On the road to better sustainable practices, every little initiative can help

Internal green policies at the agency level is a great place to start

yoluyla India Fizer , AdForum

RAPP Worldwide
Marketing/Creative Services
New York, United States
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Chloe Farzulla
Strategy Director RAPP

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when managing a client's sustainability messaging. RAPP's Strategy Director, Chloe Farzulla, delineates the agency's strategy to advising clients on eco-conscious work through thinking about the customer first, using rich data and insights to inform the approach, and having a true understanding of where the brand is.


How are you advising clients on sustainable messaging and product development?

First, there is no one-size-fits – all our clients are at different stages of maturity with sustainability, and so our recommendations – as with any aspect of the work we do for clients – are tailored accordingly. And of course, we start with understanding where the client’s customers are on their journey too. Gathering as much rich data and insight as possible helps us understand the messaging that’s going to make the most difference for each customer.

Even if a client is already pushing sustainability in the design of their products, and their business practices, it might not have always been that way, so their customer base can vary in their own attitude and perception towards sustainability. Our role then is to use our strategy and data smarts to find the most impactful way of segmenting them and adjust the approach to suit. For example, are they “accidental environmentalists” who need reassurance that they’re already doing something good, along with clear, tangible things they can do next (and how our brands can help)? Or are they “sustainability champions” who should be incentivized as advocates and given a platform to share more widely? 

By thinking about the customer first, using rich data and insights to inform the approach, along with a true understanding of where the brand is, we can make sure any sustainability messaging is genuine and impactful, leading to the behavior change we all want to see.


Have you implemented any sustainability initiatives in your own workflow?  If so, can you tell us what steps other agencies can take to lead by example and adopt sustainable practices within their own operations?

Some of the sustainability initiatives we have are implemented at a group level, across all Omnicom agencies – like mandatory training for employees, or consistent measurement and reporting of carbon footprint. But at an agency level we look at things like green travel policies, content creation practices, volume and type of deliverables for clients – baking it into conversations with them at pitch and contract stage so that we are aligned on ambitions as early as possible.

It can feel daunting to know where to start but it’s most important to just start with something. Despite the big shift to virtual meetings since the global pandemic, travel remains one of the biggest business contributors to carbon emissions so that’s a good place to begin. And again, having these conversations and agreeing travel requirements with clients early in the relationship helps set expectations and parameters for the future.


In what ways can agencies help promote sustainable practices and drive meaningful change towards environmental protection? 

A great place to start is with our own people. It’s great having champions within an agency, but to really drive meaningful change, we need to make it understandable and accountable for everyone. That way, the entire workforce will start probing client briefs for the sustainability angle, spotting opportunities for minimizing waste and generally being more mindful in their own living. As with our clients’ audiences, it’s not going to happen overnight, and we need to take into account where everybody is on their journey, but every little initiative can help.

At RAPP we try to surface sustainability in ways that tap into other events and celebrations that are important to our people… for example during LGBTQ+ history month, talking about how climate change can disproportionately impact these communities, or when we are addressing mental health, drawing attention to the prevalence of eco-anxiety. Earth Day coming up gives us the perfect opportunity to put a spotlight on sustainability in the agency, with internal and external speakers sharing knowledge as well as more fun activities encouraging people to engage.


What is your POV on advertising’s responsibility to take action in shifting consumer preferences towards eco-conscious practices, brands, and products?

If you believe that advertising has any impact at all on consumers’ decision making, then you have to believe that it has the power to shift perceptions and behaviors when it comes to sustainability.

We need to use all the data and insight at our disposal to understand exactly what drives those shifts among our audiences, and work with our clients to feed that back into their business. If we can do that, and prove the commerciality too, clients will continue to look for ways to improve their eco-credentials so that we have more to talk about to consumers, and more ways to help them make positive changes. Once it’s in motion, it’s a positive cycle, we just need to get the movement flowing the right way!