23
Jun
Natasha Machin

We like big books and we cannot lie

Posted by Natasha MachinTagged , , ,

One of the few silver linings of the multiple lockdowns across the past 15 months, was a significant and unexpected amount of free time at home. At first it was an overwhelming amount of free time – but gradually, people found their own way to fill it and help them get through a difficult time.

With no work commute and extra time spent at home, people across the country seized the opportunity to find new interests, such as baking, exercise, online virtual parties and quizzes, crafting, gaming – the list goes on.

With the recent annual profits report from Bloomsbury Publishing showing that book sales rose by 14% in the year to the end of February, it is clear that many found comfort and solace in picking up a good old book, and reading for pleasure.

The pandemic has been a challenging time for many, and the escapism of a good book enabling readers to explore someone else’s mind, experiences and story, gave us a release from the reality of the day-to-day of lockdown and rising Covid-19 cases. There’s no denying that reading has a positive effect on your mental health and can be a great way to practice mindfulness. A 2015 report from Quick Reads showed that reading helps to reduce stress levels and improve wellbeing – all the more vital against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

Read more “We like big books and we cannot lie”

07
Jun
Jevan Watson

World Environment Day; a farce or a timely reminder?

Posted by Jevan WatsonTagged , , , ,

World Environment Day took place this past Saturday, and in the run-up, many companies around the world plastered their social media accounts with posts about their drive towards net-zero or a reduction of single-use plastic. This is a small, but significant win – the fact that companies feel they need to be seen and heard in the green environmental space highlights a shift in mindset, not only by consumers but some of the largest corporations in the world.

We all know that we need to do more as a society – there isn’t an onus on one organisation or a set of individuals. This year, World Environment Day focused on our ecosystems to Reimagine, Recreate and Restore. This call to action comes as we are reminded of our situation, such as every three seconds, the world loses enough forest to cover a football pitch.

Fundamentally, healing our environment and driving towards a net-zero future is a multifaceted task that requires more than just pretty pictures, flowing social media copy and pledges. It requires tangible action, and this is coming from someone that has a career in crafting this external messaging.

Read more “World Environment Day; a farce or a timely reminder?”

25
May
Georgie Howlett

Can fashion change its ways?

Posted by Georgie HowlettTagged , , , , ,

Clothes are wrapped up in our identity. What we wear says something about us – whether we care about that or not. Over the centuries, clothes have symbolised status. Our outfit can affect our mood. We have special clothes for special occasions. Clothes can be a socio-political statement. And some people can’t afford clothes.

For quite some time, second-hand clothing has been broadly seen as second-rate. There have always been those creative individuals with a flair for unearthing vintage gems in a charity shop, but now society is reaching a tipping point. As someone who is fascinated by human behaviour and how to encourage habits that help the planet, I have been watching this gather momentum over the last few years.

Motivated by ‘voting with their wallet’ and reducing their carbon footprint, individuals have already been pushing change within other sectors e.g. single-use plastics, organic or local food, fairtrade supply chains. But we’ve been a little slower on the clothing front because it’s a hard habit to kick. As I said, clothes are deeply connected to our identity. And the fashion cycle is strong.

But the impact of the clothing industry is becoming harder to ignore: 350,000 tonnes of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill each year in the UK, and it takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for one pair of jeans. Depressingly, the fashion industry is actually responsible for a huge chunk of global water pollution – it consumes more energy than shipping and aviation combined, and by 2050 is anticipated to be responsible for 25% of the world’s remaining carbon budget.

Better late than never, second-hand is experiencing a much-needed makeover. Driven by early adopters and influencers like Michaela Coel and Maquita Oliver, demand is sky-rocketing, with Gen Z at the helm of social norming pre-loved. Brands are having to adapt to put sustainability at the top of the agenda. (The significance of purpose / ESG / sustainability in the boardroom is something that we’ve seen grow steadily with clients across all sectors.)

