Category Archives: Uncategorized

Africa Net Zero: Wolfram Schmidt

Did you know that cement production is responsible for 8 – 12% of the world’s CO2 emissions?

In fact, if the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world with up to 2.8bn tonnes.

As part of our #AfricaNetZero series, we spoke to @Wolfram Schmidt about his research into alternative materials like cassava and other agricultural residues as a source of ‘green’ African-made cement for future sustainable construction on the Continent.

Thank you, Wolfram, for sharing your insights with us!

GONG IMPACT REPORT

As the year draws to a close, we’ve used the opportunity to reflect on the year we’ve had and the impact we have made. Labelling 2020 as ‘turbulent’ would be an understatement at best. Yet for all the wicked problems that have faced our society and our planet this year, there have been many brilliant lights that have shined brightly and given us reason for hope. At Gong we’ve been fortunate to have been working with many of those bright lights, which we see to be our clients solving some of the world’s most wicked problems. For our part, we’ve used our expertise to accelerate their impact and help them shift the needle through communications.

As a B Corp, we are required to report on our impact. This report reflects the impact we have made this year, both through our client work and through our own commitments to society, environment, our suppliers, our people, and how we operate as a business- our governance.  We hope you enjoy reading what we’ve been up to as much as we’ve enjoyed doing everything in this report.

If you’d like to get in touch and find out more about our work, get in touch info@gongcommunications.com

Africa Net Zero: Elizabeth Chege

To kick off Gong’s new #AfricaNetZero series, we talked to Elizabeth Wangeci Chege @Betz99Kesh CEO and Co-founder, @WEBLimitedGroup who was recently honored by @WorldGBC in recognition of her 20-year commitment to green building in Africa and her pioneering work in the sustainable construction sector in Kenya. 

Following World Green Building Week 2020, we caught up with Elizabeth to hear her thoughts on green building in Africa and the Africa net zero conversation. We talked about the influence of Covid-19 on future green building, diversity in the sustainable construction sector, regulation and financing and public vs private net zero commitments. 

Thank you, Elizabeth Wangeci Chege, for sharing your views with us!  

GONG SUPPORTS LLOYD’S ON THE CREATION OF ITS ETHNIC DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE REPORT

 

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October 2020: Gong supported Lloyd’s on the creation of its Ethnic Diversity in the Workplace report, a culmination of an 18-month exploration into racial and ethnic diversity in the Lloyd’s market. It is part research report and part practical blueprint for change. Using personal stories and data collected from over 900 employees market-wide, it highlights the experiences of black and minority ethnic colleagues in the market to bring different perspectives into focus. Data and real experiences grounded the report in the current reality and helped Lloyd’s to set a benchmark from which to measure future progress.

We are proud to have produced this report for the Lloyd’s insurance market and want to say a special thank you to ad agency Quiet Storm for agreeing to contribute by sharing the experience of its founder, the Creative Director, Trevor Robinson OBE. The Create Not Hate movement that he founded is particularly inspiring for us as a comms agency. Read the full interview with Trevor here.

INTERVIEW WITH TREVOR ROBINSON OBE, CREATIVE DIRECTOR & OWNER, QUIET STORM

 

Trevor Robinson OBE, is a Creative Director and owner of advertising agency Quiet Storm and founder of CreateNotHate, an initiative to promote the creative industries as a career path to inner city kids.

As a kid, I was always drawing, always making stuff. I’d be in the cellar turning an old pram into a chariot or sketching my mum’s hairdressing clients at home. By 13, I knew I wanted to do something creative, but I was limited to what I could see, so I thought maybe an illustrator or a fashion designer. I went to art college and when I graduated, I went for two jobs and got the one I least wanted in a below the line agency in Richmond doing graphics for medical stuff like pile creams.  But it opened my eyes to the wider industry. I used to work on my portfolio at night so that I’d have what it took to get a job in a west end ad agency. Me and two others, a street kid called Tom and a big Irish guy called Walt, – we’d meet at Dorlands and work on our stuff together at night. We were called the ‘Oiks’ of advertising because we weren’t the typical Oxbridge types. It worked and I got hired with Al, my creative partner. I barely used to speak back then. I left that to Al, but he was Scottish with a crippling stammer, so one day he said, ‘Trev, these are your ideas, you are going to have to speak up’. I was the only black person in my agency. There was only one other black creative working in London – he did a brilliant ad for Speedo and then left for the US. I didn’t have any role models, just the work. I was inspired by iconic ads like Carling Black Label, Hamlet cigars, Guinness. And I’m sure I felt their inspiration when we came up with ‘You’ve been Tangoed’.

