Opinion: Some Stern words for PR consultancies

The look for autumn/winter is most definitely green. Comms people are falling over themselves to prove the environ­mental cred of the brands they represent, and their consultancies.

For many, last week's report into the economic consequences of climate change, written by Sir Nicholas Stern, signalled the tipping point in this debate; where the ethical and moral argument was joined by an economic and commercial imperative.

It was partic­ularly significant to see easyJet announce this week, as predicted by PRWeek earlier this year (30 June), that it will shift its marketing emphasis away from price-driven offers towards the promotion of green credentials. The apocalyptic Stern report pointed to air travel as the fastest growing cause of climate change.

As we report this week, a growing number of PR agencies are recognising the advantages of becoming carbon-neutral themselves - although, with the exception of Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster, those who have done it tend to be smaller consultancies.

One would hope there is an element of genuine ethical concern here, but even if it is simply a hard-headed commercial decision, it is no bad thing. Smart consultancies realise they are unlikely to win major CSR projects for clients without walking the walk themselves. Surprisingly, we discover that not a single top ten UK consultancy can claim carbon-neutrality and, more worryingly, the Carbon Neutral Company says ad agencies are ahead of PR shops in this regard.

One could be forgiven for viewing this ‘green rush' as the latest media bandwagon and take the conclusion that it will pass, much as it seemed to after the mid-90s.

This now looks unlikely. Carbon neutrality is set to evolve from a marketing advantage to a hygiene factor; something that any viable business must have. And, if we look more closely, we see those that took the ‘first wave of green' to the heart a decade ago - BP and Toyota being prime examples - are now reaping real benefits in terms of reputation and market share.

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