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Building an Ethos of Sustainability

Building an Ethos of Sustainability

Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

November 13, 2019

Havas Media delves into the partnership between Citi and Global Citizen at this year’s Fast Company Innovation Festival

"At Citi, we want to find the experts and give them the platform and the resources they need to make powerful change"

The fifth annual Fast Company Innovation Festival convened last week bringing together thousands of creators and innovators across the globe for five days of inspired conversation and networking.

As part of this year’s festival, Havas Media NA hosted a panel that shined a light on the unique partnership between financial services company Citi and Global Citizen, an international organization working to end extreme poverty by 2030.

On November 6, the Global Head of Mx at Havas Media Group, Thomas Minc, chaired a discussion between Global Citizen’s Vice President of Global Policy and Government Affairs, Madge Thomas, and Colleen Crawford, Senior Vice President of Brand Strategy and Advertising at Citi.

The panel discussed the establishment and growth of Citi and Global Citizen’s eight-year partnership, and how brands can authentically integrate an ethos of sustainability into the foundation of companies.

“Havas Media Group has made it a corporate mission globally to make a meaningful difference to brands, businesses, and the people we work with,” Minc said. “Sustainability is a big part of making a meaningful difference. However, too often it’s sustainability on the side and sometimes, for so many brands, it’s still about slapping their logo on a great sponsorship but not really walking the walk or talking the talk. It’s more about using an image of a good cause, rather than having it rooted in the culture of that brand.”

“Part of the job that Citi and Havas Media have as leaders in the space, is getting the word out that doing good will ultimately make them more competitive in this market place. Consumers are fickle and they can see through a brand’s DNA. Because consumers respond to authenticity means that it’s beneficial to a brand.”

How Can Brands Build Credibility?

For brands, it is vital to choose partners whose values closely align with your organization and its goals. Citi views itself as a global bank with a mission to make a meaningful impact on clients and the communities it serves, but Crawford admits Citi is not an expert in sustainability.

“We have certain things that we do really, really well and we can help move things along, but we’re not going to try to tackle these issues on our own,” she says. “We want to find the experts and give them the platform and the resources they need to make that change. We look at where we think our resources and our strengths can make a meaningful impact and we address those in the same way that we would address a business challenge. We go out and we look for the organizations that are game changers in that space and that are really bold, with really innovative solutions that are going to have real impact. Then we take our resources, our finances, our global voice, and our global scale and we put that behind those game changers to help them progress forward. With Global Citizen it was a really easy decision for us because there are so many synergies between our mission and what their mission is.”

With more than 140 million credit card customers and employees across the globe, it was important for Citi to link with a global partner that had the potential for international engagement.

Crawford said, “The fact that Global Citizen is global was really important to us because we have employees all over the world and it gives us the opportunity to engage with all of them. It helps us pull the whole Citi family together.”

For NGOs like Global Citizen, partnerships with corporations like Citi are important for building credibility, but not at the expense of the organization’s core values.

“Having someone take a chance on an emerging NGO can’t be understated,” said Thomas. “The weight Citi carries behind it helped us get support and attract sponsorship from others. It built our credibility. We’re a value-based organization so, for us, we have to be discerning about who we work with. We’re going to have an honest conversation about what our values are and what’s in our DNA and that of our partners. Citi was open to that conversation. Within the DNA of their organization, there were issues like world hunger, gender equality, environment, and sustainability. That was an entry point for us to work together.”

"When we’re trying to tackle the issues that we’re talking about, whether that’s extreme poverty or ending childhood hunger, having data points that show that progress is possible is really important"

How Can Brands Build Trust and Authenticity?

To build trust and authenticity, brands need to be proactive in how they tackle issues, rather than be reactive. Crawford believes brands should lead the pack, not follow the trend.

The most effective way to build trust and authenticity is to make large-scale commitments and follow through on them, she says.

