Forget the 'purpose' guff, and do something to be proud of

Authored by Jason Cotterrell, Chief Group Strategy Officer & Managing Director

Last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Unilever’s chief Alan Jope said that “companies with purpose last, brands with purpose grow and people with purpose thrive”. It struck a chord with me.

You hear a lot of fluff from businesses and brands on what purpose means to them, and for their customers. But it only really matters if you’re doing more than just talking and you’re taking positive action. Putting your money where your mouth is.

Deloitte’s recent Millennial Survey revealed 40% of millennials think that the goal of a business should be to ‘improve society’, but clearly this isn’t just about ‘millennials’. Even though this generation is increasingly making up more of today’s workforce, the need for responsible business is universal.

As a medium, out-of-home can make a huge contribution to communities and society, and it already does. Our friends in the roadside sector invest in public service amenities such as benches, toilets, bins, free Wi-Fi and shelters. Others offset their carbon footprint with tree planting campaigns; Clear Channel has planted over 100 trees in the last 12 months, with help from Trees for Cities.

For us, our own success doesn’t just come from the incredible advertising campaigns we run, but the impact that we have in the communities we work with, and for the people we employ. Without them, there would be no award-winning campaigns. Working principally within the transport sector, the revenue we generate is shared with our partners - local authorities and organisations - who reinvest it to improve the service and amenities for those that use the networks day in, day out.

We are determined to play our part in shaping a better world. That sounds lofty, but it is about our environmental responsibilities, and how we act as a business in a ‘people’ industry.

Global wins Green Apple Award 2017

Recognition from the likes of Planet Mark and The Green Organisation is testament to our efforts to reduce our carbon emissions and improve our environmental impact. We are dedicated to our journey to becoming an even more sustainable business, and were delighted to receive The Planet Mark award for reducing our carbon footprint, and the Green Apple Environment Award for the sustainable outfitting of our offices at Lacon House.

Alongside our focus on a more sustainable environment, is our investment in the sustainability of future generations, helping them with the skills and career opportunities they will need to thrive.

Global Apprentices present to Deputy Mayor of Camden for National Apprenticeship Week

Exterion’s apprenticeship scheme, which in 2018 received the ‘Top 100 apprenticeship employer’ award from the National Apprenticeship Service, currently represents 4.5% of our entire workforce, up from 3.5% in 2017. As I write this, we have 18 apprentices in the business going through the intense programme, which we launched in 2016. It’s incredibly important that we as an industry can offer job opportunities at every level, whether that’s through apprenticeships, or work experience programmes.

We work with some fantastic companies such as Enabling Enterprise and National Citizens Service to give students of all ages the opportunity to come into the business and learn about the world of work. By equipping them with these skills at such a young age, we hope to inspire them and give them the aspiration and experience they need to succeed in life.

From hosting school engagement days with local primary schools, to running voluntary challenge days, we are constantly looking for ways to provide opportunities for young people to learn and develop. This is all about helping them to reach their potential, as well as giving our new and upcoming managers the chance to mentor students, and make a difference to the lives of some local young people.

Team Exterion complete the London Marathon raising money for the NSPCC

Fundraising for important causes is something that our people feel strongly about. For the past couple of years, we have run in the London Marathon, collectively raising approximately £90k for the NSPCC. Having run it myself, through the sweat and tears, and aches, I can say it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. We are also proud to be an ongoing sponsor of The Railway Ball since 2014, which raises crucial funds to transform the lives of homeless children in the UK, India and East Africa.

The advertising industry continues to prove itself resilient in tough times, but this doesn’t always apply to the people who work in it. Advertising and media have a comparatively bad track record when it comes to stress and mental wellbeing.

It is our responsibility to give them the tools and support they need to succeed.

In 2017, we rolled out mental health first aid (MHFA) training to our colleagues across the business, educating 85% of the team on what good and poor mental health looks like, warning signs and what they can do to help. This remains a core focus for us and we commit to training 100% of our employees on MHFA this year.

Joining the Mindful Employer Charter is recognition of the huge amount of work we have achieved around Mental Health. Mindful Employer offers easier access to information, local support, mental health training and other resources to help support our staff and business.

In this industry, we have to keep moving forward. As such, we are incredibly proud to be Foundation members of the enei (Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion). Working with enei, we’ve developed a training programme for Global employees that explores the ‘unconscious bias’, and how this can impact your working life. We are pleased to announce that we will be rolling this out nationwide across the business in 2019.

Whether we are championing Mental Health Awareness Week or hosting a NABS Fast Forward event to support the future leaders of our industry, we wouldn’t be where we are today without the brilliant people we have working in our teams across the country.

We have passionate people doing incredible things in the business. That’s why it is so important that we give back to the people who come in and deliver exceptional work for us every day. That is our purpose, and we take pride in it.

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