Monthly Archives: April 2020

Covid-19 is temporary, but attention to the environment must be permanent

The Drum Covoid is Temporary

We’re living in a society where we’re constantly encouraged to do ‘better for the planet’. And I don’t disagree. But we’re at a point of inflection when a lot of people don’t know what’s best for the planet. From fake news to real news – it’s information overload everywhere you turn.

Recycling your plastic should be simple, but that’s another article depending on where you live and which type of plastic it is. Buy more sustainable products. Shampoo in a block is great if you have the money to buy more expensive products.

And there’s the biggest conundrum for most people when we’re thinking about the environment and greenhouse gas emissions. If I order online for delivery am I burning more carbon than necessary? Or is it more environmentally friendly to go to the shops, buy a less environmentally friendly product but save the delivery van a journey? How we expect people to know the answer, when many of us in retail don’t know it, is beyond me! It’s all rather complicated.

The impact of FMCG

I read an interesting study from the American Chemical Society that looked into the estimated emissions created by UK sales of FMCG goods, typically low-priced toiletries, packaged foods and cleaning supplies. Although shoppers have traditionally bought these items at brick and mortar shops, online sales are increasing.

The study compared the carbon footprints of three different shopping practices: old fashioned ‘bricks and mortar’ shopping and the two main forms of e-commerce, bricks and clicks and pure play (which both have different supply chain configurations). Included in the three models were emissions from transport, warehouse storage, delivery and packaging.

The results showed that the total emmissions per item purchased from bricks and mortar retailers were higher than bricks and clicks vendors in 63% of cases, but lower than pure play in 81% of cases. It appears that more items are usually purchased from bricks and clicks retailers is used and this leads to a smaller carbon footprint per item than for the same shopping trip via a brick and mortar retailer. Another factor is, of course, that one van driver bringing multiple deliveries into one area will create fewer emissions than all those people driving to the shops.

The study made some clear but obvious recommendations for consumers for cutting emissions across all three shopping categories: walking, cycling and trip chaining for brick and mortar; and purchasing from a single retailer and bundling for bricks and clicks and for pure play online retailers. Importantly for pure play businesses – whose share of the FMCG category is on the increase – switching to electric cargo bikes could cut emissions by 26%.

I’ve tried to simplify what is actually a complex study, but it does highlight the dilemma and responsibility we have as consumers and retailers to the planet. In a recent online shopping survey we conducted among 2,000 consumers, 73% said they were concerned about the environmental impact of excessive packaging, 75% single use plastics and 42% multiple deliveries to one address. There is a clear will from consumers to want to do better for the planet but it’s far too complex for them to work out how. So, retailers, trade bodies and governments need to do more to educate consumers so they can make the right choices not just any choice.

Our current Covid-19 situation is only temporary, so my mantra as we come out of the other side of it is just to take a little more time to think before you shop.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Smaller suppliers need the support of big business like never before

Fresh Blog

Small British businesses are facing an existential crisis like never before on the back of COVID 19. Recessions bite slowly and in those circumstances small businesses can see and plan for every eventuality across sales, cashflow, headcount etc, but this virus has hit us like a bolt out of the blue and a lot of small businesses have seen revenue ravaged literally overnight and that’s both consumer and b2b.

So now more than ever big and small business need to work together.  This is no longer about David and Goliath, but the fabric of the business ecosystem that keeps this country afloat and people able to feed their families.  Often small businesses find themselves in situations where they are scared to ask for help or argue with big business in case they lose a contract – but this isn’t the time for self-deprecation, it’s fight for what’s right.

Big brands often have more support and cash to deal with such challenges yet many are pulling deals, campaigns and agreed contracts at a stroke.  And having been in this situation myself here’s my advice when faced with big brands not playing fair.

Practice what you preach:

If you own your own business, you are in charge of your own destiny and the people that work for you.  Rather than shareholders telling you what to do, in these unprecedented times, you do what’s right.  Be proud of the strategies you are implementing and articulate clearly to big business – especially if you’re currently operating not for profit so you can keep your team employed.

