All posts by rachel_eaton

GONG WINS BRITISH COUNCIL CULTURAL HERITAGE BRIEF IN KENYA

GONG WINS BRITISH COUNCIL CULTURAL HERITAGE BRIEF IN KENYA

Gong Communications Kenya selected from 13 agencies to deliver communications for two-year British Council pilot programme

London, January 8th 2019: Gong Communications, a multi-award winning PR and marketing agency with offices in London and Nairobi, has won the contract to deliver communications support for the British Council’s Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth Programme in Kenya. Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth is a two-year pilot programme in Columbia, Kenya and Vietnam, which explores the use of cultural heritage for social and economic growth in ways which benefit all levels of society.

The Programme seeks to create an understanding of Cultural Heritage and its contribution to inclusive growth, support inventive Cultural Heritage projects in the country and create new connections between the UK and Kenya’s Cultural Heritage sector. Gong will offer strategic PR support in creating awareness and building an understanding of Cultural Heritage by first exploring how Kenyans value, protect, learn and share culture, and working alongside stakeholders to articulate how Cultural Heritage contributes to tourism, economic growth and job creation with a focus on women and young people. Gong will also be delivering a campaign to drive conversation around Cultural Heritage and how it contributes to inclusive growth, digital asset creation and a digital marketing skills training programme.

Rocca Holly-Nambi, head of Arts, Kenya and East Africa at the British Council commented, “We’re delighted to have Gong on board as one of our partners in delivering our new Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth programme in Kenya. This programme directly supports the British Council’s overall mission of increasing trust and mutual understanding between peoples and cultures. We were impressed with the quality of all 13 submissions, but Gong’s proposal really stood out as well considered, creative and practical.”

Nikki Francis-Jones, director at Gong Communications said: ‘‘As a B Corp and a purpose driven agency we are thrilled to be working with the British Council on this brief which focusses on inclusivity, participation and sustainability. The work, kicking off with an insights phase, will be delivered by a combined London/Nairobi team.”

THE CONSIDERATE WAY TO DO BUSINESS – B CORP STYLE

THE CONSIDERATE WAY TO DO BUSINESS

B CORP STYLE

By Nikki Francis-Jones, Director, Gong Communications

It’s a requirement for B Corps during certification to “consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment”. Few would argue that people are the very core of a thriving business; attracting and retaining the right talent not only means doing work with like-minded colleagues that is purpose driven but it also means working with people externally who are similarly socially conscious. We experienced first-hand the oft mentioned B Corp spirit of collaboration during a recent website project.

Introductions first: Gong Communications was among the first UK communications agencies to achieve certification in 2017. Last year we were made Best for the World Honorees (Workers), our MD, Narda Shirley, is one of 18 B Corp Ambassadors in a new UK programme and our Nairobi team were delighted to attend the October launch of B Labs in Kenya.

Yep. We’re proud to be a B Corp. It has led to new colleagues, new networks and new business. There’s something about cooperating with like-minded people that makes work seem less like, well, work. Fellow B Corp, Resource Futures, which enables clients to positively manage material resources, found us through the network, and developing their new website was our first professional B Corp collaboration. And the experience has only deepened our enthusiasm to work with more B Corps. Project managing a web build necessitates a fair degree of back and forth particularly in a multi stakeholder set up. The consideration and efficiency shown by the Resource Futures team has catapulted them to the top of our ‘best practice web build leader board’ or it would have done if there was one! Deadlines were adhered to, questions were gathered in a list before sharing, well-thought out feedback was collated internally first then clearly delivered in comprehensive responses (rather than a flurry of 15 different opinions on 15 different emails for us to decipher and diplomatically referee – it happens). Payments were made on or ahead of time. The stand out adjective here is Consideration. The B Corp spirit is Considerate. Which nicely ties in with our values too. The smooth running of the build was no mean feat given that two of the team members worked flexibly (Considerate employers). We were delighted to work with an organisation that has protecting and preserving our planet at its heart and with a team as mindful of our time constraints as suppliers as we were of theirs as clients. More please!

