torsdag 4 november 2010

About sustainability. Our role has become more complex.

For me, sustainability is a promise. It’s a promise of products that can withstand closer inspection because they are produced in a responsible way. It’s a promise that you’re aware that every part of your company must meet a certain standard and – when it doesn’t – it means you have a plan to fix it.

I watched a documentary about cocoa plantations in West Africa the other day and it really got me thinking. Here you have a business that is pretty much divided in between three major suppliers, who in turn sell cocoa to the entire world. Now, these suppliers are obligated to follow a code of conduct from their buyers, but they have no incentive or will to go beyond that. They overlook the fact that children are being kidnapped to work in the plantation fields as long as they get their delivery, and in the end their money.

This is not acceptable. You can’t just look away from it and say “that is not my responsibility”. It doesn’t work like that way anymore. Consumers are much more educated and powerful than you think. In fact, I believe we’re going to see more certifications (such as Fair trade) as a result of increased consumer demands on sustainability, and that demands on us communicators will be equally tough.

In fact, I believe our job has never been more difficult than it is right now. Our mission – our role as the voice of a brand – has become so much more complex and demanding. It doesn’t just start with a brief and end as soon as the ad’s been printed. I believe our job is to be just as curious and just as informed about sustainability as our clients. We are obligated to have that same consciousness.

There’s no clear line where our responsibility ends, but it certainly doesn’t end with the brief. We need to have the whole picture so that we – before we make promises on behalf of our clients to their consumers – know that everything along the production lines can live up to those promises.

The time when you could afford to ignore sustainability is long gone. We’re way past being able to say, ”it’s only advertising, it doesn’t matter”. Because it does matter! And I think the younger generation of communicators has realized this on a much larger scale. It’s unthinkable for them to say one thing and act totally different. And I think the older generation – along with a lot of companies and organizations – need to catch up fast.

Jessica Bjurström, CEO, Komm/Swedish Association of Communication Agencies

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