Scalability:

If big businesses want to stop contracts overnight, push them with alternative solutions like scaling down spend slowly rather than switching it off immediately, paying a proportion of fees for their next project.

Don’t believe the Hype:

Diageo has this week announced a $1million pot to help its on-trade customers through these difficult times, so it is possible for big business to put people before profit. Don’t be fobbed off, keep working with them on a solution that works for them and you.  They also have a moral duty and it’s incumbent on them to do their bit to support you.

Unscrupulous brands who turn their back on their responsibilities, relationships and partners are the brands that need to be called out. When they act in this manner, they also fail the consumer as the brand values that portray in their marketing are the antithesis of the brand values they trade on.

To read the full article please visit Fresh Business Thinking.

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I’ve never been prouder to be independent, but we need the support of ‘big business’

The Drum Blog

I’ve been running an independent agency for over twenty years, and I’ve never felt so fortunate to be in charge of my own destiny and the people that work for me. Rather than shareholders telling me what I have to do, I know in these unprecedented times, I can do what’s right. I’m attune to my social and corporate responsibilities and I’ve already seen numerous other independent agency owners across all disciplines from PR to creative doing the same.

I hope by talking about some of our initiatives we can all share ideas to protect the people of this country. But when we’re doing all we can without big behemoths behind us surely, we should command and see the same behaviour from the brands we work with?

As a sector, industry and business which is all about its people, the commercial focus for us is ’not for profit’ and any revenue we are able to generate is for the sole purpose of keeping staff employed, paid and proud to call us their employer. From large and small independent agencies across the UK I’m hearing similar and heart felt messages to employees ‘we’re in this together’.

It’s our responsibility to help our team to readjust to new working conditions and as an example, we have twice daily email communications to all 250+ staff. One formal email that gives health and safety guidelines, helps staff understanding the operational constraints of the business and details what’s available to them to personally support them including our counselling hot lines.

And then there’s an informal email communication that adopts a light hearted approach to keep morale and spirits up. This includes for example physical exercise tutorials from Pod Fitness London, which I’d highly recommend as it’s designed for all ages and can be done in any space, practical guides about what produce you can freeze and store, to virtual museum tours available on line so you can visit to help broaden your cultural outlook while sat in the same chair.

Hope for the future

We aren’t giving up. As long as Gekko is here and can still support its brands, we have a moral and corporate responsibility to look after our staff financially and mentally whilst we navigate probably the hardest commercial situation I have ever encountered in my professional life.

Gekko is operating with a with a ‘People First’ approach but what about the global businesses we work with? At what point do we as an industry call out brands for their behaviour? Or are they allowed to get away with it because us independent agencies are scared that we’ll never get work with them again?

Like hundreds of agencies big and small across the country we’ve seen clients pulling campaigns and budgets overnight. While I recognise that in the short term retail outlets are closed and ecommerce has slowed down surely global corporations can take a more generous approach and support their suppliers as best they can?

Primarily honouring the pay of their account teams dedicated to their brand by scaling down spend rather than switching it off, paying a proportion of the fees for their next project and banking the time or sharing agency team cost to aid cash flow. Diageo has this week announced a $1m pot to help its on-trade customers through these difficult times, so it is possible.

But I, like I’m sure many other agency owners have seen both sides of the coin, incredibly supportive clients and those that quite frankly have shirked their moral duty and are failing workers who thought they represented a decent, honest brand. Unscrupulous brands who turn their back on their responsibilities, relationships and partners are the brands that need to be called out.

When they act in this manner, they also fail the consumer as the brand values they portray in their marketing are the antithesis of the brand values they trade on. As you can probably tell I’m trying not to yell a name and shame but when your brand turned over billions last year, it’s kind of incumbent of you to do your bit and support not turn your back on the agencies who work hard for you.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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