Each client journey varies but for anyone reading this who is considering a new web build or a refresh for your organisation, here are a few tips to getting started:

1. Think big picture. Ideally your website should be aligned to your communications strategy. All of your marketing communications needs to be joined up. Brochures, trade show booths, business cards and social media etc. need to be mutually reinforcing and designed to support your business goals.

2. What is the purpose of your website? Do you want it to be an online brochure, act as a sales funnel or something more interactive? It’s important to think about this upfront as it’ll affect the build process (and cost).

3. Embarking on a new website or a refresh can be a great way to engage employees behind a fresh organisational vision. You may want to ask your staff to suggest websites in your sector they like the look of and why, to generate interest in your new site. However, it’s advisable to limit the number of people in the actual development process to a small team otherwise finding consensus can be a challenge and deadlines might not be met.

4. Right at the start, once the domain name has been registered and hosting organised, start focusing on security and getting the right certificates in place, if you haven’t already, or, your web build partner can help you with this.

5. Consider what kind of Content Management System (CMS) you want to use? WordPress remains one of the most user-friendly and cost-effective options and it’s possible to scale WordPress and build it up in stages when budgets grow.

6. Your website should reflect your organisation’s personality. Think ahead and, if possible, commission some of your own photography, illustration or animation to ensure your website stands out from the crowd.

7. The style and tone of the words also need to accurately mirror your ethos. If you are developing your own content make sure you do your search engine optimisation research first.

8. Allow enough time. It’s easier to work out the flow of the website when all elements are considered so agree your site map before starting any coding. Adding sections later can delay the process and blow the budget. As a guide, from concept to going live, we can deliver a simple scrolling website in five to six weeks. However, sometimes getting internal approvals for concepts and text take longer, so 9 to 12 weeks is a more realistic timeframe.

You can view our Creative Portfolio here.

FROM LONDON TO NAIROBI: EXPLORING THE BOUNDARIES OF COMPANY CULTURE

FROM LONDON TO NAIROBI:

EXPLORING THE BOUNDARIES OF COMPANY CULTURE

By Malini Parkash, Account Manager, Gong Communications

Google’s global employees (called ‘Googlers’) are encouraged to share what makes them ‘Googley’. They actively reflect on how they identify with Google’s culture as owners, not receivers. This insight was shared by Dorothy Ooko, Google’s PR lead for Africa; guest speaker at Gong Kenya’s recent Cultural Capital event held in Nairobi. Fellow speaker Chris Harrison, Africa partner at The Brand Inside, discussed the importance of defining, communicating and measuring culture.

Observing this event while on secondment to Kenya from our UK office, what stood out for me was the lively Q&A amongst the 50 attendees – a rich discussion around the possibility of a borderless culture. A concept viewed as highly appealing by those in the audience working for international organisations with HQs overseas.

The benefits of having a strong company culture are well documented and include loyalty, retention of talent, lack of conflict, and high levels of engagement (Harvard Business). If an organisation can establish a purpose that determines its general direction of travel, then its culture will govern everyday decision making. This is crucial for companies that operate in multiple jurisdictions. When the overarching company culture is the guiding force, whether you are in Kenya, Ghana, London or New York, the brand experience, both for employees and customers, well communicated, should feel the same, while also allowing for local cultural expression.

How this looks will vary but from a comms perspective, a key route is the uncovering of moments that shine a light on employees who are living the company culture across borders: through case studies, personal testimonies or visuals. What it can do when people don’t have physical proximity is create opportunities to build connections and reinforce values and behaviours.

Strong cultures create employees who are brand ambassadors, proven to help with talent acquisition and retention. Recent Gallup research showed that employees with a strong connection to their organisation’s culture show higher levels of engagement and are more likely to refer friends to their company.

