Category: Fairer Companies

Top ten charity campaigns of 2015

Well done to all those charities who have run bold campaigns in 2015. Not an easy year for the sector with many mergers still on the table, negative stories about about how charities operate in getting their vital funds, the debacle of the Kids Company closing and the Edelman Trust barometer showing trust in charities down 17%.

My top 10 charity campaigns this year are:

Greenpeace Awesome Again

It was good to see Greenpeace’s action in 2014 and mobilising millions to stop the Lego Shell partnership in 2015. Without Greenpeace, life would be much less interesting (and less organisations would be kept in check).

Je Suis Charlie

Not a charity but certainly a cause, I’m sure most would agree the Je Suis Charlie events were a critical response to the threat against the freedom of speech, inspired by the terrible attacks in France on 7th January 2015.

This Girl Can

I loved This Girl Can campaign developed by Sport England as a celebration of active women doing their thing no matter how well they do it or how they look.

Big Issue Baristas

A very innovative and entrepreneurial way to diversify the work homeless people can do, by training them to make and sell cappuccinos – with eight carts in London, I wish it all the best.

Amnesty’s Virtual Reality ‘Aleppo’ Street

It’s tough bringing home your message and this campaign does just that with specially created headsets. It aims to transport people to a Syrian street to show the destructive effects of barrel bombs.

St John’s Ambulance ‘Chokeables’

st johns

A brilliant idea, using regular ‘chokables’ as the main characters, with voice-overs from Johnny Vegas and David Mitchell, adding weight.

The Lord’s Prayer ad (Just Pray)


The Church of England planned to run the spot before showings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, opening on 18 December. As an aside, The Odeon, Cineworld and Vue refused to show The Lord’s Prayer ad . The spot launched the Church of England’s website, which encourages prayer and offers tutorials.

I Saw Your Willy / Share Aware

NSPCC’s great campaign encourages children to think about what they share online; with this campaign they have developed a partnership with 02.

Life-changing Learning


The Open University has captured the strength of mind, effort and reward that comes from studying a part-time degree – a nice brand builder.

Unicef Snapchat of Nigeria

Unicef recruited Snapchat artists to redraw the pictures made by some of the 800,000 children forced to flee their homes in Nigeria, as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the horrific impact of the Boko Haram crisis on Nigerian children.

These charity campaigns are all brave and ambitious – but more importantly speak to us in a straightforward language, and in my view, increase the perceived value of the charities’ role on the issues. I believe they have every chance of driving new supporters and partnerships.

Wishing you all a great Christmas and New Year.

Giles Robertson, Director of Green Banana Marketing Ltd and independent Marketing Consultant, Marketing Society Fellow, Board Member, Marine Conservation Society

Follow him on twitter @gogreenbanana and Linkedin or email at

Five questions to ask of your blockbuster charity film

It’s time to make that all defining film about your charity (or yourself?). The problem is, where do you start? Your content list runs to ten minutes and your main spokesperson sounds like Kevin Spacey at the end of his tether in American Beauty, which is not going to win you new support.

We’ve just made a great promo film about Green Banana Marketing with sister company, Five on a Bike. Four edits later and we were very happy with the results. That’s not bad for a 7-year-old company with dozens of client projects – we’ve seen some films go into double digit edits. Here are my six questions for you to consider, which helped keep me on track and to fewer edits:

Do you have an idea of what you want to say?

It’s great to consider what your key messages are right up front. The really hard job is being tough on what you’d like to show to which audience. Try and list the two or three take-outs you’d like to have from the film. For us, it was showing the value we could bring to people’s work through the story of our projects.Image from edit suite of Green Banana Marketing film

Are you are clear who it is for?

Showing what you do to a group of school kids is very different to presenting to the senior board at Santander. There may be similarities, but I imagine it’s two difference audiences with different needs. Businesses like to see your flair, the impacts of your work and what a likely partnership will deliver. And school kids are no different; they want to be inspired and see how things have changed because of your work. Sometimes explaining the basics of what you do, can be a great start. I remember in one presentation with my Marine Conservation Society trustee hat on, one speaker outlined all that they did related to marine biology, and at the end of the session, the first question was ‘what does a marine biologist do?” Oh dear. For us at Green Banana Marketing, we hoped to speak directly to Marketing Directors of development, fair trade, health, conservation and human rights charities.

What are you hoping as a result of the film?

Is your film a shortcut way of introducing what you do? Or is it an “ask” to show what more could be done with some extra resource? Two very different scenarios –again if this is done right, it can pay dividends. I know one corporate partner film, which allegedly paid for itself within the first six months for a development charity.

How is your brand featured?

Introducing the feel of your organisation throughout is a real art, whether it’s your logo on runners vests doing the Marathon, or campaigning pledges reaching their target, it helps to weave your brand into the story. And of course, do start and end your film with your brand and your mission and finish with a ‘view’ of your vision and your ask for the future.See how the storyboard for Salix / Department for Education compares to final film

Will you do an overview of all your work or slice through one area?