“It’s very popular to say that you are purpose-driven but it takes a real commitment and authenticity to show up,” she said. “There’s a number of different ways to see if a brand is really doing that and I think it’s through large-scale commitments such as those with Global Citizen and our links with organizations like No Kid Hungry and the Association of National Advertisers’ #SeeHer initiative.”

This year, Citi was the first US bank to publicly announce the company’s pay-equity gap. Publishing such an “ugly stat” was a risk, but Crawford says it allowed Citi to make a large commitment toward change. “Citi was the first bank in the US to show that, and it was not required to be disclosed. Internally, there is a feeling of what’s measured gets done and we needed to put transparency on it and show it. This is an ugly stat and there were a lot of reasons not to disclose it. We knew we needed to make changes for women and for minorities and we published this ugly number to say, we want to be held responsible and accountable. We have put dates in place for change.”

Thomas added, “Consumers are very quick to pick out when a brand isn’t being authentic. You can’t be a flash in the pan; it has to be embedded in your DNA.”

How Can Brands Be Responsible?

For brands, measuring progress and results is important to achieve change and to further progress.

Crawford said, “Measurement gives transparency to the fact that change can be made. Sometimes when we’re trying to tackle the issues that we’re talking about, whether that’s extreme poverty or ending childhood hunger, having data points that show that progress is possible is really important. Otherwise, those issues can feel insurmountable to people. When you are able to point to data and say, ‘we are making a change,’ you can move people from complacent to engaged. You can say, ‘with your help we can bring things from point A to point B.’”

She added, “We believe that doing good is good business and we can prove that. We know that our association with Global Citizen is lifting perception and increasing people’s desire to become a customer with us.”

Building sustainability into a company’s ethos makes an organization “more competitive”, Thomas says.

For Citi, partnerships with organizations like Global Citizen also retains top talent.

Crawford said, “People are asking what companies stand for and they want to see a company that is really making change and being purpose driven. They can choose to go where their work will have an impact.”

For more information on the Citi and Global Citizen partnership, visit their website.

"At Citi, we want to find the experts and give them the platform and the resources they need to make powerful change"

The fifth annual Fast Company Innovation Festival convened last week bringing together thousands of creators and innovators across the globe for five days of inspired conversation and networking.

As part of this year’s festival, Havas Media NA hosted a panel that shined a light on the unique partnership between financial services company Citi and Global Citizen, an international organization working to end extreme poverty by 2030.

On November 6, the Global Head of Mx at Havas Media Group, Thomas Minc, chaired a discussion between Global Citizen’s Vice President of Global Policy and Government Affairs, Madge Thomas, and Colleen Crawford, Senior Vice President of Brand Strategy and Advertising at Citi.

The panel discussed the establishment and growth of Citi and Global Citizen’s eight-year partnership, and how brands can authentically integrate an ethos of sustainability into the foundation of companies.

“Havas Media Group has made it a corporate mission globally to make a meaningful difference to brands, businesses, and the people we work with,” Minc said. “Sustainability is a big part of making a meaningful difference. However, too often it’s sustainability on the side and sometimes, for so many brands, it’s still about slapping their logo on a great sponsorship but not really walking the walk or talking the talk. It’s more about using an image of a good cause, rather than having it rooted in the culture of that brand.”

“Part of the job that Citi and Havas Media have as leaders in the space, is getting the word out that doing good will ultimately make them more competitive in this market place. Consumers are fickle and they can see through a brand’s DNA. Because consumers respond to authenticity means that it’s beneficial to a brand.”

How Can Brands Build Credibility?

For brands, it is vital to choose partners whose values closely align with your organization and its goals. Citi views itself as a global bank with a mission to make a meaningful impact on clients and the communities it serves, but Crawford admits Citi is not an expert in sustainability.