Our Kenya and UK teams work collaboratively on pitches and briefs as required, sharing ideas and best practices. But Gong Kenya has its own flavour, which originates as much from the personality of its team members as it is shaped by its clients and its surroundings. Based in a dynamic co-working space, Ikigai (the Japanese term for ‘a reason for being’), that unites communication specialists, founders of VC start-ups and East African NGOs, the feeling of opportunity and enthusiasm for what can be achieved is palpable.

Doing business in developing economies such as Kenya, while not without challenge, is getting easier as evidenced by The World Bank’s latest Doing Business report that saw Kenya move 19 places higher in the global rankings to 61, earning it a place among the 30 most improved economies in this year’s Index. The forward momentum in the city is evident, with several roads and new infrastructure projects currently underway, alongside towering office and accommodation blocks sprouting up in all corners of the burgeoning city. Amongst them, Gong Kenya client Garden City, one of the earliest mixed used developments – a flagship real estate project by Actis along Thika Superhighway, combining commercial offices, residential property and an international shopping mall in one design, with plenty of green outdoor spaces.

Albeit not quite Googler scale (yet!), Gong’s employees (so-called Gongers) embrace a core set of values, expressed in the four Cs: Considerate, Curious, Courageous and Connected, and adherence to these values transcends geography. Through the warm welcome I received from the team: their enthusiasm to introduce me to their friends and family and to show me the wildlife that surrounds the city as well as their commitment to go above and beyond to deliver excellent client services. The trip made me eager to return to Africa and further encourage the depth of collaboration between offices that generates fantastic results for clients.

Account Manager

Account Manager – financial services incl multi-award winning account

We have a fantastic opportunity to work on global financial services clients championing some of the biggest issues of today, including diversity & inclusion, corporate culture and sustainable investing.

If you have a curious mind particularly in financial services, a flair for media relations and first-class project management skills, then this is the role for you.

Typical activities include being the clients’ daily ‘go to’ contact for advice and updates, event management, traditional and social media relations, digital content development, managing multiple programmes and a variety of suppliers. You will also have plenty of opportunity to get out to industry events for networking, learning and support the senior team in growing our financial services offering further.

Have you got what it takes?

We are looking for candidates who can demonstrate they:

  • Have tangible B2B communications experience or experience in a role where you have applied highly transferrable skills
  • Can confidently provide day-to-day strategic counsel that nurtures client confidence
  • Are competent at managing fast-paced project delivery involving multiple activity streams and suppliers
  • Have a flair for cultivating relationships with journalists and understanding what interests them
  • Are confident selling in news and content ideas to a range of UK and international media
  • Can write a wide range of insightful content to a high standard, from opinion pieces and case studies to research reports and whitepapers
  • Can manage the process of creating digital-first content (e.g. web development, videos, imagery)
  • Organise excellent industry events for clients in a range of different formats, including festivals, conferences, roundtables and webinars
  • Track and manage budgets
  • Manage multiple client accounts and projects simultaneously
  • Deliver high quality work to tight deadlines
  • Demonstrate a can do, action-orientated approach
  • Naturally work collaboratively in a team and independently

 

What we offer

In return, you can expect a competitive salary and rapid promotion if you can prove yourself. We’re a fun, friendly and supportive team with a working culture that reflects this. Our employees love our extra benefits which include:

  • Profit-related bonus
  • Private healthcare
  • Gym contribution
  • Contributed pension
  • Opportunity to participate in annual staff exchange to Kenya office
  • Flexible start and end to the day
  • Work from remotely 1x day a week
  • Early finishes on Friday’s during the summer
  • Monthly grooming treatment
  • In-house and external training

 

We are also passionate about making a positive contribution to society through our CSR activities and have regular team get-togethers.

To apply for this position, please email info@gongcommunications.com

 

CULTURETECH EVENT REPORT

CULTURETECH EVENT REPORT

 

On 11 September, we held our third event on Culture, this time lifting the lid on how digital platforms are used to measure sentiment and predict behaviour at work. Our panel was chaired by Helen Barrett, the FT’s Work & Careers Editor and comprised Alastair Gill, People Partner at multi-award winning telco, giffgaff, Briana Van Strijp, COO & Chief People Officer, Anthemis, a VC firm focused on ‘digitally native finance,’ Hani Nabeel, Founder, CultureScope, which provides behavioural diagnostics of organisational culture and Torie Chilcott, Co-founder of Paddle Consulting which has developed a unique methodology using data insight into the emotion, moods and tastes of people across the UK to help organisations engage their internal and external audiences.