Images do speak a thousand words, but sometimes you forget, if images are not explained with a simple title e.g. “Fracking protest outside Chequers”, they can be abstract and rather off putting.  Start by writing down all the content you think should be in the film, it will end up being enough content for The Godfather part 1 and 2. But never mind, it’s a start.  It’s easier to explain a problem through a story; how your organisation was the hero who overcame the villain, the approach it took and the style of how it works. Telling your story through one person’s perspective always helps. You forget how complex your organisation is and people can really only take in a handful of messages at a time. Mario’s personal battle with cancer and the support he got from Macmillan Cancer Support hits me hard in this film and I get exactly what he went through, what the charity did for him – even within this small focus of their work. Do take the leap and make a film about your charity work – answer the hard questions first and you’ll save time as well as money on the editing floor. And of course, we could help make it very good for you.

Shortcuts Stand out from the crowd – need to know brand and marketing essentials


Your invitation to Green Banana Marketing’s next Shortcuts event
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Shortcuts Series

Standout from the crowd – need to know brand and marketing essentials

Free Shortcuts seminar – Tuesday 10th September 2015 9 – 10am

Green Banana Marketing invite you to their free Charity Shortcuts seminar on Tuesday 10 September 2015 at 9am.

Charities need good marketing more than ever – with great pressures to gain new supporters (and more charities to standout from), building your appeal and what you stand for is essential.

Having a strong brand and marketing focus has never mattered more.

This innovative hours workshop will change the way you think about marketing and leave you bursting with ideas on how to build your brand personality, standout from the crowd and attract new supporters to your organisation.

Previous delegates said of the seminar; “very useful and inspiring – the fundamentals of marketing”

We would very much like to see you and a colleague at this Free Shortcuts seminar on Tuesday 10th September 2015 at 9am for one hour at the O2 Workshop, 229 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T7QG.

Places are limited to 20, so please do click here now to subscribe and book your free place.

‘Shortcuts’ seminars are intended to give you the most important information in the one-hour session. Drinks, cakes and a friendly networking session will follow the seminar. 

We look forward to seeing you there!

Kind regards,

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Date: 10th September 2015Time:

9 – 10 am


02 Workshop

229 Tottenham Court Rd


Green Banana Marketing shortcut seminar




10 tips to maximise growth through your website

Many of the social organisations we work with are going through huge changes, using their “ten year strategy” to answer the question “what would a digitally-enabled organisation look like?” and “how will we thrive in an increasingly digital world?”. These are perfect questions to help shape the future and current offering and the following related questions helped us in working through our recent projects with the Fairtrade Foundation and The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

blog photo 1blog photo 2   blog photo 3

Mapping the user experience and developing wireframe and related colour schemes for the navigation

1.What’s not working well at the moment? Where are audiences dropping off / not going – why is this?

2.What are your analytics telling you? Do you understand the audience needs and do these change by age / other demographics? Why is that? Do you know how people are using your site?

3.Are you ready for Mobilegeddon? Do start the process of ensuring your site works on different devices from interactive white screen to phones. You probably already know that Google’s search ranking will be affected by how mobile friendly your site it. There is an easy mobile friendly test you can do.

blog photo FT mobile

The mobile experience for teachers using Fairtrade resources

4.Is your SEO / social strategy good enough? Read Google’s guide to SEO, again Google will look harshly at copy that is too small and links that go nowhere. Defining your strategy beforehand (starting with the web copy), will help you prioritise what your main services are.

5. Do you have a strong concept / design? People like ideas- a strong concept can really lift your site usage.

6.Do you have the right sign-up points? Getting the balance right is essential; too many and people will click off your site. Having the main touch points clearly labelled will increase conversion to sales, and to your newsletter sign up.

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Clear and interesting sign up points help the user

7.Why not ask people what they would like to use the site for in the future? Regular users of your site will often have as good ideas as anyone for how the experience could be made even better, we’ve found tapping this interest and using some of their ideas is crucial.

8.Are you using it as a living / agile website? Agile roll-outs are best. Too often the process is to map the user experience to a wireframe and then build the site over 10-16 weeks, which is fine. But it’s better to keep the site alive and agile, adding new features and functionality, so the site has a beginning but no end. There is no web 2.2.

9.Are you linking your CRM to your website? You increase conversion to your site by as much as 50% from users on your social channels, by a few simple campaigns.

10.Are you making lots of new friends? We’ve found links to your site from other respected organisations work wonders for new site visitors and increased search ranking.

If you need help with your web delivery, these are the first questions we would ask, it’s an easy checklist, which starts with your audience and builds things in an agile but logical way.

Giles Robertson, Founder and Managing Director of Green Banana Marketing Ltd, Marketing Soc. and RSA Fellow, Charity Group chairman, Trustee of Marine Conservation Society, member of 2Degrees board of advisers and the Sustainability Growth Group. Follow him on twitter @gogreenbanana or email at

Send all our leaders on the London Marathon

Beach body photo blog

What’s not to like about the London Marathon? It’s welcoming – whether you are one of the 750,000 spectators, watching it on TV or more importantly one of the 38,000 people taking part. It’s pure joy, celebration and carnival– preceded by pain and I guess sometimes despair. What makes the London Marathon brand so special is the following:

  1. we all know somebody who was running
  2. the amazing sense achievement, of giving and taking part
  3. the sense of fun and nothing is impossible or is judged to be ridiculous. The most eccentric charity runner was probably Lloyd Scott who took five days to complete the course wearing a deep-sea diving suit. And no doubt ushered in new regulations for the marathon, which state that the race must be completed in one day
  4. the fact that this is one of the biggest fundraisers, during the last 30 years runners have made more than £500m for various charities

We were also all swept up by 2012 London Olympics and the amazing Gamemakers who really made their mark. Now contrast that with the lead up to the general election – the biggest event we were not really invited to be part of – in the weeks leading up to 7th May.   We’ve not been involved in a conversation with the general election. The environment, sport and health have been little discussed. The Green party lost out, by playing down discussions about green issues, to demonstrate a broader understanding of other policy areas.