I’d like to offer some proof points that show businesses need to go beyond organic fabrics and ethical supply chains and embrace a truly circular approach:

  • While brands like Mud Jeans have pioneered circular thinking for some time, mainstream brands are now joining the movement. Cos, owned by H&M, has launched a resale service on its website, Asos has seen vintage sales rise by 92% and Asda announced recently that it will sell second hand clothing in 50 supermarkets
  • Trend-setting teens have been trading clothes on Depop, Vinted, and Nuw, and renting through apps like Hurr and ByRotation in rising numbers – younger generations are taking their thrift hacks and tutorials to TikTok
  • Websites and apps that sell used clothing, such as Loopster and Kidclo, are growing fast, and eBay has sold over 60 million used items in the last year

We’re not there yet, though. The global apparel market is worth $1.5 trillion and is growing. A recent article on Bloomberg highlights that “while #thrifthaul and #knitting have a not-insignificant 456 million and 478 million views respectively on TikTok, #Sheinhaul — in which users showcase purchases from the ultra-cheap, ultra-fast fashion store SHEIN — has 2.3 billion”. And despite Boohoo being exposed for serious ethical failings, it’s still trading and successfully.

The other behaviour to watch out for is that, with the pre-loved market easing the conscience, people will continue to buy new, under the premise that they will re-sell rather than throw away. Charities and leading voices in this sector need to keep the focus on starting with second-hand, rather than easing the psychological burden with ‘recycling’. In the end, recycling is the last of the three pillars around addressing our problem with waste – the first two are ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’.

But I’m optimistic. Sustainable habits are taking root, and even though this overhaul of the fashion industry will take more than one generation, it feels like a shift that is here to stay.

18
May
Olivia Williams

Democracy’s a game – but who’s playing around?

Posted by Olivia WilliamsTagged , , ,

What do Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Roger Williams (my Grandad) have in common? No, they’re not just older, white men. It’s the love of the game.

The European super flop:

In the last few weeks, the worlds of football and politics collided, with the European Super League rising and falling with the grace of the Ottoman Empire. Last month it was announced that a new league was to be forged, consisting of top clubs across the world, competing exclusively against each other in a closed format. By the Wednesday of the following week it was over, with protests across the country and all six UK clubs pulling out, taking the positions of Jose Mourinho and Manchester United’s Executive Vice Chairman with it. So, what’s problem?

The new league, backed by JP Morgan, sent shivers down the spines of fans and politicians alike, as many feared this was another step down a slippery slope to a US-style sports-league. US leagues often face criticism for their anti-competitive structures, whereby, wealthy elites who own the league, are at liberty to make TV and sponsorship deals, decide where and who plays and are able to impose rules on clubs’ business operations, which stops money flowing to the players… and the fans.

“It means everything to the fans”

The issue most took, was that such a system risks a near-future where an elite set of clubs distance themselves from their communities of life-faring fans and supporters. In the US, for example, teams have moved sites to seek greater profit, have curbed spending on youth development to make bids for new players, and are propelled (even more so) by big brand sponsorships.

In the UK, the slippery slope may have already begun. Advertising in football is at an all-time high, with brand names dominating football kits; for all the efforts of various fan groups, season ticket prices are increasing each year; smaller clubs went under during Covid-19 without the support of the bigger players; meanwhile increasingly clubs are being bought out by foreign investors, while fans lose control of a club and a team that they have identified with, shouted for and spent Saturday’s with ever since they were a child.

Political football

In a divided political landscape, football has united the playing field and seen politicians reaching across the aisles, albeit from different standpoints. Boris Johnson criticised the league on the grounds of free market values, believing it to offend “the basic principles of competition” and clubs distancing themselves from local communities. Keir Starmer was adamant the non-domestic league should not be able to ignore supporters, and Jeremy Corbyn was distraught with his own club, Arsenal and its move away from its humble beginnings when it was, like many others, funded by workers. (My grandad by the way, was also appalled that Norwich City hadn’t been invited). The common theme, however, in all these conversations: voice, participation, community.

A democratic playing field

If you ask any football fan, no matter their team, they will be adamant that they love the game. If you ask any politician, no matter their party affiliation, will they be adamant that they love democracy? Debating in order to achieve common ground with the community in mind, no matter your party politics, is for me, where the spirit of democracy lies. Indeed, the super-flop was truly a watershed moment, as for the first time in a very long time we saw genuine consensus.

Now the dust has settled, and with a good dose of hindsight, I propose that there are two lessons to be learned. If we can all agree that football without its community is nothing, can we also agree that society without its community is nothing? Football is of course not perfect. It is tribal by nature and this comes with its own issues that must be stamped out. But isn’t there something in the game’s power of bringing people together, a joy that can be shared whether it’s in the back garden or in Anfield, a game where one is based on their own merits, skill and passion?

Lesson one: we currently face some of the biggest challenges of humankind: climate change, structural racism and poverty. It’s about time we injected this sense of community back into big debates to find common ground. Whether that be through citizens assemblies or genuinely listening to voters’ concerns.

