Spooner on…The benefits of signing the woke pledge

spooner newI am worried about Lord McKelvey. Whilst draining the moat of the smaller Bavarian Castle Folly at his vast Sussex estate and watching the shadows of the towers, turrets and machicolations moving like dials across the emerald loveliness of the South Lawn, I could hear an eerie, porcine squealing emerging from the woods beyond the ha-ha.

I switched off the mighty Victorian sludge-pump and checked that the vast, portable aquarium, where Lord McKelvey’s hundreds of centuries-old carp were waiting to regain their freedom in the deep, coolness of the moat, was secure – and stepped warily across the lawn, past the cricket pavilion and into the edge of the wood.

‘Squuueeeee! Squeeee! Squuuuuuueeeeeee!”

There it was again.

I could see the first tender green leaves, beginning to appear on the elms and the willows (Spring, as ever, coming early to the McKelvey estate), as I moved towards the glade in the centre with the standing stones and the bubbling spring.

Something glowing and pink caught my eye at the very moment that my shabby boot shattered a twig and the silence at once with a report like a hunting rifle.

Three pairs of eyes turned instantly in my direction.

“Ah Spooner! You worthless cur! What are you doing skulking in the undergrowth like a sex-pest? I was just working on my ujayi breathing with my new yoga instructrix Ms Shapiro. You know Ms Frobisher of course, she was benefiting from the process too.”

I neglected to ask Lord McKelvey why he was stark naked and sweating profusely.

Lord Mckelvey’s PA, Ms Frobisher, fixed me with her cold, exquisite china-blue eyes as a look of mild contempt moved like dappled sunshine across her perfect features.

“Since you’re here, you misbegotten scribbler, I need a column from you at once on the benefits to the business community of adopting a more environmentally and socially responsible approach, in these dark days. Nine sharp tomorrow morning! Off you go!”

The sun was blotted from the sky and the birds ceased to sing as Lord McKelvey again assumed the position known, I believe, as Downward Dog, once more.

‘Squuueeeee! Squeeee! Squuuuuuueeeeeee!”

Trudging wearily back towards the castle, a Bavarian fantasy more lurid and grotesque than anything emanating from the laudanum-enhanced Gothic architectural fantasies of poor, drowned, mad Lüdwig The Second, the tiniest fluttering of half a thought began to unfurl in my lonely head like the primrose promise of Spring.

Good is good

A large part of the work engaged in by Spoon Creative Ltd is done either for excellent agencies such as AML,  Embrace and Fin, who specialise in professional and financial services, or directly for asset management companies and large financial institutions themselves. This category is so ring-fenced with complexity and compliance issues that few others are confident enough to venture into it. Not so Spoon Creative Ltd!

For some time now, I have been writing about ESG funds. (Bear with me here.) ESG funds are those that take into account the Environmental, Societal and Governance-related performance of the individual companies in which the fund is invested.

It’s a complicated world where accusations of “green-washing” fly – and where the process by which those companies are assessed against these criteria is constantly questioned.

BUT! As I have written recently, more responsible investment seems to be better investment.

In other words, those companies which take a responsible approach to the environment, to the society they inhabit and to the way in which they run themselves, consistently seem to outperform those who take a more blasé approach to such matters. Quite simply, good companies seem to be a better investment bet than wicked ones.

Please consult your financial adviser before swanning off to invest only in good companies, but it does seem as if the ancient canard that global capitalism is ethically neutral, is currently being tested and questioned.

Better is better

In this context I would also draw your attention to two exciting, new clients here at Spoon Creative Ltd: Seventh Vegan and the EV Marketplace.

Seventh Vegan is an online luxury boutique selling the kind of bags and accessories that one might find in Vogue, Harpers or Hunger Magazine; exquisitely hand-crafted, huge or tiny and, above all, baffling to all but the committed fashionista.

The difference being that all of these exquisite items are handmade from 100% vegan-certified materials and – more astonishingly yet – every penny of the profits from the sale of these superlatively elegant things is donated directly to animal and planet-friendly charities.

The EV Marketplace, on the other hand, (and I quote from my own copy here) is “the world’s first platform dedicated to buying and selling electric cars, motorcycles, boats, bikes, scooters, skateboards, surfboards and more”. Again, every penny of profit that it generates is donated to environmental causes.

Both businesses have been set up by people who believe passionately in the causes that they promote and who are committed to doing good – but who bring, from radically different directions, skill and expertise that allows them to judge the way in which buying habits are changing.

If the choice is between a bag that is cruel to both animals and the planet – and one that actively seeks to nurture both – and, crucially, both bags are lovely, today’s fashion maven may well make the right decision.

Equally, if the choice is between a gas-guzzling, planet-wrecking internal combustion engine and a practical, emission-free vehicle that offers an enhanced driving experience, even the Clarkson fan may find his head turned.

Neither client will make money for their preferred cause unless the quality is as high, if not higher, than the evil equivalent.

But the very fact that they exist is an indication of a dramatic change in the way that we think about our purchases. Now that we all shop online, challenger brands (if they can get noticed) are competing on a slightly more level playing field than in the past.

Once, your competitive edge might have sprung from a technological development or by attracting the attention of a key influencer (I would love it if Rihanna endorsed Seventh Vegan bags on her charmingly eccentric Instagram account) BUT now younger shoppers have different – and often surprising – criteria for their decision-making.

Whether we are wealthy Baby Boomers adjusting our pension portfolios, hipsters buying luxury fashion, or petrol-heads who are EV-curious, it seems that “the benefits to the business community of adopting a more environmentally and socially responsible approach, in these dark days”, are many and, indeed, several.

Beware “green-washing” but consider your own organisation and how it behaves as a matter of urgency; it may well pay to do so.

Jonathan Spooner is consulting creative director at Spoon Creative

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