There has been very little discussion about sport, health and well being; tackling obesity and getting people back into sports. I applaud the This Girl Can campaign and what Dove has tried to do by normalising every day body shapes. But all this seems to have been given the two fingers by the most pointless and shallow ad of our time; an ad for a weight loss drink and beach perfect bodies.

Thank goodness for two bloggers Tara Costello and Fiona Longmuir, pictured, who posed next to the ad, rightly saying they are beach ready.

I want an election a bit like the London Marathon, where;

  1. we know somebody who is running and want to support them
  2. we feel involved
  3. our differences are celebrated
  4. the health of our bodies and the planet are central to the thinking

Poldark’s charity is a funder’s dream

I wonder, if like me, you have been inspired by Ross Poldark, in the BBC1’s 70s remake, which has been watched by nearly 7 million viewers, based on Winston Graham’s Poldark books from the 1940s and 1950s.
poldark 1Set in the 18th century, the main character, Ross Poldark, a British Army officer, returns to his home in Cornwall from the American Revolutionary War only to find that his fiancée, Elizabeth, having believed him dead, is about to marry his cousin, Francis Poldark. Ross attempts to restore his own fortunes by reopening one of the family’s tin mines. After several years he marries his servant girl, and is gradually reconciled to the loss of Elizabeth’s love.

There is plenty to enjoy – at its heart, a story of determination and doing the right thing. Poldark’s physique has been much debated, but it’s his approach, which we think throws up some great analogies for charities wanting to stay true to their beliefs and be true leaders. And they are;

1. At his core is a powerful belief in philanthropy, which comes through every pore

2. He has a vision – turning his new tin mine into a success- which he relentless pursues

3. He doesn’t let short term set backs take him of course, but knows when to call in extra help

4. He knows how to lead people with his vision – of finding tin

5. He understands what it takes to inspire people with words as well as actions

6. He’s keenly aware of how to inspire funders

7. He knows how to gain their continued support, and when to give updates on the progress that has been made

8. He’s happy to go out on a limb for what he believes in – in work and in love, however out of kilter and out of fashion this might be with his immediate circle

9. He leads by example and is consistent to his word

10. Despite much adoration, he is humble, welcoming and a genuinely consistent all round nice guy.

Can Ross Poldark do no wrong?


The very best charity marketing from 2014

The very best charity marketing from 2014

With so many amazing campaigns, it’s tough selecting the most innovative charity ads of the year. This is encouraging for the charity sector, even though it’s harder and harder for normal people to navigate through the various causes and lend their support.

Charities (and I guess their marketing agencies), have long understood that creating some kind of fame often increases share of mind and this hopefully leads to more support. Charities are often challenged by gaining the resources to support a new campaign. A strong business case helps, and entering the campaign into charity awards can fast track this. The campaign gets profiled in the brochure, 500 marketing folk hear about the charity and better still, if it wins, then profile pieces will be written. The charity may even become the agency’s charity of the year.

First up: NSPCC: ‘The underwear rule’

The underwear rule is a fantastic insight. It is a campaign devised by the NSPCC that provides a simple way to help parents keep their children safe from abuse. It’s simple for both parents and children to understand. This film perfectly captures the right tone and call to action. Well done to NSPCC.

Second place: CRUK ‘Play to cure’

What a great excuse to play a good game, when at the same time you’re helping Cancer Research UK’s scientists identify the DNA faults that could lead to cancer. Well done CRUK – lateral thinking at its best.

Third: Greenpeace ‘Tell Lego to dump Shell’

It’s good to see Greenpeace in action (and succeeding in stopping the Lego Shell partnership!)  Keep up the great campaigning work. Without Greenpeace, life would be much less interesting (and less organisations would be kept in check).

Fourth: Barnardo’s ‘The Nation’s Fridge Door’

Just love Barnardo’s virtual fridge, based on the idea that we all like to share our children’s pictures of robins and pirates, but not all children have parents who care. In every family’s household the fridge door is a symbol of a parent’s pride and support of their children’s achievements. Yet the UK’s most vulnerable children don’t have anyone to give them this support or record their successes.

That’s why Barnardo’s is asking people to turn the support they give their own children into the support for the children who have nobody. The drawings sent in by families were published on their virtual fridge, and a selected few were published in The Guardian and in Barnardo’s stores.

Fifth: Breast Cancer Awareness ‘Fitness Bra Cam’

Breast Cancer Awareness have done so much to change the tone of the issue – brightening it up and making it more accessible. This campaign is a perfect example of this.  In partnership with big companies, who helped them deliver a truly funny (and slightly awkward!) entrapment film!

Some new fame is worth having and these are great examples of charities taking risks but keeping their cause at the heart of the delivery. Well done to all and Happy New Year 2015.