If you are only drawing from one source it’s not good for diversity of thought as there is a limited pool of talent and ideas. When we are casting ads, we have to insist that we don’t want to see the same old faces. A lot of the pressure on advertising to change the stereotypes has come from the public. Consumers complained, clients listened.

In terms of advertising’s own diversity issues, the industry doesn’t realise what it’s lacking. Only once you get a sense of what else is out there do you feel the loss. I started CreateNotHate originally in 2007 when a kid from my old school was stabbed. I wanted to show these kids the creative industries could be for them to give them an alternative to gangs, to prove they could make money in another way. We got them to make an ad to stop kids carrying knives – I learned so much from them. These young people are the future of our industry and they are the ones that will refresh and rejuvenate it, if we don’t utilise them and start connecting with people from every background, we’re in danger of it becoming stagnant.

View the full report here.

WORLD PRIDE MONTH – DIVERSITY AND INCLUSIVITY IS MORE THAN A BUSINESS OBJECTIVE

 

Despite nearly 500 LGBT+ events being cancelled or postponed this year due to Covid-19, Pride Month remains as important as ever with its message of acceptance ringing no truer than now. At the same time, the Black Lives Matter movement has challenged the world on its mistreatment of the black community, highlighting that we still have a long way to go in achieving a fair and equal society. The movement has forced businesses around the world to look at their own history, behaviours and actions to reassess whether they truly implement diversity and inclusivity practices throughout their companies. One thing is for certain, this is not the time for D&I to take a back seat.

Fast Company, NBC and The Drum, to name just a few publications, have reported throughout the pandemic on companies cutting diversity and inclusion budgets, staff and support as they enter crisis mode.

Reports from the National Women’s Law Centre and Barnett Waddingham have highlighted that those who D&I measures are meant to protect and support have been the worst effected by furloughs and redundancies. So how and why has D&I been deemed ‘non-essential’ and the first to be cut from business plans?

Some have claimed that government measures have made it hard for companies to be held to account with the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) suspending gender pay gap regulations this year for the first time since its introduction in 2017. Or perhaps companies are failing to see how crucial people are to their resilience?

Something businesses in the B Corp community already know to be true and is now becoming clearer for the wider corporate sector: thosewho make short term objectives and fail to place people at the heart of the decision, will suffer the consequences. Recent reports from McKinsey revealed that companies with the most gender-diverse executive teams were 21% more likely to have industry lead profitability, and companies with ethnically and culturally diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability. The most telling statistic is that companies in the bottom quartile for both gender as well as ethnic and cultural diversity were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability.

In times of crisis, companies that endorse workplace diversity and inclusion not only survive but can even thrive. Research from Great Place to Work has shown that companies with consistently inclusive workplaces thrived before, during, and after the Great Recession, earning a four times annualised return.

The business case for diversity and inclusion could not be any clearer, it has been proven time and time again that a diverse workforce leads to greater innovation, creativity and profitability.

For Gong Communications, encouraging truly diverse and inclusive workforces and cultures has been important to us throughout our 15 year history. A certified B-Corp since 2017, our core business is targeted at supporting clients who are focussed on positive impact for planet, people as well as profit.

We have had the pleasure of playing a part in the diversity and inclusion journey of the insurance sector, through our work with Lloyd’s of London and the Dive In Festival – the festival of diversity and inclusion within the insurance sector, now in its 6th year.  When Inclusion@Lloyd’s came to us in 2015, asking us to help in bringing to life the first sector-wide diversity and inclusion festival, we saw the opportunity to be part of something special.

Since that first year, the festival has grown exponentially from its origin in London and now takes place in over 60 cities and 30 countries world-wide, attracting more than 10,000 people. But it is not all about the numbers. Powerful personal stories at the Dive In festival have also made it easier to normalise discussions about issues such as gender equality, family care responsibilities and mental wellbeing at work.

It has prompted organisations to implement initiatives and policies designed to create a more inclusive workplace culture. Last year Lloyd’s issued its trans and non-binary inclusion guide, a 29-page document offering advice to people working within the insurance sector about how to foster a “stable emotional working environment” for trans and non-binary colleagues. Aviva revised its policy for trans people to become more inclusive, now allowing the parents of trans children time off to support the transition.