The event was run under Chatham House rules to encourage free and open debate. Here are some of the main takeaways:

ON COMMUNICATIONS:

Culture needs to come from the people in the business, not only from the leaders. Emotion came through as being a critical component of good cultural communication. We shouldn’t be afraid of tapping into emotional responses to messages and to answering the question, ‘What does this message mean for me?/my career?/my development?/my happiness?’

Communicating inside organisations should be approached with the same rigour as for external audiences, for example customer targeting, using persona building and segmentation to define different internal ‘tribes’ and split testing content for effectiveness.

Similarly, we have to acknowledge that people at work are just people and we all respond to things that are funny or aesthetically pleasing or inspiring in our own time and work doesn’t really change that. Organisations need to apply the same creative standards to their internal comms as their customer comms.

ON RECRUITMENT:

Onboarding: When new people join the organisation, we give them a computer, a password and show them where the coffee machine is. We don’t spend nearly enough time on the culture. We need to help people understand what is expected of them, and why they have been hired. What are our values? What are the behaviours that show that we are living those values? How will I feel as a result?

ON THE FUNCTIONS:

Often HR is not the client for the most progressive culture tech. HR has an opportunity to step up and lead on this stuff. One observation was that HR used to be thought of as there to protect the company from its people. Now the role of HR includes helping the company attract, retain and motivate talent and culture is the key.
When HR people spend time with their marketing colleagues, the result is internal communication that feels sync’d up with the brand and how it engages external audiences, most importantly, customers. This isn’t typical, but it makes a big difference to the quality of the internal output.

Post all of the corporate scandals, it’s easy to view culture as a potential villain that needs to be managed by risk professionals, but we should think of culture as the hero.

ON THE TECHNOLOGY:

Technology is just an enabler. It is pointless collecting more data unless you know what to do with it.
The tech doesn’t influence the culture, or fix it when it’s bad, it just measures sentiment and behaviour or delivers messages. What it can do when people don’t have physical proximity to transmit culture is create opportunities to connect to reinforce values and behaviours.

From foundations to futures – what building an orphanage in Ghana taught me about stakeholder relationships

 

FROM FOUNDATIONS TO FUTURES

WHAT BUILDING AN ORPHANAGE IN GHANA TAUGHT ME ABOUT STAKEHOLDER RELATIONSHIPS

James Deacon, senior account manager, Gong Communications

There’s a lake in Ghana called Lake Volta, it’s the largest man-made lake in the world. It lies along the Greenwich meridian just six degrees above the equator. Completed in 1965, it displaced 75,000 people and flooded some of Ghana’s largest forests. Nowadays, its hydroelectricity powers most of Ghana, Togo and Benin, whilst its shores play host to makeshift huts and markets servicing the largest fishing trade in the country. It’s a beautiful scene to witness surrounded by breath-taking natural beauty, but sadly also reflects a life of limited opportunity for the most vulnerable of children.

Fishing can prove difficult when you have an underwater forest, and the perceived best way to solve this is to send young boys, usually less than 10 years of age down to untangle the nets. There are currently over 10,000 child slaves trapped in forced labour on the lake (International Justice Mission), suffering from malnutrition, physical abuse and with no access to education. They’re often sold for as little as 75 Cedis (£12 GBP) by desperate families looking for a way out. Unfortunately, this doesn’t gain much media attention, so after spending a month in Ghana in 2013, already in love with local hospitality and the discovery of how fresh mangoes actually taste, I started the ball rolling on a project to help children who end up in this situation.