Happy Christmas from Green Banana Marketing

GBM Christmas card 2014

My Trustometer

Who do we trust? Edelman – claiming to be the World’s largest public relations firm- launched their 14th Trust Barometer this week, looking at government, media and business across the globe. 27,000 thought leaders, professionals – we’re asked who they trusted and why? So I asked myself, who do I trust and why, to see if my very personal findings from these ten, chimed with Edelman’s findings?

my trustometer photo

1. Martin the milkman – our local milkman has become an institution, he always tells you what’s going on, lives for his job so much so, that he bought the business. Totally enthusiastic about life and his customers

2. My mum mum’s only feedback what you are feeling, they are a time capsule of everything you are, what’s not to trust about that?

3. The Guardian – I believe it supports the underdog and wants to get to the heart of the issue

4. Fairtrade – ‘our global village shop’ ran by low paid farmers supplying their local produce, Fairtrade pay a fair price for this produce, giving them the opportunity to improve their environment and better educate their families

5. John Lewis – you know that they respect their relationship with you

6. Wikipedia – as it is written by people like you and me

7. The BBC – despite recent leadership issues and cover-ups, time and time again, they step-up to the mark

8. Sir David Attenborough – more to the point, what will we do when ‘his show’ is retired?

9. HRH Prince of Wales – he has put his money where his mouth is and believes in inspiring the next generation to care about our planet, people and wildlife

10. My local pub The Old Swan and Chiltern Brewery – both full of local goodness

images-3Three media, four which are kind of retail brands and three people! Ok, so no government Ministers. Each of these reflect aspects of the Edelman findings including:

– Showing their own quality (high quality products, for the most part, remains an important trust driver)

– Family feel (family owned and SMEs are the most trusted at 76% in EU)

– They are like you and me (62% said the most trusted source was a person like ‘yourself’, 15% points up  from 2013)

– Active and participate in “my community” (80% said ‘engagement’ and ‘integrity’ were trust builders)

– And most of all they listen and respond (actions that were ranked highest included communicating clearly and transparently by 82%. And 59% of people stated listening to customers would improve things, which was overall 28% above their actual performance).

Well at least it feels like they do. If businesses and government could do more of this, they would no doubt close the ‘trust gap’. 79% said businesses have permission to play a role in regulation and debate (but should consult with stakeholders like NGOs). NGOs still bring their own set of thinking, that in my view can never be ‘own labelled’. Fortunately, NGOS have retained their crown as the most trusted organisations.

But only just.



Green Banana Marketing Virtually Hangout: Marketing Sustainability

Giles Robertson, Managing Director of Green Banana Marketing and associate Sustainability Practitioner, Kim Bailey, took part in a Google Hangout Session on whether consumers have turned-off from green and how marketing can switch them back on.

Check out the video on our You Tube Channel:

Here are the top 10 tips for marketing sustainability that came out of that conversation:

  1. Create your own unique sustainability journey
  2. Gain leadership from the top for an effective team effort
  3. Drop the jargon, avoid ‘greenwash’, go for absolute clarity
  4. Link-up with those in the know to lessen your environmental impacts.  This can be with NGOs such as the Marine Conservation Society to work on marine projects or sustainability experts to gain the right standards and certifications
  5. Develop credible targets and deliver tangible outcomes
  6. Breakdown your vision into bite-size pieces
  7. Use real people and real projects to tell your success stories
  8. Be bold in your ambitions and actions and let people know about them
  9. Social media is your best friend in creating conversations and motivating your customers, explain on a day-to-day basis how you are doing things and don’t ever tell porkie pies
  10. Celebrate success & reward your customers.  Place the emphasis on personal benefit and show how the greater good has benefited too.

Although the good old marketing strategies of knowing your customer and meeting them where they are in their environmental knowledge still holds good; sustainability marketing requires tangible proof for any claims.  Promises need to be delivered.

Green Banana Marketing Ltd’s associate sustainability practitioner, Kim Bailey, works with companies and charities to ensure that they are as green, smart and fair as they claim to be.

Follow us on Twitter @gogreenbanana.




Starbucks: 5 things they could have done

Starbucks could have dealt much better with the sticky situation they’ve found themselves in over their underpaid tax. The coffee chain in future needs to deal with problems a whole lot smarter and here’s how:

1. Be open

Starbucks could have drawn the sting by asking people in-store what they should do about their tax situation, having made the wrong decision in the first place.

Openly talking about it with their customers as soon as the problem came to light would have saved a reputation re-think, which is now needed to address some of the disappointment from their customers.

Instead, rather belatedly, they have decided to pay more tax than normal in the next two years. Too late for some people; on Twitter the anger expressed, “I’ve paid how much to starbucks over the years? And not a penny since 2009 has gone to hmrc? Sigh turning to anger”, has turned #boycottstarbucks in to a trend.


2.Change your plans

Why not ‘pull’ some of the planned new store openings in towns and villages least welcoming. Make this a money saving measure, saving for your tax bill like most companies.

3.Fix it

Speed and transparency often resolves many of the issues when reputation hangs in the balance. It would have been better to openly accept the situation and pay the taxes that were owed immediately.

4. Give and you shall receive

Often when an individual or company are found to fall short and subsequently right the situation, they are obliged to make a charitable donation. Why not make a huge donation to Shelter or Crisis at Christmas. Make it part of your on-going Shared Planet.

5. Make-up for it

Think about ways moving forward to be a more agreeable, engaging and listening organisation, which benefits the UK market (and then people might offset the more brash American image you sometimes have).

