISO 14001 that helps a business to build an “environmental management system.” This system means businesses must look at their impact across everything from their office building to production, filming to even the effect a fire in the building would have on the environment.
“We were one of the first agencies to get it [ISO 14001 certification] and we are by far the biggest,” says Smy, as she explains the auditing process that the agency has to undergo. She acknowledges the difficulty of this, but also highlights the positive effect it’s had across the business: “It has given us a bit of confidence with our clients because a lot of our clients want us to have it...so from a new business point of view, it’s been very important.”
Smy also believes that their ISO standard is something that appeals to both current and future employees who want to be part of a purpose-driven business. As part of the ISO, the agency sets between 10 and 12 environmental business objectives each year. This year has seen Smy engage the agency in monthly beach clean-ups on the banks of the Thames; two hours of volunteering that both engages employees and educates them. As Smy says, it’s all about “passing it on”.
Part of the beauty of passing it on is that it fosters a sense of community and encourages people to feel like they are part of something bigger. This sense of environmental community within the industry is something that several new initiatives launched in 2019 have set out to harness.
Create and Strike bottled up that desire for change in the lead up to the global climate marches. Led by Ben Essen, Chief Strategy Officer at Iris, it encouraged ad agencies to sign up and march, to demonstrate their commitment. Smy believes that around 120 agencies signed, including Ogilvy, and the sense of community was palpable. Smy adds, “I spoke to more people cross agency that week than I’ve spoken to in my whole career.”
She also highlighted Change the Brief, created by Marco Rimini, Chief Development Officer at Mindshare, as “a real game changer.” It is, Smy believes, “a powerful tool if implemented successfully” to create change right at the beginning of the pitch process. It is yet another step towards normalising sustainability within business, to promote it to make it more mainstream and to influence people in turn.