Top & Flop of the Week: KPMG chair's infamous grouse and Daily Express 'green' drive

PRWeek shines a light on major brand and corporate successes and failures of the past week.

Top: Daily Express and 'green entrepreneur' environmental drive

We were tempted to go for the Weetabix/baked beans triumph this week, but that's been (bean?) covered in our Creative Hits & Misses column, so we'll go for this unexpected tabloid tie-in instead.

The Daily Express isn't the most obvious newspaper to rally to an environmental cause. But its Green Britain campaign represents a victory for environment campaigners generally, and in particular 'green entrepreneur' Dr Dale Vince, who is the public face of the endeavour.

The Daily Express and Vince have created a change.org petition asking people to urge the Government to create a 'Zero 4 Zero' policy to boost the tax system by scrapping VAT on low- or zero-carbon products, to fight climate change and protect the natural environment. Research released for the launch found UK adults are more worried about the state of the planet that future generations will inherit (66 per cent) than crime in their local area (39 per cent).

The campaign, which will run until November, when COP26 takes place in Glasgow, was devised by Express editor Gary Jones and PR agency Borkowski, which represents Vince. For Monday's launch, the Express masthead and 'Crusader' icon turned green. The front page, plus five more inside, were given over to the campaign and the issues.

The launch represents a publicity boost for Vince and a reputational fillip for a newspaper that is seldom associated with progressive causes. Let's hope Green Britain also helps to spread an important message to a wider audience.

John Harrington, UK editor

Flop: KPMG chair’s moan to staff

At a time when many are struggling with COVID-19 and the extended lockdown period, how corporate leaders communicate with their teams requires a deft touch.

This week, KPMG UK’s now former chair, Bill Michael, found that out to his cost.

In a town hall with his firm’s financial services consulting team, attended by hundreds of staff, he urged colleagues to “take control of your life and don’t sit there and moan about it”, also insinuating that some people were “playing the victim”.

This preceeded a further rant about how “unconscious bias has been complete crap”.

As far as rallying calls go, this was an incredibly tone-deaf and only Michael will know what he was hoping to achieve. 

Many in his audience will have been affected by COVID-19, whether directly or indirectly, and Michael’s address was criticised internally.

He subsequently apologised and resigned after realising his position was untenable. 

“I love the firm and I am truly sorry that my words have caused hurt among my colleagues and for the impact the events of this week have had on them,” he said. “In light of that, I regard my position as untenable and so I have decided to leave the firm.”

This sort of episode runs the risk of damaging KPMG’s reputation as an employer that cares about the welfare of its employees during one of the most difficult peacetime periods of modern history.

It also offers a salutary lesson on the importance of striking the right tone in internal communications.

Arvind Hickman, news editor

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