Green Banana Marketing believes in organisations that are smarter, fairer and greener. We strongly encourage Starbucks to make a difference for the right reason with its business in the UK and the rest of the world.

Biofuels – BP leading the way

The requirement for cleaner and cheaper fuels grows each day, alongside the rapid growth in car production. It has been predicted that by 2020, there will be twice as many vehicles in use than there are today. With the continuous depletion of the finite supply of fossil fuels, companies are starting to look to the future for new and more sustainable ways to power our way of life. Biofuels have become a focus fuel as it has the potential to meet these requirements. Ideally, the right crops would be non-food, as this would prevent a steep rise in food prices.


Hoping to lead the pack in the race to develop an innovative way to produce a non-food crop to power cars are oil giants BP. Still trying to repair their tarnished reputation after the BP Oil Spill in April 2010, BP are aiming to improve their status in the ‘sustainable and green’ world. However their recent move to the arctic (along with the other big oil companies) has caused controversy, as BP came under fire from environmental campaigners for their failure to address the potentially catastrophic consequences it could have to an already delicate ecosystem.


BP have been working hard on creating an invaluable non-food crop that can be broken down into petrol and diesel, and they are claiming that they have found the right mix. If what BP say is true, and they do in fact have the ideal mix to create these crops, then not only will they make a serious amount of money, but we could also be seeing the future of biofuels and car travel, using a sustainable and eco-friendly petrol.

Is Rio+20 providing the future for business sustainability?

With thousands of business and industrial CEOs descending on the Rio+20 conference, we believe that this is a great opportunity to raise awareness to the importance of sustainability within business and industry. When comparing the thousands of businesses that are attending Rio+20, to the 50 or so businesses that attended the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, it shows how much attitude in business has changed to sustainability.

So how can Rio+20 encourage business leaders to improve their focus on sustainability? We believe it must be made clear at Rio+20 that whilst businesses should be improving their own sustainability, they should also be making themselves into role models in sustainability to smaller businesses, customers and stakeholders. Businesses should be following the example set by companies such as M&S and their ‘Plan A’ initiative. GBM attended Marks & Spencer’s ‘Plan A’ Stakeholder Event yesterday and heard of substantial progress in lessening their environmental impacts.  More initiatives focusing on improving the social and economic conditions of their supply chain are currently underway, such as their Living Wage programme, which is aimed at increasing the pay and conditions in the factories that they use. On top of this they are engaging customers to join in with their push for improved sustainability through Shwopping. We at GBM would love to see M&S become a leader and encourage the retail sector to follow in their footsteps, through mentoring smaller businesses on how to improve their own sustainability.

It has been discussed that some businesses will be pushing for policies to be produced that will improve environmental quality and social benefits from economic growth at Rio+20. Policies like this will not only vastly improve sustainability within business, it will also pave the way for growth in the renewable energy market, the production of greener products, services and initiatives, as well as helping to create more jobs. We believe that policies regulating sustainability within business are severely lacking, with incentives for businesses to become sustainable mainly based on public pressure.

It will be interesting to see how the next Rio Summit in 20-30 years times differs from Rio+20. Will Rio+20 have set the sustainability world in motion, allowing the next summit to focus on improving on sustainable innovations? Or will Rio+20 fail to make an impact and the next summit be another attempt to kickstart the sustainability movement? We at GBM would like to see even more businesses attending; with more there to drive governments to introduce stricter regulations and legislations on sustainability. We would like to see more market leaders like M&S attending the conferences, steering business sustainability in the right direction.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of the Rio+20 summit, hopefully it will lead to the development of much needed governmental policies regulating the impact businesses have on the environment and society, paving the way for a more sustainable future within business.


Is Apple’s response to workers conditions good enough?

So Apple have announced the biggest audit of the conditions of its supply chain factories of its kind.  They are the first phone manufacturer to sign up to the Fair Labour Association (FLA).  Staff working in Foxconn, the factory used by Apple in China, have had pay rises, in some cases trebling pay over three years to 1,800 – 2,400 yuan a month, which is about £180 to £240.  First reports are that the factories are nice and clean.  The full report is due out in March and we wait with interest to see all the details.  At least something is being done, so can I breathe a sigh of relief?

Well, scratch a little deeper and you’ll see that the FLA have been involved with, up to now, audits of garment factories.  This is a sector with the most appalling reputation in many developing countries.  A computer factory is always going to be cleaner, as computers have to be made in the most sterile environment or they won’t work.

Photo: Mike Clarke/AFP/Getty Images

ABC News’ Nightline TV programme in the US last night showed a documentary on the conditions of workers in an Apple factory.  The factory line is portrayed in its soulless and sterile state.  The workers are completely silent and the only voices are robotic.  The latest news is that Foxconn are considering investing millions in robotic automation.  I guess these robots won’t threaten to jump off the factory roofs, their legs won’t swell after standing for 14 hour shifts and they won’t be requiring social justice anytime soon.

How effective are the audits? The most publicised supplier up to now that has used FLA services is Nike, after a similar spate of bad publicity surrounding its workforce practice.   Their latest audit report reveals that there are still areas of health and safety and social security issues to be addressed.  So improvements take time.  Nike have a target of being fully compliant by 2013.

The supply chain of suffering extends to the Congo, where the highly toxic mineral, Coltan, core to the mobile phone industry, is mined often using child labour who die from disease, starvation and unsafe working conditions.

