Agencies have the power to influence culture and consumer behavior through our work with brands. Many of our clients face pressure to become more sustainable, and it’s on the agency world to be able to provide more than just flashy campaigns and empty words.
This is especially true for agencies for whom digital technology is their bread and butter, since they can help brands unlock technology to address their sustainability challenges. Together, these agencies and brands can reshape energy generation, supply chains and production methods, and drive the shift toward a more sustainable way of living.
Here are a few ways your agency can make an impact.
1. Motivate your teams to pursue impactful work.
Agencies have a tremendous opportunity to work with clients from all around the world, across industries and with different levels of global and local reach. By aiming to work with a greater share of purpose-driven clients or projects, agencies are well-positioned to drive clients and projects toward more sustainable and impactful solutions in their existing work.
Any marketing campaign presents the opportunity for a brand to communicate its values, feature inclusive content, and target diverse audiences. This is true just as any website can be hosted sustainably, use environmentally friendly coding principles, and prioritize accessibility.
But while it’s easy to say you want to have an impact, it requires dedicated effort to prioritize these projects.
2. Develop and communicate a clear impact strategy and goals, and be transparent about your progress.
Agencies should clearly define their plans and commitments to improve—aka, have an “impact strategy”—and ensure it is connected closely to their overall business strategy and goals. A clear, documented impact strategy allows agencies to share an honest and transparent account of the work they have done and will continue to do to make a positive impact. And it gives your teams that same transparency, so they know what their employer is committed to doing, and how they can contribute.
An impact strategy should focus on a few key pillars, such as climate protection, DEI, sustainability, impactful work, etc. It can be helpful to align your strategy to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which allow you to be part of a global effort to tackle the biggest challenges society faces.
3. Become a certified B Corporation.
Certified B Corps are for-profit companies that use their business to create a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Between 2020 to 2021, more than 6,000 organizations in 80 countries applied to receive B Corp certification, a 38% increase compared with 2018 and 2019. At the end of 2021, there were more than 4,500 certified B Corp organizations, more than double the amount from five years ago.
While we’re seeing an impressive increase in the overall number of B Corps, we are also seeing more agencies pursue certification (DEPT became certified in 2021). Consumers are demanding that brands not only lead with purpose but also actually prove that they are taking action against urgent societal and environmental issues. Consumers want to see action, and to work with brands that are creating positive outcomes. As such, brands need their agency partners to be on the same page and be just as focused and accountable for having an impact.
This is why B Corp certification is especially relevant for agencies. It recognizes the impact we make with our work for clients and how we care for our creative force—that is, our own people. It presents a real opportunity to be accountable for making and reporting on our progress, and it communicates to potential clients that we are credibly a purpose-driven agency partner.
4. Get on board.
As agencies, we have a responsibility to lead our respective markets, to come up with new ideas through educating, and raising awareness to create a lasting and positive impact. At DEPT we’ve set clear goals focused on climate protection, impactful work and DEI. We’ve made clear commitments to donate 1% of our profits to causes worldwide largely through pro bono projects, and we are working toward our goal of 15% of our overall revenue coming from impactful projects. That means clients that are purpose-driven themselves, have projects that work on social or environmental causes, or projects that can have a greater positive impact.
Our teams are working with conscious brands like Patagonia, creating amazing tools like Fingerspelling.xyz, a hand-tracking experience using machine learning to help people learn the American sign language alphabet, and helping beauty brand Douglas celebrate diversity through its “Let’s Do Beautiful” campaign.
Our work will never be done, but we can all take meaningful steps to improve and invest our agency capabilities to act ethically and responsibly. The world can use some positivity. Let’s make sure we’re helping to make it happen.