“We have certain things that we do really, really well and we can help move things along, but we’re not going to try to tackle these issues on our own,” she says. “We want to find the experts and give them the platform and the resources they need to make that change. We look at where we think our resources and our strengths can make a meaningful impact and we address those in the same way that we would address a business challenge. We go out and we look for the organizations that are game changers in that space and that are really bold, with really innovative solutions that are going to have real impact. Then we take our resources, our finances, our global voice, and our global scale and we put that behind those game changers to help them progress forward. With Global Citizen it was a really easy decision for us because there are so many synergies between our mission and what their mission is.”

With more than 140 million credit card customers and employees across the globe, it was important for Citi to link with a global partner that had the potential for international engagement.

Crawford said, “The fact that Global Citizen is global was really important to us because we have employees all over the world and it gives us the opportunity to engage with all of them. It helps us pull the whole Citi family together.”

For NGOs like Global Citizen, partnerships with corporations like Citi are important for building credibility, but not at the expense of the organization’s core values.

“Having someone take a chance on an emerging NGO can’t be understated,” said Thomas. “The weight Citi carries behind it helped us get support and attract sponsorship from others. It built our credibility. We’re a value-based organization so, for us, we have to be discerning about who we work with. We’re going to have an honest conversation about what our values are and what’s in our DNA and that of our partners. Citi was open to that conversation. Within the DNA of their organization, there were issues like world hunger, gender equality, environment, and sustainability. That was an entry point for us to work together.”

"When we’re trying to tackle the issues that we’re talking about, whether that’s extreme poverty or ending childhood hunger, having data points that show that progress is possible is really important"

How Can Brands Build Trust and Authenticity?

To build trust and authenticity, brands need to be proactive in how they tackle issues, rather than be reactive. Crawford believes brands should lead the pack, not follow the trend.

The most effective way to build trust and authenticity is to make large-scale commitments and follow through on them, she says.

“It’s very popular to say that you are purpose-driven but it takes a real commitment and authenticity to show up,” she said. “There’s a number of different ways to see if a brand is really doing that and I think it’s through large-scale commitments such as those with Global Citizen and our links with organizations like No Kid Hungry and the Association of National Advertisers’ #SeeHer initiative.”

This year, Citi was the first US bank to publicly announce the company’s pay-equity gap. Publishing such an “ugly stat” was a risk, but Crawford says it allowed Citi to make a large commitment toward change. “Citi was the first bank in the US to show that, and it was not required to be disclosed. Internally, there is a feeling of what’s measured gets done and we needed to put transparency on it and show it. This is an ugly stat and there were a lot of reasons not to disclose it. We knew we needed to make changes for women and for minorities and we published this ugly number to say, we want to be held responsible and accountable. We have put dates in place for change.”

Thomas added, “Consumers are very quick to pick out when a brand isn’t being authentic. You can’t be a flash in the pan; it has to be embedded in your DNA.”

How Can Brands Be Responsible?

For brands, measuring progress and results is important to achieve change and to further progress.

Crawford said, “Measurement gives transparency to the fact that change can be made. Sometimes when we’re trying to tackle the issues that we’re talking about, whether that’s extreme poverty or ending childhood hunger, having data points that show that progress is possible is really important. Otherwise, those issues can feel insurmountable to people. When you are able to point to data and say, ‘we are making a change,’ you can move people from complacent to engaged. You can say, ‘with your help we can bring things from point A to point B.’”

She added, “We believe that doing good is good business and we can prove that. We know that our association with Global Citizen is lifting perception and increasing people’s desire to become a customer with us.”

Building sustainability into a company’s ethos makes an organization “more competitive”, Thomas says.

For Citi, partnerships with organizations like Global Citizen also retains top talent.

Crawford said, “People are asking what companies stand for and they want to see a company that is really making change and being purpose driven. They can choose to go where their work will have an impact.”

For more information on the Citi and Global Citizen partnership, visit their website.

Patricia Murphy is a content creator with a background in digital health and lifestyle journalism. She loves to chat and tell stories.

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