for what it’s worth

stories and stimulus from a consumer insight consultant

Actics: Aligning Ethics with Actions

acticsA name sure to be on everyone’s lips very soon, Actics is a brilliant new networking system that helps all companies and individuals to align their ethics with their actions. The first online ethical rating tool, and the first ethical system to implement feelings as an important gradient, the software enables truth and transparency throughout a company, highlighting its understanding of social responsibility far beyond any eco credentials, and further than that, helping align its ethical strategy to make the company better. The system works similarly on a personal level; offering anyone the chance to define themselves through their ethical values, state how they act these out, and then allow their friends to rate in numerical terms how true they are to these and help them to live these values more completely, in what has been dubbed ‘the ethical Facebook’.

With a background in macroeconomics specialising in monetary economics and the Euro, Actics founder Nicolai Peitersen has worked as JP Morgan’s Euro Area expert, creating new trends and vision-based formulas for the bank, and it was whilst working for the Central Bank of Denmark that he founded Kesera, a Danish Think-Tank for scientists, artists and philosophers. The aim was to find people with similar thought process outside of his own discipline, and what he discovered was that despite their different tools and languages they were all working on the same fundamental questions, and all had a similar outlook on life. Excited by this, Nicolai together with his Kesera colleague Jens Martin Skibsted decided to formulise one of these questions it into an academic theory, which gave birth to the three fundamental statements of what has become the Actics ethical system: Proximity, (understanding that ethical action is sparked by a feeling of emotional / personal closeness), Maximisation (optimising the ethical happiness of those in your proximity), and Expansion (actively caring for more and more).

Initially published as an academic working paper, Nicolai decided to pursue this further by establishing the Actics company with the aim of developing a system for people to implement and use within their lives. The Actics technology and software is the resulting system, which you can see as a social community on the web, but which encompasses so much more as well. I sat down with Actics founder Nicolai to find out all about it:

-Can you please explain the Actics system further for us?

The Actics system is about living your ethics in better alignment with your stakeholders. It gives individuals the empowerment to have an ethical dialogue and build a community around a business profile of values.actics cloud

It’s not about environmentalism and sustainability, that’s just one way of living your ethics. Actics is about opening up for pluralism, you can do ethical good in tons of ways, and being nice to the lady at the counter is just as important as offsetting your CO2.

For us the Actics system is a multi-stakeholder tool which helps to optimise all stakeholders’ legitimate ethical demands on a company. Every stakeholder will have different demands on the company, so how do you as a company with limited resources optimize your own ethics with these different ethical demands? And how can you compare them? Because we have quantified ethics in numbers as a quality rather than a truth then that allows us to able to compare each ethical value and see how to improve a company’s ethical impact.

For the first time in history we will have empirical evidence of what works and what doesn’t work ethically. It will be extremely interesting to see the data we can collect over time once we can expand to millions of users across the globe- because then we can get extremely interesting comparative data and give us new understandings.

-What are the applications for Actics? How does it get integrated into the company?

The problem with company values is that people might have it on their website and it’s static, or they might have it on their mousemats or on the walls and then have workshops once a year on how to understand them, but it’s not really integrated into the operations of the company. Our software is a widget like a Skype application that each employee can have on their computer so they can, on an ongoing basis, now share their thinking and their values, and share best practise in living these. We do workshops to help our clients to understand the maximisation principle, explaining not to think of your values or ethics as something static, but as a quality around yourself and the company that you can improve on and optimize on.

What we are hoping is that companies use the Actics system internally first as an educational system into understanding the wisdom of the crowds. All research shows you win by opening up, but our role-out model with clients is to start internally with the intranet and once they get a successful feeling from that we suggest to include their trusted partners in the extranet- and eventually onto their website and into the Actics community online. So in the end all the stakeholders will be taking part in the Actics community.

This gives them a tenable feeling of how they are living their values- and a number to quantify it. With this companies can look at how to grow this number, and can see which stakeholder group has had the most impact on a certain rise or fall of a value, and even what type of suggestions they have given to the company. On the dashboard you can do all sorts of things with data collected- you can break it down into values, focus on brands, look at specific time periods, anything you want. I as a company can see if I reduce packaging what happens to my score? If I give more leisure to my employees what happens to my score? So I know exactly what I can do, to whom I can do it, and on which value to improve my overall score. I can look at the numbers and see what the ethical issues are, and can action them immediately.

