Gav, one of our founding directors, recently attended Creative Change Makers 2020 – a conference 'bringing together the best creative minds who share a vision to build a fairer, healthier and more sustainable world'.
As our in-house change maker for all things sustainable and ecological, Gav took some time out to talk with me about the conference and our own research into becoming a B Corporation company.
Morning, Gav. Tell me about Creative Change Makers.
Morning! Creative Change Makers was a three-day conference followed by a day of workshops. I went on the Thursday, with my main driver being to find out a lot more about B Corp. Havas KX were the host (they are one the largest digital B Corps out there) and it was co-organised by L&Co and Creative Conscience, a volunteer organisation.
And how would you describe the conference experience?
It was very relaxed, as it should be with these types of things. A bit shambolic in places, but that added to the charm, and it was very much done from the heart. For much of it, it didn’t feel like a creative conference but more like a kind of 'activist gathering'.
We had people like Extinction Rebellion and Plastic Planet speaking, and both of those talks were very unflinching, no holds barred environmentalism. Extinction Rebellion’s speaker, Will Skeaping, was formerly a graphic designer making a good living before realising “Actually, time is running out and I have to do something.” And that was the message really. It was friendly, but it was also quite uncompromising in places.
What were your key takeaways and learnings from Creative Change Makers?
As with any good conference you come away feeling inspired. Sometimes it can feel like the work we do (creating apps and websites, worrying about colours, fonts and type) is a little bit lightweight in the grand scheme of things, but actually, when you see the power and impact it can have, it’s very inspiring. It was also great to find out more, from a nuts and bolts perspective, of people's attitude about becoming a B Corp. We hear a lot about people’s B Corp journeys, and that made me feel very inspired and motivated towards doing something about the planet.
Were there any key moments that left you thinking “I’m going to try something new when I get back to work”?
To me it’s about attitude and approach rather than doing things differently. If you’re making decisions, is there a better way to look at those decisions? We heard from Vineeta Greenwood, who runs Wordpress agency, Wholegrain Digital. She had created a calculator that will analyse any website and tell you how much energy it’s consuming against a standard site. Or ‘the norm’ as it were. For example, if you serve a page with less code, less graphics, less video, less anything, it’s a more efficient site.
If you can tell the same story in a more succinct format, maybe that’s going to be better because it’s going to be more direct to your customers and it’s also going to be better for the planet because you're using less energy. Thinking about sites in that way was interesting and made me wonder where else we can use that filtered decision making, be it creative or something like where you’re buying lunch.
You’ve been to dozens of conferences – what makes a good one?
It’s the cheesy and obvious answer, but it’s the people. The speakers have to be good and engaging, especially if you’re going by yourself (which I think is actually the best way to go to a conference). I had a great time that day, and it’s probably the first full conference I’ve been to by myself in a while. I found it really friendly and easy to talk to people. It needs to be well organised, with lots of breaks and a good pace. That was something that Creative Change Makers did well. The breaks were more than just a ten minute loo stop – every break was at least half an hour, which I liked.
Also, the venue. At Havas, they had a bleachers-style arrangement, and just having that environment where everyone is climbing around softened it up a bit. Sometimes I think being sat in auditorium seats, or even worse, in rows of plastic seating, can get a bit much. This style was more intimate, more fun. Whether it’s cafe-style seating to encourage people to talk at tables or bleachers just to be a bit more relaxed, I think that actually has a big impact on the whole vibe. So, content, people, place. Those are my ingredients for a successful conference.
It feels like B Corporation had a strong presence at Creative Change Makers. Can we talk a bit about Kyan's journey into B Corp? What does B Corp involve and why is it something that you've been considering for the agency?
We haven’t 100% chosen whether we want to pursue it yet, but we have invested a lot of time and effort into researching it and consulting with others. It’s a decision that we’ve made because it feels like the responsible thing to do as we grow and evolve as a company. It also aligns with the values that we already live by at Kyan. We’re still somewhat in the investigative stage to see quite how much work is involved, and whether we choose to pursue B Corp Certification or not, the whole journey is worthwhile anyway.
It makes you look at every part of your business through the filter of people, community and the environment, as well as your normal filters. It just balances it all out instead of just looking at profit first. Yes, we have to be profitable because we are a business and that is the definition of being a business, but doing that in a way that best helps the people who work for you, the community around them and the impact that we all have on the environment is something we strive for.
So there is a lot more to it than just recycling your rubbish and changing your lights to LEDs?
Yes, the environment is definitely a big part of it but the B in B Corp stands for benefit, so it’s about companies acting for good, and companies providing benefits to the community and the environment. So that's quite obvious when a lot of the B Corp stuff is based around manufacturing and ethical supply chains, which feature less in a digital economy. But we want to focus on it because we don’t have to worry so much about the input into our business, we just have to concern ourselves with the output and doing that in the best way possible.
Is there anyone doing B Corp at the moment who you admire or who you look to and think ‘Yes, they’re doing it right’?
I think it’s a case of heightened perception. Once you start looking into B Corp these things just pop-up onto your radar and you’re like ‘Oh yeah, they're a B Corp!’ So the obvious ones from a manufacturing point of view are Patagonia and Body Shop, but then very large companies can also do it. For instance, Havas, who I talked about before, are a big, multinational digital agency, and they’ve managed to do it.
But then there’s some great little startups, and one that just popped up to me was a company called ‘Karst’ who create notebooks purely out of recycled stone. It’s great to see something as seemingly innocuous as a notebook, but made from off-cuts of industrial stone. They are creating a better product which is tear proof, waterproof and longer-lasting. And of course, our agency neighbours Studio Republic.
So is there enough out there right now to have an agency running through entirely sustainable means?
This is the thing – it’s a case of just putting that filter on everything you do. You can buy a standard notebook and it’s going to cost you £9 from Moleskine or you can buy a Karst notebook which will cost you £15. They will both last you a year, but one of them that isn’t a by-product of cutting down trees and is not made through a major industrial process. That has to be a good thing and if you just make those choices every time you do something, then it all adds up. Where you put your money, where you source your paper from, your energy suppliers, whether you turn your computers off at night, how well you recycle your waste. It’s more than just ecology, it’s what we do to give back as well.
And looking ahead, what conferences are you excited about in 2020?
Obviously TNW (which we are attending that as an agency) and I’ve also signed up to go to Jamstack, which is a serverless conference in the UK. I think they have one in San Francisco too. And obviously our own flagship tech conference, WXG, which goes without saying. It's the jewel in our crown.