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Championing a commitment to meaningful progress – for the planet

31st March 2021

Author Anita Hedges

A Q&A with dentsu New Zealand’s CEO, Robert Harvey and Davanti’s Anita Hedges on the formation of the dentsu New Zealand Sustainability Council.

Robert Harvey and Anita Hedges

Tell us about the formation of the new Sustainability Council. How did it come about?

RH: In the second half of last year, Anita came to me with a question:

How can I help drive dentsu New Zealand’s (Davanti’s parent company) sustainability agenda?

Fast forward to today, and Anita is heading up and driving our newly established Sustainability Council. Anita is incredibly passionate about sustainability and is the perfect person to help us make meaningful, true progress in this area.

Within our business we have a lot of people who are deeply passionate about sustainability, but until now we’d never coordinated or corralled them towards that purpose.

We talk a lot in our business about the importance of people being able to bring their passions and their whole selves to work and find avenues for them to express these outside of their day job. It’s awesome to see Anita bringing this passion and her whole self to this important role and bringing the team together to champion the sustainability cause. I know she will do an outstanding job and I’m hugely appreciative of her commitment.

 

Anita, tell us why you approached Rob and put your hand up to help drive dentsu’s and Davanti’s sustainability commitment in New Zealand?

AH: I want to help change the world – because… why not?

There are two parts to this story. The first is a personal one.

About 18 months ago I was unwell and needed to have a number of surgeries over a period of about nine months. When I returned to work after that, I wanted to do something meaningful and really make my life count. I was looking for a change and a new challenge.

Which brings me to the second part of the story… In the middle of last year, Davanti embarked on its Salesforce Sustainability Cloud journey (which is a really exciting story in and of itself – but more on that soon!) and I began the Sustainability Cloud partner accreditation process. As part of this I did a whole lot of research and training and it got me asking the question, Well, what do we do as a sustainable organisation?

It’s my personal belief that we can’t be the very best for our customers in helping them in their sustainability journeys unless we have our own house in order and are doing the very best ourselves. So, what started as a research, training and fact-finding mission turned into something much more important!

When I started looking into sustainability, I saw the opportunity for us as an organisation to make a real difference in everything that we do, and to create a positive impact on the world around us. And if we can help the world and the environment that we live in even just a little bit, that’s a huge start.

On a personal level, I saw the chance to be able to make lasting, meaningful change and to make my life’s work matter – and most of all to positively affect the world that my children will grow up in.

So, from there I talked to the Davanti team and then I got in touch with Rob. He was pretty excited and asked me, How would you like to champion sustainability for dentsu New Zealand? I jumped at the chance, we chatted, I talked to the Davanti leadership team, and here we are!

 

Rob, what made you jump at Anita’s offer? Why form the Sustainability Council, and why now?

RH: dentsu’s organisational purpose is to be champions for meaningful progress. To really drive meaningful progress for our different stakeholders – our customers, consumers, our employees and, ultimately, for society – there are a number of different areas where we need to make positive social impact. As part of our global Social Impact strategy, over the past couple of years here in New Zealand we have made some real progress in our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion and Digital for Society, but one area where we’ve only tinkered in the past is in the area of sustainability.

Sustainability is a real focus for us globally. Last year, we announced that we were the first company globally within our peer group to be powered by 100% renewable energy, and we have just set a target to be a net zero emissions business by 2030. (I’ve challenged Anita to look at how the council can help dentsu and Davanti achieve net zero emissions much sooner than 2030. It’s going to be challenging in some markets, but there’s no reason we can’t look to accelerate change here!)

With the establishment of the dentsu New Zealand Sustainability Council, we have the opportunity to take our overarching organisational purpose – to be champions for meaningful change – and drive specific, local social impact.

For me personally, I’m really passionate about the role that we play in society as an organisation, and how we use the power that we have as an organisation to tell stories and encourage more sustainable behaviour in society as well.

Enabling growth and good, in tandem

One thing we talk about a lot about at dentsu is the dual responsibility we have as an organisation to enable both commercial growth and social good. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

Sustainability is a really important Social Impact subject for us, and it’s our role in society to enhance our understanding and live more sustainably, but it’s also an opportunity for growth. By way of example, Davanti’s work implementing Salesforce’s Sustainability Cloud for New Zealand organisations is an important opportunity for us to help guide clients on a more sustainable, strategic journey, supported by technology and the actionable insights they need.

 

What next? What happens from here?

AH: With our council of 10 now formed, things are starting to happen at flying speed. We’ve kicked off with a bunch of brainstorming sessions using Miro and now we’re forming our game plan! It’s great to now have our purpose statement, which will guide us in everything we do.

dentsu Sustainability Cloud purpose statement

Learning from those who have paved the way

In forming the council, we’ve had the benefit of being able to leverage dentsu’s extensive global Social Impact work and resources, and to work closely with Kimberly Kastelan, dentsu NZ’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, and to also connect with Anna Lungley, dentsu International’s Chief Sustainability Officer, to learn from their experience and frameworks, which has been phenomenal.

Joining the Sustainable Business Network

Another really exciting and important next step for us has been joining the Sustainable Business Network, New Zealand’s largest sustainable business organisation, which will connect us with a network of organisations focused on sustainability, and provide us with a wealth of resources and tools for us to use.

Today the Sustainable Business Network is releasing the Climate Action Toolkit, which will give us what we need to get started on an internal audit and create a check list of things we can start working on right away.

I’m also really excited to be attending their leadership course over the next three months, and looking forward to bringing my learnings back to the council as we go forward.

 

RH: With the council’s purpose and mandate now formed, I’m really excited for us to be at the point where we’re turning strategy into action. I’m looking forward to seeing – and being part of – meaningful, tangible results – in how we work with clients, our own sustainability practices and in our ability to help New Zealand organisations with their own sustainability journeys.

 

If you’d like to know more about our sustainability journey, we’d love to share our experiences so far. Please email Anita at anita.hedges@davanti.co.nz.

You can find out more about the Sustainable Business Network’s Climate Action Toolkit here.

You can find out more about dentsu’s global Social Impact Strategy here.