Lesson two: it’s not just football that can spur community. We’ve seen devastating cuts to our youth services (70% in the last decade). Maybe, that community feel got lost because we don’t have enough clubs and spaces, be they sports, arts or humanities, to unite under. As Martha Nussbaum said: “Play teaches people to be capable of living with others without control; it connects the experiences of vulnerability and surprise to curiosity and wonder, rather than to crippling anxiety.”

Since ‘Super League-gate’, nine of the clubs who joined the league, including England’s big six, have signed a letter of apology, recommitting themselves to UEFA and agreeing to give money to the grassroots game in recompense.

The whole debacle showed us that community spirit is still very much alive. But football, music or art – it doesn’t really matter. Play, in whatever form, teaches us how to live together, in a community and in a democracy.

A small ‘footnote’

The cynic in me cannot help but add a footnote to this article. You can find a really interesting piece about Red Wall politics and the political reaction here.

13
May
Sadie Fox

Taking the time to reflect, recoup, reset and reward

Posted by Sadie FoxTagged , , ,

As many will say, the pandemic which has consumed our lives over the last year, has provided us with opportunities to reflect, recoup, reset and rightly reward ourselves.

In one full cycle, we’ve gone through the ups and downs of home working, the trials and tribulations of Zoom and ongoing lockdown fears. After what has felt like a 2-year life break for many, we are now starting to see the circle of life spring back into action, once more.

It’s certainly been an emotional journey; however, despite the majority of us being eager to get back into the swing of things, it is of course important to remember those in our lives who have anxiety about returning to a ‘normal’ society and those who have consistency struggled throughout the pandemic. We are all human, with our own poignant pandemic story to tell, so taking the time to reflect recoup, reset and reward will be just as prevalent post-pandemic, as it was beforehand.

As we break out of our home offices and return to our social offices, now is the perfect time for us to reflect on the workplace champions who vow to continue investing and understanding the importance of the infamous work life balance.

Read more “Taking the time to reflect, recoup, reset and reward”

06
May
Grace French

Celebrating a positive shift across the industry

Posted by Grace French

The PR Week Best Places to Work Awards holds a particular significance this year. In an industry that’s known for being dynamic, adaptive and where “no two days are the same”, this has taken on a whole new meaning during the pandemic.

We’re honoured to have been shortlisted for our employee support during Covid-19, for the numerous ways in which we adapted and bolstered our wellbeing, training and development programmes to support our colleagues. We’re proud of the recognition both from PR Week and the feedback we’ve received from our colleagues, so for us, being shortlisted is a win.

We’d like to congratulate all the winners of the PR Week Best Places to Work this year, for prioritising their colleagues and knowing the difference this can make. The fact the competition was so stiff this year is testament to the many agencies of all shapes and sizes who are doing the right thing.

It’s inspiring to see a shift happening across the agency – the pandemic, though incredibly challenging at times, has acted as a catalyst for positive change. Gone is the era where paying lip service to wellbeing and support is acceptable. Gone are the days when superficial perks will be preferred over meaningful, tailored support.

Read more “Celebrating a positive shift across the industry”

28
Apr
Lucy Chapple

A tale of two crises

Posted by Lucy ChappleTagged , , , ,

Introducing our new series, ‘Sustainnovation in a post-pandemic world’.  

In his now famous speech to London’s insurance market in 2015, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, described catastrophic climate change as the ‘tragedy of the horizon’. Limiting global temperature increases would necessitate leaving valuable fossil fuel assets in the ground – a scenario with cascading implications for the energy sector, and investors and governments banking on future profits from those assets. Because the burden of climate change will be carried by future generations, the incentive to change felt ‘abstract’. The risks of inaction were real, he argued, but not immediate.

In the five years since Carney delivered this speech, climate change consciousness has steadily grown. 2019 was a watershed year for environmental activism. Warnings by the IPCC on the far-reaching effects of inaction, and new evidence of mass biodiversity loss, prompted the declaration of a ‘climate emergency’. Global protests led by Greta Thunberg and other young people around the world dominated the news agenda. ‘Our house is on fire’ Thunberg warned, urging international leaders to take decisive action.