As a leading diversity communications PR agency in the UK, we’ve long understood that fostering diversity and inclusivity is not only the right thing to do, but should be at the heart of a company’s strategy and is the key to continued corporate resilience.

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 5 JUNE 2020 – CONSUMED BY CARBON

 

World Environment Day has prompted us here at Gong to reflect on the issue so many businesses are grappling with at the moment: How to get to Net Zero carbon dioxide emissions using science based methods as fast as we can? In December last year at COP25, alongside 499 other B Corps, Gong pledged to get to Net Zero by 2025 at the very latest. Spurred on by Covid and the imperative to Build Back Better, we are determined to do it this year.

Unlike the growing number of multinational corporations and manufacturing businesses who have pledged, it’s relatively easy for a small service business like ours to figure out our carbon footprint and make the necessary reductions. But there are ‘hidden’ emissions, even for us. We’ve learned for example, from fellow B Corp Wholegrain Digital, about the relative energy intensity of different web site constructions (if the internet was a country, it would be the world’s sixth biggest polluter). So we’ve committed to curb bad digital communications habits along with obvious things like reducing international travel, buying renewable energy and sourcing as much as we can from other Net Zero B Corps.

177 multinational companies, including Nestlé, Unilever and Vodafone signed up to the UN pledge to be Net Zero by 2050. That figure has continued to grow through 2020. Sustainability heads at businesses are working flat out to reduce their own emissions and track those of their suppliers (referred to as different ‘scopes’ 1,2 and 3) but many are facing up to the fact that they will struggle to change their current business practices enough to get to net zero in the time available. And this isn’t an arbitrary date. We have by best estimates, nine years left to act on carbon concentrations before we irreversibly head into warming that exceeds the ‘liveable’ 2°C target set in Paris.

As we have been thinking about this, we’ve started working with a new client which has given us the opportunity to delve further into the carbon removal movement. It’s been an eye opener which is why we want to share it. Human carbon emissions total 40 gigatonnes per year (Gt/y). Earth (forests, soil, oceans) can only absorb 20 Gt/y of this hence the concentration of greenhouse gases keeps increasing. So even though emissions have been lower during lockdown, CO2 concentrations are still rising.

Experts, including The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the UN IPCC are encouraging us to look at carbon dioxide removal (CDR) rather than offsetting. Sustainability expert John Grant explained that when you buy offsets, you are often funding a project that produces or uses energy more efficiently, but emissions still occur. It doesn’t reduce the already too high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Scientific removal and lock-up of CO2 now, for a minimum of 50 years, will give us time to shift to a less CO2 intensive world and mitigate climate change.

The WRI says ‘2020 could be the year Carbon Dioxide Removal takes off.” UN IPCC (2018) says: “All pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot project the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) of the order of 100–1000 Gt CO2 over the 21st century. CDR would be used to compensate for residual emissions and, in most cases, achieve net negative emissions to return global warming to 1.5°C following a peak.”

This week, another company, Climeworks announced that it had raised $76m to expand its operations to ‘suck’ CO2 out of the air and turn it into products such as gas for carbonating Coca-Cola. While this particular use of CO2 makes it back into the atmosphere, other Climeworks processes do store CO2 permanently. But we are encouraged by a different (and healthier) approach, espoused by our client PURO.earth that supports businesses whose core processes are carbon net negative. In other words, they use carbon dioxide in the manufacture of building materials such as ‘carbstone’ and biochar soil improvers – two sectors – construction and agriculture – that are big enough to be able to scale rapidly to really make a difference.

Craig Sams, one half of the pioneering duo behind the original fairtrade chocolate brand Green and  Black’s, set up biochar company (and B Corp) Carbon Gold. A former Chair of the Soil Association, Sams is an evangelist for the regenerative properties of biochar on soil.

And for anyone who needs the science, here’s a helpful video about CO2 mineralisation of waste materials from steel manufacture in the production of sustainable construction materials.

What’s exciting is that we can remove CO2 now by paying companies like these to scale faster by buying carbon removal certificates through the PURO.earth marketplace. We get to be net negative now, which means that Gong is no longer going to be part of the problem. Of course it still needs the global construction industry to use more of these products and for farmers and cities to use biochar instead of polluting fertilisers. But with the momentum from the Build Back Better movement and the European Green Deal stimulus, it suddenly feels like there is real hope that we can find solutions that are also going to build a new green economy and ecosystem of entrepreneurs.

And that’s good for everyone. Happy World Environment Day.