-What are your aims for Actics?

There are two sectors in which we want to innovate: one is the CSR sector, we want to revolutionise the CSR sector; in fact our aim is to make the traditional CSR consultancy obsolete – removing the middlemen between the company and the people. We‘ve developed an algorithm and a system so all that feedback is structured, so why do you need the people in-between?

The other is the stock exchange, because the price of a company today is determined by one stakeholder- the investor. What we are saying is that actually all stakeholders ought to have a say in the price of the company through how much they rate the company, because the value of a company is very much determined by whether they can attract talent, and the understanding of employees, future employees and customers.

We are trying to say that it is not only the economic value of a company that is the real value of the company- so by drawing in all stakeholders and assessing the value, and by having quantified it, then it becomes as important an indicator as an economic one. By quantifying stakeholder value you can use it and make it part of your decision-making. Hopefully by quantifying it this way we can contribute towards replacing the mere financial indicator, and at some point we hope to become an actual value pricing of companies that will be on the Reuters monitor.

We want to be guiding consumer choices- so that ultimately when you stand in the supermarket and try to decide which brand to buy you could download the ethical rating of different options onto your mobile. We also want to be guiding jobseekers, guiding investors in which companies to invest in etc- we want to be the indicator that influences choices, whatever they might be. We are currently working on introducing a widget to job portals so as a way of finding a company, or the company finding a candidate they can use ethical values.

-The Actics widget you talk about for companies to have on their website etc- will this also be a widget for individuals to use on their social networking sites?

Yes, you can already put the widget into your Facebook page or blog easily just through a copy/paste of our simple code, and can then get feedback from those who know you or read your blog. You can also assign weights to people’s ratings, as within any situation some people matter more than others – so you can decide whose opinions and recommendations matter more. For example the public might not be as important as your partners or your employees or whoever it might be – so what you can do is assign people a high, medium or low weight which will affect how much their rating changes your overall score.

-What are the plans now for Actics moving forwards?

We are developing a whole load of new technologies- whilst now we only have the Actics.com and the widget/ plug-in, we are getting distributed applications through Facebook which you can use as a monitor to follow your friends and your chosen companies, creating a micro plug-in/ search box on your browser instead of Google, and offering a ticker, like the stock exchange; giving the company’s ethical quote alongside their financial one.

We’re currently making it so that Actics can be integrated with your company’s help, so on-the-spot whilst you’re getting help you can also give feedback, instead of getting an email 2 days later asking if you were happy with the service!

On a personal level we are also implementing zip code alerts so that if I put up an action then everyone in that zip code will get an email about it, telling you what people are doing in your physical proximity and bringing Actics offline too. Oh-and we’re talking about integrating Actics on your mobile so you can rate a service on the spot wherever you are, giving instant feedback to experiences. So we’ve got tons of things in the pipeline!

Wow- thanks, Nicolai!

To explain the system further, the concept founders also wrote a book around the theory- as a practical novel that they use for corporate clients, but which they hope to publish to the general public soon. Contact Actics to find out how you can get your hands on a copy!

Actics.com

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Filed under: evironmental insights, products with a purpose,

John Grant explains his Green Marketing Manifesto

the green marketing manifestoI was lucky enough to get given an early copy of the lovely John Grant’s new book The Green Marketing Manifesto thanks to PSFK. The book is an insightful understanding for marketers and brands into meaningful green marketing, and, as well as being hugely thought-provoking, offers a practical and ingenious ‘roadmap’ guide to help marketing do good and deliver on it’s green objectives, or rather: ‘it’s not about making normal stuff seem green, it’s about making green stuff seem normal’. John very kindly took time out of his super-busy schedule to answer a couple of questions for me (well for PSFK!) and explain his book, his beliefs and his future plans:

Can you briefly explain the ‘roadmap’ that underpins your book?

I wrote the book (originally it started as a paper for a potential client project) to try to make sense of the torrent of recent green marketing initiatives. I wanted to sift out what was greenwash and what had substance – and also try to get to what was actually working, and why; and to map out the terrain a bit.

The structure that emerged from this research into the main types of approach turned out to be a 3×3 grid.