Now a registered charity in England and Wales, Holy’s Home for Children sits in a village called Kwahu Nteso in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Standing inside the completed dormitory last Easter, it was hard to believe that just two years ago this was a piece of land, some vague foundations, and a slightly mad idea to build a home for orphans in the region.

Two years ago was also my first day at Gong. The timing was serendipitous as the company had just introduced a new democratic selection process for its CSR projects. This comprised of a Dragon’s Den style pitching session to my brand-new colleagues, a slightly daunting but encouraging opportunity.  However, there was no need to persuade my colleagues of the development needs of sub-Saharan Africa; the company has been active in West Africa for years, has an office in East Africa and has since been shortlisted for two specialist agency awards for communicating sustainable development in emerging markets. Winning the pitch resulted in a monthly donation and counsel from Gong enabling the charity to plan more effectively its construction schedule. Over the past 18 months, more than 25 labourers and six local suppliers from across the immediate villages have been employed and have worked incredibly hard to finalise the two-storey structure that now stands proudly upon the hill (with the best view possible!). We’ve built what will be a financially self-sustainable enterprise by the purification and selling of clean drinking water – locally known as ‘pure water’, then giving children the chance to reach their full potential, attend school daily and live away from danger in a safe and loving environment. Once all donation targets are met, we’ll be looking after up to 30 children by Spring 2019.

In retrospect, none of this would have been possible without stakeholder relationships. It’s a term we hear most days if you’re in agency world, whether in new business proposals, campaign plans or perhaps a rationale to a client for why something didn’t quite go the way it was supposed to. Whether it was sourcing timber from local suppliers or drafting in legal advice during the charity commission registration process, every person we’ve encountered and persuaded, whether paid or voluntary, has been crucial to making this small charity functional.

Building solid networks and relationships with people on the ground in Ghana has been crucial in enabling the development of the charity. In the UK, Holy’s Home has been lucky enough to have the support of a network of passionate volunteers called Challenge12, who have so far among them sent a rocket in to space, climbed Everest, attempted to swim the English Channel, walked the Camino de Santiago, kayaked Lake Windermere (twice), stood on the wings of a plane (mid-flight), and escaped an underwater helicopter crash simulator that apparently is character building. I’ll leave that there.

Each of these volunteers is a stakeholder, aligned firmly to the same purpose. What I’ve learned from managing stakeholder relations both at work and through Holy’s is that when there’s limited attention given to purpose or grey areas in the overarching vision, plans can begin to crumble but uniting together behind a common and clear goal is when the best results are achieved.

After all, as the (slightly generic) African proverb goes: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

www.holyshome.org

 

CULTURAL CAPITAL AND ITS VALUE TO AN ORGANISATION

 

CULTURAL CAPITAL AND ITS VALUE TO AN ORGANISATION

If an organisation’s Purpose is its general direction of travel, then Culture governs everyday decision making in the business when the CEO is not in the room. Positive cultures are valuable because they create focus, enable innovation, productivity and cohesion and help attract and retain great people.

The next generation of talent; portfolio careerists, gig economy workers, freelancers and contractors  – those who are arguably most attracted to a great culture are becoming the hardest to get traction with because of increasing remote and agile working practices. Communicating, managing and measuring culture effectively in this environment is the next wave of competitive advantage.

On 15 May we asked author and strategist John Grant, (Better – Wellbeeing and the human-friendly business, Unbound, March 2018), to lead a discussion on Cultural Capital* which we defined as the value of culture to an organisation. He was joined by Yvonne Smyth, Group Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Hays plc, whose annual survey of 14,000 people ‘What Workers Want’ reveals how many people value culture more highly than remuneration.  Dineshi Ramesh, Director, Board Intelligence Academy provided insights on how Boards struggle with the issue of culture when it comes to how it is reported, and Kevin May, founder of Seattle based consultancy Sticks LLC, contributed insights from his research into ‘The Office of the Future’ which examines the role of the physical environment on culture.

Watch some of their insights here.