There are higher standards to aim for than the absence of cruelty and the meeting of basic human rights.   The ISO 26000 produced last year exhorts all businesses to show dignity and respect for their workers.  These things can’t be measured by a tickbox.

Voluntary standards have been adopted by other sectors. The Equator Principles introduced by the banking sector has raised awareness of environmental and social issues amongst businesses.  The Courtauld Agreement has members from  the retail sector who agreed to reduce their packaging.  This has had the result of avoiding over 1.2 million tonnes of food and packaging going to landfill.  I would like to see a similar pact amongst those producing computers and phones to reduce the mining impacts.  Fairtrade reduced the chemicals used in coffee production by 80%.  Let’s call on Apple to do the same for the mining of minerals used in hi- tech industries.

Apple have chosen an evocative image for its brand, all shiny, smelling of New York bustle and American home baked pies. Now the challenge is for Apple to embody the qualities that it so successfully projects.

I, as an Apple user, want to know that my phone is made with the least environmental damage and by a happy workforce. I’d like my phone maker to appear in the top environmental and ethical companies. I want to know that some of their lovely profit is being ploughed back into the communities who produce their polished products. I’d like a Coltan free phone, can Apple lead the way on this? When I sit down with a Fairtrade coffee to make a call I want to know that I am making a positive difference to someone’s life with my phone as well as my coffee.  Is that too much to ask?

If you are asking how your company can be the most ethically responsible it can be, contact  Green Banana Marketing has worked with socially responsible brands like Fairtrade and understands that companies need to practice what they promote and lead by example.  Achieving high ethical and sustainable standards is a journey and Green Banana Marketing is producing step-by-step guides to help you get to your destination. Ask us how.

Giles Robertson is the founder of Green Banana Marketing Ltd and Chairman of the Marketing Society Charity Group.

Engage with climate change today to be more competitive tomorrow

It is comforting to know that although climate change has been pushed to the back pages of the newspapers, sustainability and climate change are still embraced by some and innovation led by others, as we heard at the Climate Week Stakeholder Reception and the Unilever sustainable living debate last week. 
There is desire that the Durban UN climate talks, beginning today (the 17th Conference of the Parties, ‘Cop17’), result in our government adopting a clear roadmap.

Interesting themes came from the discussions about what companies could and potentially should be doing with regard to sustainability and climate change at The Climate Week Reception and the Unilever sustainable living debate last week.

The Rt Hon John Gummer said companies should aspire to be forward thinking, linking with the next generation of businesses. They need to commit themselves to real and tangible on-the-ground activity as part of society’s response to climate change. As Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever said, companies more in touch with society by definition have a greater chance than their competitors for longer-term success (and survival). Tackling climate change is vital for future markets and emerging economies, increasingly important as Western companies look to South America, Asia and Africa for opportunities as their economies suffer.

Engaging with youths was seen as another way of getting involved, highlighted by Tony Juniper (Special advisor to Prince of Wales Sustainability Unit). When companies use powerful examples of their work, it can reconnect the current ‘disconnect’ between society and the environment, too often felt by many young people, and spread through communities like wildfire.

He further emphasised the need for forward thinking companies to engage with on the ground people and projects. A line of thinking that was also echoed in the Unilever discussion by Malina Mehra, CEO of Centre for Social Markets, who stressed the importance of creating an inter-generational dialogue when companies craft an approach to sustainability.

Increasingly, companies are looking to external bodies to help them achieve their climate change and sustainability goals.  Companies often look to specialist climate change experts within charities who have the credibility and on the ground projects to make an effective partner.

It may be time to discover how your organisation can do more in the pursuit of an innovation led sustainable business, which should help secure your future.

Engaging people in sustainability (over a cup of Yorkshire)

I have always thought that ‘seeing is believing’ when it comes to comprehending man’s impact on the environment and understanding what can be done to make a difference. Museums such as the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and At Bristol have effectively used this approach for many years. People like to see things for themselves and to make their own connections from the facts. With this in mind, you often see an increased interest in man’s likely impact on our planet after big natural disasters such as New Orleans and the recent floods in Queensland. However, it is often less easy to see the impact of man’s degradation on the natural environment until it is too late. Now and again we have a wake up call with a species becoming extinct like the Golden Toad in Costa Rica.

Increased weather disasters and the depletion of natural resources are part of this changing world we inhabit. We can’t keep taking from our planet in the way that we have become accustomed – there just aren’t enough fish left in the sea (or oil left in the ground) to meet our demand. The break point could be as near as 2050 when the main global oil reserves become depleted. Innovation, it is hoped, will increase as ‘stocks’ dwindle. We know that when commodities are scarce people become more resourceful. Therefore innovation should pique with new solutions to help us lead lives that are more in harmony with the planet in the next decade. Today I found inspiration in the most unlikeliest of places- from Yorkshire tea, yes that’s right the great British cuppa. They’ve decided to go out to people where tea is scarce in a US style road trip. Expat communities around the world can prepare themselves for the great Yorkshire tea ice-cream van – ‘little urn’. It’s not a bad idea for us environmentalists, why not have pop-up top ten tips stores and drive through Eco centres around the big cities to explain the simple changes you can make in your daily lives (and how these can impact on our planet). You might even get a free ‘seeing is believing’ cuppa!

