By most measures, 2020 was not a good year. The pandemic paralyzed the world and uncertainty was the only certainty. In the face of this it’s only natural to reevaluate what’s important in life and in business. This period of self reflection led Wieden+Kennedy to adapt our purpose to use our voice and influence to change the world, shifting our mindset from being defined by what we make to being defined by our impact.
As the largest independent advertising agency in the world we are made up of around 1,400 people globally, about the same size as a typical American High School, yet we make communications for some of the largest multinational companies on the planet. Our reach and therefore our potential for impact is huge, which is why it is so important that we turn up to work each day trying to do good while creating responsible and entertaining messaging. Put another way, it matters what we say and how we say it.
It’s clear that if we want to be a responsible advertising agency in the world today we need a strong moral compass, so in 2021 Amsterdam became the first office in the network to achieve B Corp certification. Through the process we learned a lot about ourselves, both areas where we use our business for good as well as the areas we could be doing better. Following the experience we knew we needed to take our operational impact and improvement seriously, which led to the creation of a first of its kind position at W+K, the Director of Social Impact. That’s where I come in.
Raised by the outdoors and two teachers in the foothills of The Rocky Mountains, I grew up to value the importance of maintaining both a healthy environment and society. Through over eleven years of experience at Wieden+Kennedy working with some of the largest companies in the world, I have found that through collective effort and outsized resources, brands are well positioned to make a positive impact for people and for the planet, if they choose to do so.
In the role of Director of Social Impact, my primary focus is to define what sustainability means to the company and how it can help to grow our business and our clients business in a responsible way. This encompasses all facets of the business including operational policies, production protocols, as well as business and communication strategies.
While our purpose, mission, and the role of social impact may be new, Wieden+Kennedy’s ambition to make impactful work has always been in the DNA of the company. It’s this spirit that has led us to continually strive to evolve, even after forty years in business.
When previously announcing the B Corp certification of our Amsterdam office in the article, “WTF is a Good Company Anyway” we outlined our focus on transparency, measurement, partnerships, participation, and keeping it fun. By measuring, setting goals, and taking action we have achieved some progress at the agency over the past six months while also refocusing our efforts to improve in three areas: Planet + People + Progress.
Planet We kicked off a global emissions program for W+K at the beginning of this year. The process looks at scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions for each office in the network. This includes the gas, water, and energy usage of all of our facilities, employee commutes, business travel, and the services and goods we purchase to operate the business.
Our intention with this program is to measure our emissions in their entirety, set goals to reduce them inline with the Paris agreement (50% reduction by 2030 and 100% reduction by 2050) and to offset the emissions we cannot avoid by using gold standard offsets that follow carbon removal and avoidance.
Extending beyond measurement, we are continuing to seek out ways to make our productions more eco-friendly as a signatory to green the bid. We have also drafted our first blockchain production guidelines to help our teams navigate the world of crypto in a responsible way that supports our ambition to reduce our carbon footprint.
People We are seeking more purpose-driven opportunities for our people. Using a measurement mindset, we have engaged in an internal audit of our current business to identify areas for growth and shift strategies to seek out more sustainability-focused work.
Progress After six months of gathering data from all eight of our offices, we have submitted the initial W+K Inc B Corp assessment, taking a big step forward on the path to certifying our entire global network. The process will give us the opportunity to level set where we are at as a company and better plan where we would like to get to.
So where do we go from here?
Our ultimate goal in all of this is to hold ourselves accountable while using our position in the business world to steer organizations toward creating positive change. Afterall, companies are an essential part of modern society, and the good ones in the future will be those that contribute more to it than take from it.