* (with a little nod to Bordieu),

GONG HONOURED IN ‘BEST FOR THE WORLD’ B CORP LIST

 

GONG HONOURED IN ‘BEST FOR THE WORLD’ B CORP LIST

B Corp has today released a list of its ‘Best for the World’ honorees based on its top scoring community members. Gong Communications is one of just 12 UK B Corps who made it into the ‘workers’ category.

To be a Best For The World: Workers honoree, a company is assessed for its relationship with its workforce. The B Impact Assessment Workers category measures how the company treats its workers through compensation, benefits, training and ownership opportunities provided to workers. The category also focuses on the overall work environment within the company by assessing management/worker communication, job flexibility, corporate culture, and worker health and safety practices.

Commenting on the news, Amanda Lyons, Director at Gong responsible for people said, “The importance of attracting and keeping great people can’t be overestimated when it comes to running a successful communications agency so this honour is particularly welcome as we have worked hard to build a positive culture and environment that reflects our belief in the pivotal role of our people.”

GONG TO MENTOR GREENTECH CHALLENGE ENVIRONMENTAL ENTREPRENEURS

 

GONG TO MENTOR GREENTECH CHALLENGE ENVIRONMENTAL ENTREPRENEURS

On Thursday 14 June, GreenTech Challenge will open its doors in London to the latest cohort of 12 carefully selected environmentally focused businesses to help them meet their dream potential investors.

The event is the brainchild of three Danes who share a vision for a greener and more sustainable world and a mission to help digital disruptors gain traction in terms of finance and professional advice that will help them accelerate their success. Gong is one of the firms mentoring entrepreneurs in how to build profile that supports their business ambition, from attracting the right investors to landing the right messages with potential clients.

The event takes place over 3 days with 1-on-1 training culminating in pitching in front of industry VIPs and investors on June 19.

Commenting on the partnership, Gong’s Founder, MD Narda Shirley said, “Talk to anyone who is involved in sustainability and they will tell you that it is human ingenuity in areas like the circular economy and blockchain in supply chains that will help ensure that we find solutions to mitigate climate change. We are super excited to be able to share our knowledge with these important entrepreneurs whose innovations may hold the key to a sustainable future.”

www.greentechchallenge.eu

BUSINESS TO BUSINESS SUPPLY CHAINS – WHO CARES?

BUSINESS TO BUSINESS SUPPLY CHAINS – WHO CARES?

Cute children and baby animals. These are two of the most emotive subjects available to campaigners for sustainable supply chain practices. Whether it’s children being forced to pick cotton in Uzbekistan or orang-utans with dwindling natural habitat because of deforestation, heart wrenching stories are powerful advocates for change. Consumers can easily relate to the supply chains that influence these circumstances and shop with a conscience to reward companies who support the Better Cotton Initiative or RSPO palm oil. The images associated with these stories jump off the page and are loved by editors for their ability to get readers engaged and clicking through online.

Rewarding consumer brands with loyalty for ethical practice and influencing their sustainable behaviour through conscious consumption is important, but in terms of impact, it is business-to-business supply chains that could deliver the biggest wins. But communicating what goes on upstream in manufacturing supply chains requires much more imagination to make the subject matter cut through.

Think about an average lorry. Toyota reckons to have 30,000 components in each one of its cars. Let’s assume that commercial vehicles are in roughly the same realm. Even if the lorry itself promises to be fuel efficient and cut CO2 emissions, there are still questions about the supply chain sustainability of each of the individual components. But far fewer photo opportunities.

Data is one compelling alternative way to tell a story. Researchers at Stanford University carried out a large-scale analysis of corporate sustainable sourcing practices and shared their findings early in 2018. They found that more than half of the global companies surveyed make efforts to apply sustainability standards to their suppliers, but 70% of sustainable sourcing practices cover only a subset of input materials for a given product.  Even more concerning (but perhaps not all that surprising) is that almost all sourcing practices addressed only a single tier in the supply chain, usually first tier suppliers, such as textile factories in clothing retail. Unsurprisingly this study has generated some useful column inches, but given the importance of the subject matter, it has hardly moved the media needle.

