Experiential agencies can help brands keep their promises

The sector should walk the talk when it comes to sustainability.

Guys, we messed up.

As an industry, we were supposed to have our finger firmly on the pulse of the consumer.

And although nine out of 10 consumers now feel that companies and brands have a responsibility to take care of the planet and its people (according to a report from JWT Intelligence), agencies have been slow to respond to these growing demands for accountability and sustainability.

Brands have cottoned on. They simply can’t afford to ignore the changing public sentiment. And we’ve decided it’s time for agencies to do the same.

We make brands real. We take them to the consumer. In fact, as experiential marketers, we bring brands face to face with the consumer. If we’re not helping brands walk the talk when it comes to sustainability – both demonstrating and communicating their commitments – then we’re not doing our job.

Consumers have challenged brands to do better. Now we’re challenging ourselves.

The large scale and physical nature of experiential campaigns gives us a special responsibility to limit our environmental impact. Uniforms, free samples, giveaways, sets, transport, waste disposal – these are all opportunities to find new, better ways to do things. And you’d better believe that we’re finding them.

Two quick examples. We’ve stopped using black sampling pots in all our campaigns in Tesco stores. This black plastic cannot be identified by automatic sorting machines in recycling centres and, therefore, has become a big no-no. And on all our sampling campaigns for a major soft-drink brand, we deploy a team dedicated to gathering in the empty cans for recycling. In fact, the proportion of cans retrieved is a key performance indicator on every campaign for this client.

That’s what we want to see more of.

We’ve decided to take the lead on sustainability in the experiential and events industry. To forge a path that others can follow. We’ve brought all our sustainability goals and actions under one framework, called Together Leading Change or TLC. And we’re using this framework to benchmark, budget, plan and measure what we’re doing.

TLC isn’t just about the environment. We are committed to a broad interpretation of sustainability as laid out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which consider both people and planet. We’re proud to have had our efforts validated with a silver-grade corporate social responsibility accreditation, but that’s just a starting point.

We’re not ashamed to admit that we can do better.

And we know that you can too.

Clare James is chief operating officer at N2O


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