WATCH THE (GREEN) BIRDIE

 

There is something about the sustainability pioneer John Elkington’s new book, Green Swans; The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalismthat brings joy as one scans the contents pages. The title unapologetically riffs off the idea of Black Swans – the extreme, the unknown, and very improbable events – described in a book of that name published just before the global financial crisis of 2008.

The twitch at the corners of the mouth when you read is less to do with the subject matter – though this is ultimately an inherently optimistic read – and more because of the fun that John has obviously had with the analogy. Halfway into the book, there’s a section called ‘New Pecking Orders’ – he’s really in his stride now – with sections called ‘Incubating Ugly Ducklings’ and ‘Exponential Migrations’.

All levity aside, Green Swansputs our current challenges into context by setting out the very serious ‘Black Swans’ that we currently face including: Plastic in the oceans, killer calories and climate change. Despite the complexity of the issues, it is not all bad news, mostly because the book is packed with John’s anecdotes and his clever aggregation and framing of ideas about how and where remedies are likely to appear.

The book draws from themes derived from the work carried out by Volans, the future-business consultancy which John co-founded, in its inquiry series: Tomorrow’s Capitalism. The Inquiry kicked off with a recall of the Triple Bottom Line mid-2018, the first ever ‘product recall’ of a management theory. In a blog on Harvard Business Review, John called for re-think and withdrew People, Profit, Planet, concluding it was longer fit for purpose. Together with his colleagues at Volans, he sought to reboot the concept identifying the ‘3Rs’ as its worthy successor: Resilience, Responsibility, and Regeneration are the vital characteristics, Volans argues, of the business systems of the future.

Despite the gravity of the issues, John manages to keep the text from getting too weighed down. He talks about how during his long career as an advisor to CEOs and embattled leaders, he has often used humour in Boardrooms as an unexpected tactic that gets people to drop their guard and focus on unpalatable truths.

The book is packed full of references that resonate reassuringly for businesses grappling with formulating their own response to the emergent future. And while the Covid-19 pandemic rages all around us, there is something strangely calming in thinking that this Black Swan event could end up giving flight to some very welcome and significant Green Swans.

As the book notes, “For the foreseeable future, this will be by far the biggest opportunity for adventure, growth, and evolution in the tightly coupled stories of humankind, capitalism, and our home planet, Earth.”

Green Swans, The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism, was published on 9 April by Fast Company Press and is available to buy on Amazon or direct from the Volans website.

SOLAR AFRICA

POSITIONING A FRESH APPROACH TO RENEWABLE ENERGY

SOLAR AFRICA

The Challenge

Working together with Solar Africa’s UK based team, we set out to publicise a major new client reference site for Solar Africa in East Africa.

The Strategy

Gong advised on initial media relations strategy in Africa and suggested logo and website redesigns.

We wrote case studies, worked on their messaging and prepared relevant press releases.

The Outcome

Gong secured coverage for Solar Africa in target business press such as the Financial Times and the Guardian and local media such as CCTV.

Business leads have resulted from Gong’s networking support and media relations activities.

WOMEN LEADERS IN SUSTAINABILITY: NARDA SHIRLEY, GONG COMMUNICATIONS

WOMEN LEADERS IN SUSTAINABILITY: NARDA SHIRLEY, GONG COMMUNICATIONS

Narda Shirley, managing director, Gong Communications

Narda Shirley is the Founder and Managing Director of Gong Communications, a business to business agency with offices in London and Nairobi. Gong is focused on 3 areas; human capital, natural capital and private capital.

She is a serial public relations agency entrepreneur having founded an agency prior to Gong called Gnash, that rode the internet boom (and bust) helping establish some of the enduring brands from that digital decade including lastminute.com and Match.com. She was the founding Chair of the PRCA’s sustainability group and is committed to driving sustainability engagement across the sector today.

1. What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome to get you where you are today? (what tips can you share from that experience?)

I think the biggest challenge in getting to where we are today has been figuring out how to become an international business and getting our Nairobi office on its feet. It’s been a stretch for me personally but a welcome opportunity to learn about a new cultural context for doing business after two decades of PR experience in more developed economies. For example, navigating local norms that don’t fit with ours, but it can also mean that culturally people in Africa sometimes don’t want to say ‘no’ which can be tricky to interpret when it comes to getting decisions over the line. But ultimately it’s about respecting the culture that you are operating in and programming in some patience. If you try to make everything go at top speed, you will just buckle under the weight of frustration.

View the full article here