Environmental change driven by charities or companies?

This has been on mind with the ‘Big Society’ (BS), using local leaders, who ever they are? “We are at the foothills of dealing with the challenge of climate change and need business to take the lead” said the then Secretary for the Environment, Margaret Becket, six years ago in her quest to accelerate emissions cuts from corporates. Like the BS she tried to take the very best and hoped that others would follow, but it didn’t quite work out.  Businesses need frameworks and incentives to innovate. If they can make a difference that is distinctive, competitive and generates income then they’re in.  We’ve seen M&S Plan A, Wall Mart’s commitment to sustainable fish, The Co-Op’s ethical services and Cadbury’s commitment to Fairtrade cocoa from Ghana.  These are having impact but alongside the others, who are doing less, are tiny. Environmental charities only have one agenda and that is to achieve change. They have passionate supporters, about 6.5 million of the main ones, who believe in what the charities are doing. Charities are not afraid to campaign against environmental injustices like dangerous chemicals, drive real change with initiatives like the Marine Stewardship Council, force new legislation like the Marine Bill and the Wildlife Trade Act. But perhaps more importantly 7% of England (or 22,556,352 acres) is made up of charity run land, managed by the National Trust, RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetlands and the Church of England. Collectively these spaces have inspired and changed many people’s views.  You won’t hear about a Fizzy Drink Company stopping one of it’s Fizzy drinks to enable it to fund a local beach clean up or to support a local wood. That’s because most company environmental policies are internally focused, short-term and about sorting out their own mess, rather than helping others. Therefore the real powerhouse of environmental change has come from environmental charities, focused on long-term change, rather than the corporate big boys.

The changing face of Development: the role of the private sector

Care International hosted this debate about the private sector’s role in development, testament to their ‘sleeves up’ approach to fighting poverty in over 70 countries. Early on in this discussion, chaired by Alistair Stewart from ITN, we heard that things have changed; no longer do committed companies trot out a CSR report with a yearly update to the board. Kraft’s Associate Director Cadbury Cocoa Partnership said that this approach was no longer enough –support needed to be about deep partnerships with the locals. Moving beyond the ‘extract and sell’ philosophy dominant in the past, innovation is rife including Vodafone’s work in Tanzania, mobile phone banking and local micro finance schemes. But few people have heard about these schemes. People are inspired by ideas and stories which represents a much-needed new face to development. Africa is often portrayed in one dimension and addressing people’s perceptions was seen as key. Communicating entrepreneurial schemes is surely the gateway to mobilising more private support. There is little collaboration and sharing of experiences between corporations and NGOs. The evening also touched on some of the other challenges of private sector investment in countries like Rwanda, such as the increased violence against women who gain an increased income, the environmental balance between local product sourcing and assisting development needs, and being realistic about what the private sector can deliver – it’s unlikely to take over the social services. Craig Hardie, who set up Malawi Mangoes three and half years ago after a senior career in Marketing, believes that by looking after the smallhoder farms (with profits fed back into the community, improving their provisions), you also maintain the quality of the fruit. From Mangoes to cocoa – new models like this are addressing development issues and with over 2.6 billion people living on less than two dollars a day, let’s hope others follow.

Ants, bees, BP and eels

The planet is amazing with a precise order about things- everything knows what it is doing, like ants marching to their nest.  Watching six workmen in Kennington peer into their massive trench, scratching their heads and looking confused about what to do next, reminded me that we haven’t got a clue what we are doing to the planet.  We are out of control. We dabble with things, break them and upset the natural rules.  Like performing open heart surgery fifteen hundred metres below sea level, BP are trying to mend what they have already broken in the middle of the deep sea.  Eleven men have died and scores of animals are gulping in the peculiar blood coloured surface water, and the Vice President of BP said they were capturing a hundred thousand barrels a day – any more would risk contamination with water.  This must represent a turning point for US energy policies and our over-reliance on fossil fuels.  There may even be a revolt over BP’s massive error, experimenting with our planet.  A black mark the size of Luxembourg in the Gulf of Mexico has led to one group clamouring for the ‘death penalty’ for BP.  The natural order of the planet has a harmony that is impossible to replicate. We must learn from this and know that we lose this at our peril. Ants have been marching their path, bees have been dancing their dance and European Eels swimming their miraculous life swim from the Sargasso Sea for millions of years, and yet the precarious technique of deep sea oil drilling has only been going for fifty years.

A night with Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO Starbucks

I haven’t been in a Starbucks for years – but clearly 15 million people a week do. Howard Shultz, the 56 year old New Yorker seemed relaxed to tell his story about how Starbucks has grown to 16,000 stores globally. He grew up in a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn, in the equivalent of a council house. And regrets going public with the company in 1992, to pay back early investors. He is man who loves what he does and is on a mission to reengage staff with the customer.

In front of an audience of some 500 top UK marketers at a Marketing Society event, he said he knew nothing about traditional business or marketing when he began in 1982.  He failed to inspire the then owners to sell a ‘Milan style’ coffee experience, unheard of in the US at that time, alongside selling their staple of coffee beans. He left and started his own café called Il Giornale and a few years later took over Starbucks. He has strived to create a company with a soul. There have been detractors along the way; a constant target for anti-globalists and 16,000 employees started a campaign to get union rights in the US.  More recently in the UK there was ‘dipper wellsgate’ in 2008, were stores were exposed for using continuous fresh-running water to clean utensils (although they’ve stopped now). Howard isn’t afraid to speak his mind, upsetting Lord Mandelson with recent remarks about the UK being in an economic “spiral” down.

