NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It's true that Hernán Sanchez is not your typical media executive, but what he's doing -- along with his team at Havas Media Intelligence and across the group as a whole -- might just change the way communications are done for good.
Advertising agencies publish studies all the time, but Havas Media's Sustainable Futures '09 initiative, which explores the challenges faced by business in adopting and communicating more sustainable practices, proved definitively that there is a strong business argument for sustainable practices and for communicating this to consumers.
Its findings have been startling enough to make everyone from The New York Times to Newsweek sit up and take note, and no one is more surprised that Mr. Sanchez about the impact it has had.
The unassuming Argentine, who is now based in Madrid, said: "When the first report came out, I didn't really think anyone would care about it, but we found that sustainability was at the top of people's minds, especially in emerging markets."
Mr. Sanchez is keen to point out that Sustainable Futures is a group effort, with the involvement of Havas' CEO, Fernando Rodes; Havas Media's CEO, Alfonso Rodes; and the input of Umair Haque and Sara Dios, who are the director of Havas Media Lab and director of Global Business Innovation, respectively.
But a lot has happened since then -- most notably, at least from a sustainability point of view, BP's Deepwater Horizon tragedy. With 11 workers killed, millions of barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico and enough negative coverage for BP to fill the well for good, are sustainable communications still sustainable?
"Yes, the situation with BP will make it harder for other companies to present their sustainability message," he said. "But beyond the BP crisis there is a deeper transformation taking place, which is the growth of transparency. We are going to see this trend growing and penetrating different markets."
He argues that people across the globe are looking for ways to create a better world. They feel powerless to achieve this on their own and they think that governments are not doing enough to make changes. "They want companies to take the lead," Mr. Sanchez said.
Havas' research and product division, Catalyst Network, has run workshops and training sessions to ensure that teams throughout the company are able to use the project to better serve clients.
With a new phase in the project due to be revealed in October, Mr. Sanchez said the argument will be moved on, with suggestions for how brands can become meaningful to consumers and advice on the practicalities of communicating sustainability to consumers.
"I believe that nowadays there are two types of company," he said. "There are those who put sustainability at the heart of their business model and are rethinking their product and service offerings and engaging with customers in different ways. These are the companies of the future. Then there are the rest, who are in danger of disappearing."