One axis simply describes what is being marketed; is it a public/corporate task, a brand/social identity/community sort of thing, or is it about products, practicalities, inconspicuous consumption and everyday habits? It becomes much simpler to talk about green marketing when you don’t mix up these different levels. Corporate, brand and product marketing are always different. The only thing Du Pont, the Toyota Prius and lagging your loft have in common is the aim to reduce carbon emissions; but in different contexts, and obviously with very different types of marketing, in different media, to different audiences.

The other axis discriminates between three broad types of objectives:

– Green: a company or brand or product, which is setting new standards. It might be a corporate programme like M&S Plan A; a brand conforming to an eco-labeling scheme; or a product which is simply made in a better way. The marketing in this category tends to be quite straightforward and factual. With Green & Blacks for instance, a lot of their marketing has consisted of giving away sample bars (on places like the cover of Good Housekeeping Magazine), so that people who wouldn’t necessarily have considered Fairtrade/organic chocolate can taste for themselves just how good it is.

– Greener. In many markets the main impact comes from how the product or service is used. Hence the potential to work with customers to achieve a bigger result together. The most prominent example in the UK has been Ariel asking people to ‘turn to 30’. That’s a very simple, common sense request. But in other cases, getting people to cut or switch can require education. Did you know that 1/3 of food bought in the UK is wasted. Apart from all the resources that went into production and transportation, food waste produces methane (a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2). Wasted food is reckoned to be equivalent to 1/5 of all car use. There’s a big education campaign called WRAP that launched in the last few weeks to tackle this, and retailers and manufacturers are getting involved too. It’s a really interesting cultural issue and incidentally points out how limited the ‘leave it all to us’ attitude taken by some brands is.

– Greenest. That’s all very well, but gradual improvements and efficiencies are not going to get us to the 90% reductions in carbon emissions that many are now saying are needed. There are going to have to be much bigger changes.

Some will involve giving stuff up. Low cost flights for one. People will still fly, for sure, but not at the level described by LastMinute.com in their “Take5aYear” advertising (which incredibly just picked up an award as ‘the best’ travel industry poster campaign of 2007!) Some recent research found that 80% feel guilty every time they fly. And also that 41% are already using their car less. The message is getting through, and splurging carbon is becoming about as socially acceptable as a fur coat, just look at all the stuff levelled at celebrities.

There will also be instances where people’s needs can be met just as well or better, while doing dramatically less damage. Home grocery delivery is a much greener option, if it becomes widespread enough to drive out-of-town shopping out of business. Tough stuff for Tesco, but when it can save a lot of money, time and also a huge amount of carbon wasted in car trips, heating, lighting, open refrigeration and so on…? Home delivery is becoming quite well established, but what about sharing clubs, libraries, rental and so on, for most consumer durables. How about making it normal to go back to the launderette? (which could reclaim nearly all water and soap, and use expensive low energy machines). This is where we need bold ‘trojan horse’ ideas to help us all over our greenophobia. What if every gym had a launderette, and the treadmills generated some of the electricity?

The bulk of green marketing campaigns have been in the first category so far. Ecoblahblah slogans and all that. In future we need to see more collaboration (beyond ‘pledges’ which so few take, and fewer stick to) and a LOT more innovation. There is a barely a market that couldn’t be reinvented if you started again, thinking about planet, people and profit together. We don’t need sustainability communications, so much as an avalanche of inventions.

How far behind this understanding do you think the advertising industry is?

It varies, there are some very switched on agencies and individuals and then there are the other sort. Also it simply depends on the brief. Advertising is great when you have something scarily new to mythologize and bring to the mainstream. It’s also good at simple collaborative actions. It’s often a disaster waiting to happen when you are ‘communicating your green credentials’. There’s also the question of advertising’s place in any media mix, its credibility, authenticity. The utility companies (some of them) have a good story around their green energy tariffs. But I need to read about this on Treehugger, not see it in an ad break, surely?

We know the title of the book was under debate and you got lots of input from your blog readers, but what made you decide on the Green Marketing Manifesto?

The Green Marketing Manifesto was the original title for the project, and my publisher liked it because it was straightforward and also connected with my previous books called The _ _ Manifesto. I just wasn’t totally sure about it. Was ‘green’ too narrow? I quite liked the idea of something less ‘trade book’ for instance The Beautiful Coincidence (ie when breakthrough ideas were equally good for people, planet and profit). In the end I ran a poll on my blog – PSFK were very helpful by the way in directing people to this – and over 300 people voted. The Green Marketing Manifesto came first. So that stuck as the title.