He is experimenting to recreate ‘the community’ (very much the early focus) that many feel has been lost; the new London store in Conduit Street has second hand furniture.  And stores have even gone unbranded in NY trials, selling alcohol and opening late. A challenging job when you are in 44 countries with a US centric view. Consultants said it would fail in Japan where they have just opened their 1,000th store. Howard was quick to defend his CSR – not as marketing, but as the heart of the company.  He was surprised by a question from Café Direct about how they were supporting African workers and their plans for Fairtrade tea.  Tea is 1.5% of total sales and he explained their conversion to Fairtrade coffee  last year.  RED featured heavily in how the company is ‘bigger than coffee’. As did the campaign to encourage young Americans to use their vote last January.  And Weyclef’s film asked people to get behind the Haiti campaign.   Our host said ‘London was the world capital of cynicism’.  I was surprised he didn’t feel the need to explain the inter related elements of all the good work they are doing. He mentioned micro lending, water projects and that the ‘coffee for a votes’ scheme would run during our general election. I hope these are the bedrock of their business and not just new fads.  Starbucks could mean much more. Ethical Consumer ranked them at the bottom of the café survey in 2005, which demonstrates how much still has to be told about the Starbuck story.  Particularly in the UK.

Windy McDonalds maybe the answer

Achieving lower carbon emissions by 2020 is no easy feat. The government’s recent white paper has real targets and new ideas. But the main concern is that industry have been left off.  The market does require incentives for industry to make the investments in new technologies.

Ed Millband predicts up to 400,000 new green jobs will be created by 2015 (rising to 1.2 million by 2020). Difficult to imagine in face of the closure of the wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight. The Danish company, Vestas Wind Systems, plans to make 625 workers redundant at the end of July, despite rising profits and strong demand. The UK just won’t be able to scale up renewable energy projects. There are only 2,500 wind turbines in the UK – we should be the global leaders in wind turbine technology.

Which brings me back to companies – many of whom are already leading in the field of energy saving technologies.  But I can’t help thinking that McDonalds could hold the winning card – transforming our relationship with energy and food. Imagine the restaurants in 5 years time; powered by renewable energy, meat and veg that is sourced from the very best British farmers.  The message would be all about eating what’s in our back yard and using micro generation to power their sites.  Now that would make me start buying burgers for my kids. British farmers, the energy story, and addressing obesity –  something that would make a real difference.  They too have finally been hit by the credit crunch, Mr Ronald McDonald it could be time for change, a new name and government grants for Mr McDaylight. Now that would help hit Millband’s new green jobs target.

MP expenses; a move from conspicuous consumption to conspicuous contribution

Like me, you were probably initially incensed by the MP expenses scandal.  Now after five weeks I’m bored of the story and would like to know what the plans are for moving this forward in away that is workable and hopefully something that we all feel we can trust in.

After five weeks people do still have an appetite for more, but how long can it run?  The original circulation of The Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph was boosted by around 700,000 copies after two weeks, but initial gains in readership must surely be tailing off, with the paper now boxed into an interesting spot in terms of what it does next.

The bigger potential learning from this story is the importance of organisations having a clear and transparent approach to its policies. The MP’s expenses was such a hot potato as it came at a time when other people were losing their jobs, cutting corners on their own expenses and dreading, in some cases, what is coming next.

As governments and corporations focus their agendas on development and climate change issues, it is critical that these are thorough and cohesive across the whole operation.  As our natural resources become even more depleted and carbon rations a part of every day, consumers will be very unforgiving of organisations that say one thing and do another behind closed doors.

As we come out of the current economic downturn, more and more people will be moving away from conspicuous consumption to conspicuous contribution.  People will want to know more about the companies they have a relationship with. It won’t be good enough to simply sell products and services. The critical policies around supply chains, what impact certain product categories have on the environment will be the make or break of tomorrow’s companies and more importantly, those companies who are the most open, transparent and consistent will win.

Greenwash and whitewash – they’re all awash

Surely this must mean the term ‘greenwash’ has become truly mainstream, with a play in its namesake just finishing at The Orange Tree Theatre. A farce set in Bush’s second term, where PR culture has leaked into the very fabric of the US — spin doctors seducing environmentalist activists, and politics swamped by lies and the peddling of greenwash.

Greenwash is a term that has widely been in use for over two decades. It was first coined by an American Environmentalist who was sick of the green claims made by hotels with their ‘re-use your towels’ schemes, which often purported to be for environmental reasons. It has since become widely used to describe companies and organisations who take on green initiatives on a superficial level only.

The expression has its routes in the idea of quickly presenting an acceptable front. Like the description of white washing, it too is a quick fix. But also has the other meaning of one person or team completely beating another, without the losing team so much as gaining a point.

Here’s the interesting connection between white and green wash; the team taking the beating is usually, but not always the weaker, less skilled team. Likewise with greenwash, it is usually applied to organisations taking a weaker, less skilled and less thorough line on green issues. It also tends to fit with companies that are very powerful in their sector and usually — but not always — companies doing the most damage environmentally.

Oh how we white wash the environment with greenwash…