Without a vocal mass of consumers on social media voting with their shopping baskets, who puts pressure on B2B supply chains to be sustainable and ethical? NGOs, with their limited resources have traditionally been the ones to hold upstream companies to account. They have undoubtedly punched above their weight in terms of influence with the help of the internet and citizen journalism. But now that demonstrating contribution to the SDGs is a collective responsibility within the corporate world, there’s a bigger and infinitely better resourced lobby amassing scale, capable of exerting not just influence, but also hitting businesses where it hurts financially – the investor community. Pressure from this sector has helped generate traction in high profile media.

In December 2017, the FT reported that investors with more than $26tn under management have pledged to push 100 of the highest-emitting companies worldwide to do more to tackle the threat of climate change. About 225 institutions, led by funds including HSBC Global Asset Management and Calpers, the California state employees’ pension system, joined the Climate Action 100+ initiative, intended to co-ordinate pressure on companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and improve disclosure and oversight of climate-related risks.

UK giant Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) last year voted in favour of 95% of climate-related resolutions in companies that it invests in, compared with an average of 21% from other institutional investors.  Even more traditionally ‘passive’ investors, like the world’s largest asset manager Blackrock, have found their teeth, with CEO Larry Fink challenging companies to act with purpose in his now infamous 2018 letter. A quick google of ‘Larry Fink Blackrock letter’ returned 49,400 results, proof enough perhaps that money talks.

For smaller and private companies, where institutional investors hold less sway, there are other factors influencing their supply chain choices. B Corp, the ‘business as a force for good’ movement emanating from the US is spreading geographically and extending its reach from consumer facing small business into B2B and services businesses. Becoming a B Corp is a business certification that requires a supply chain audit as part of a holistic appraisal of operations and values. Danone and other corporations which have achieved B Corp certification (much harder as an established multinational) have been rewarded with huge amounts of positive attention across all media platforms.

All of this is good news for driving change at scale. But how easy will it be for businesses to seek out more ethical supply chain partners? Does conscience always cost more?

Technology buffs would argue that supply chain innovation is driving efficiencies that actually save companies money. In an article published at the end of 2016 which looked at this issue, the Wall Street Journal observed ‘The ability to measure and adjust performance relies on new technologies, as well as collaboration and communication with suppliers — and their suppliers. Technology and communication feed innovation. Innovation feeds growth.’ Investors in Blockchain start-ups would surely agree.

Although they are reported less in the mainstream media, there are many instances where B2B practices are creating entirely new product flows and commercial opportunities. Dubbed ‘web approaches’ these less linear and often asymmetrical partnerships span across large and small firms, corporates and start-ups, public and private, business and NGOs.

An example from the automotive industry is GM which is seen as a leader in supply web approaches by many. Its work in the supply chain has resulted in used water bottles being re-used in Chevrolet Equinox V-6 engine covers and air filters for 10 GM plants. A spin-off product developed in cooperation with The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit NGO is insulation for coats for the homeless.

Whilst sustainability reporting has become increasingly sophisticated and will become further standardised once GRI Standards become compulsory from July 1, media space to report on innovations like these is still scant, but awards are springing up that create a focus for specific supply chain innovation – such as the Global Good Awards for Sustainable Supply Chain, Edie.net’s Sustainability Leaders Awards and Business Green’s new Supply Chain Project of the Year category for 2018.

At best, business-to-business supply chains are shaping up to be catalysts for innovation that rewards companies with new revenue streams. But there is still a long way to go before every component or service is sourced as sustainably as possible.

The good news in terms of where the pressure is coming from is that there is a growing band of activist stakeholders from investors to procurement managers asking for sustainability assurances in contracts. Their influence is underpinned by positive role modelling of award winners and case studies in media. Added up, it certainly shows that B2B supply chains are getting more of the attention and spotlight they deserve.

Narda Shirley and Gong Communications are hosting a roundtable discussion, called ‘Business to business supply chains: Who cares?’, today (25 April) at The Crowd’s XComms event.