In 2020, a new crisis emerged that was more urgent and more immediately catastrophic. The Covid-19 pandemic threatened to bring our healthcare system to its knees, to tank our economy, and to take the lives of society’s most vulnerable. As resources were redistributed to support international efforts to combat the deadly virus, some wondered about the impact of this new crisis on what we’d come to recognise as the moral crisis of our time – climate change. How could we sustain momentum to avoid devastating our planet, in the face of a health emergency devastating our people?

In our new series, ‘Sustainnovation in a post-pandemic world’, we hope to uncover a deeper understanding of the impact of the pandemic on the road to net-zero. Exploring the nexus between sustainability and innovation, we’ll speak to business leaders to understand the role of green innovation in economic recovery efforts as we cautiously emerge from lockdown. Deep-dives into key sectors, from transport and mobility to financial services, energy and infrastructure, will reveal shifts in business strategy, attitudes and behaviour over the past year.

We look forward to sharing what we learn with you.

If you are a business leader in our network interested in contributing your thoughts, we are inviting guest submissions for this series and would love to hear from you. For those interested in checking out ‘Sustainnovation in a post-pandemic world’, please subscribe to our newsletter for updates, at the bottom of our home page.

21
Apr
Eryl Bradley

Lessons from lambing

Posted by Eryl BradleyTagged , , ,

From the time the pandemic hit, I’ve spent even more time than usual back with my family in west Wales. Most notably, this has meant helping out on my aunt and uncles’ 350-acre farm during lambing season. While being a great conversation starter, farming also undoubtedly gives you a new perspective on office life. Here’s three key things I’ve taken away.

It’s PR, not ER

Comms – and specifically, PR – is consistently voted one of the most stressful sectors to work in. With immediate decisions needed almost every hour, and with most journalists expecting everything yesterday, agency life can be extremely high pressure.

When you’re lambing, in some ways, the stress is similar. The constant re-prioritisation of which lamb or ewe is more in need of help is exhausting, and keeping a mental map of where every animal is and who’s been fed is no easy task. This can feel similar to juggling client needs and knowing what member of the team is working on what, when. But the fact that lambing is also a very physical job – without designated office hours – means you tire physically as well as mentally, and frequently have to get up in the middle of the night to do it all again.

As well as this, what you’re doing day-to-day is often the difference between life and death. If you forget to give a vulnerable lamb a bottle, even once, that can be the end. And that’s on you. When you go from dealing with decisions that can alter the life course of an animal, it reminds you to have perspective on that sell in that didn’t go so well, or the harsh client feedback that could have once ruined your day. As a wise colleague once reminded me – it’s public relations, not the emergency room.

 

Read more “Lessons from lambing”

13
Apr
Olivia Williams

Believe in Better: Insight and inspiration from industry leaders

Posted by Olivia WilliamsTagged , ,

Over the past year, events such as Brexit, the new US administration and of course Covid-19 have shaken up market order, and at times, currency markets responded with unparalleled volatility. However, with challenges also come new opportunities. New and promising markets are constantly emerging and specialists are becoming increasingly vital for facilitating international trade.

We spoke to Lee McDarby, CEO of UK International Payments at moneycorp – the international fintech and payments group – about currency volatility and the impact on UK businesses, how the financial services sector has adapted to the challenges of the past year, and what ‘better’ looks like for the industry.

Read more “Believe in Better: Insight and inspiration from industry leaders”

12
Apr
Sadie Fox

A time to protest, a right to protest

Posted by Sadie FoxTagged , ,

The controversy around the newly formed anti-protest bill, has raised profound concern and alarm with various human rights groups. For the first time we’ve seen a host of different organisations with opposing views come together in protest of a bill, which has been described as a ‘draconian’ restriction on a right to protest.

Alongside the scenes at the Sarah Everard vigil in Clapham Common, the past year has been a turning point for collaborative protest the world over. Black Lives Matter in particular sparked national and international conversations about topics that needed discussing. A truly powerful movement, one which we reflected on in Race Equality Week, showcased the power of protest even when it has been most repressed.

Protests can be powerful in shining a light on issues that matter to the public. However, protest can be complex from the public safety point of view, because they also have the ability to become dangerous or violent. As the last year has shown us, mass gatherings can be tricky when public health is a concern, often leading to physical implications such as jumping on top of tubes or knocking down statues. That’s where the police come in. Their role within most democratic systems isn’t to stop the protests, but to ensure people are able to protest in the safest way possible. The present bill however, many fears, give the police and legal system too much power and that if the bill gets passed in its current state, it will become a threat to democracy.

Read more “A time to protest, a right to protest”