What would you like to see as an outcome from your book / for the industry moving forwards?

I’d like to see much less greenwash and much more innovation. I’ve spent more time in the last year talking to people in agencies and public forums 2 or 3 times a week, than on writing the book. Lots of people have said it all now makes a bit more sense. That’s what I’d hope for anyway. Radical common sense.

What is next for you??

Myself and several friends are getting together a forum where people in the creative industries can meet green entrepreneurs and hopefully help them by donating ideas, support, advice.

I am also working on a report and event on the big green opportunities – beyond cleantech – for investors and entrepreneurs (with Glasshouse, in December).

I have some big plans for next year, mainly working with sustainability experts on innovation programmes, and with some exciting g-commerce start-ups. Less writing and talking, and a lot more doing hopefully!

Thanks John!

Green Marketing Manifesto

Read John’s blog, and definitely go buy the book

Filed under: evironmental insights, worth buying

Lily Allen gets her own TV Show

lily singer and MySpace superstar Lily Allen is being given her own chat show on BBC3. Starting in spring next year the show, currently titled ‘Lily and Friends’, is based around her MySpace success (according to her mum Lily has the most ‘friends’ in Great Britain- 444857 at last check!). Viewers are encouraged to join her social network to be involved in shaping the show- as the audience, as interviewers and even as presenters of sections.

Described by BBC3 controller Danny Cohen as an “important voice of her generation”, Lily is being drafted in to help the BBC reach an online, networked audience, and although they may be taking a bit of a risk by moving into uncharted and uncensored territory with such an opinionated host, if she is allowed to truly have her own voice this could prove to be very successful for them.

According to the BBC press release:

‘ The audience will consist entirely of Lily’s online friends, who will also have exclusive access to behind-the-scenes footage and can sign up to have highlights sent directly to their phones.’

‘Guests will include the hottest celebrities, topical guests from the online world, chart-topping bands and unsigned acts chosen by members of the network. They will all have a profile within the network that the group can access and comment on in the run-up to the show.’

Look out for the show early next year

Filed under: brand extensions, entertainment

Ecopods for the Cross River Tram in London

With the 100-year-old London Underground system struggling to cope with the ever-increasing number of daily commuters and still not able to deal with the unpredictable British weather, Transport For London have been looking to introduce a new tram system that would connect North and South London and offer ‘a safe, green and reliable form of transport’. Planning to run between Euston and Waterloo, with branches to Camden Town and King’s Cross in the north and Peckham and Brixton in the south, the Cross River Tram will help connect multiple areas in 4 of London’s boroughs quickly and easily to central locations, in some cases halving journey time (though that’s probably just due to being programmed to run on time).

tram

The system is not expected to reach construction phase until after the 2012 Olympics, with the aim of starting service by 2016, however local councils are already working on drumming up public support for the project. As a major part of this, TFL and UK initiative ConnectingSouthwark.com hired design agency Wire to develop an eco-friendly identity and campaign, the main focus of which is the ‘Ecopod’ that has appeared opposite the Elephant and Castle shopping centre. The prototype tram station is environmentally friendly (made from a recycled shipping container and powered by solar panels and wind turbines) and offers news and information about the tram and the regeneration programme to all passers-by, both inside the pod itself and through a video presentation projected onto the outside wall. An impressive campaign for a government initiative- plus you gotta love the t-shirts!

tram t

via Inhabitat

Filed under: future cities, stuff on the streets, , ,

Hyatt goes boutique with Andaz

andaz

PSFK were kindly invited to the relaunch of what was previously the Great Eastern Hotel and has now been reinvented as Andaz– the first in a new chain of boutique hotels from the Hyatt Hotel group, and I got to go along and have a good nose around. Located next to Liverpool Street Station in London, the hotel sits in the heart of the uber-trendy East End, offering its 250+ rooms to city-slickers on business trips, or anyone else willing to pay the £400 per night rate!

Andaz (which apparently means personal style in Urdu) Describes itself as a ‘personalised casual luxury hotel experience’, and has replaced the traditional check-in desks with what they call dedicated personal hosts; title-less staff who use Tablet PCs to check you in, respond and cater to your personal tastes and preferences, and aim to build a one-on-one host and guest relationship- rather like a personal butler. The press release proudly states: ‘Guests are empowered to define their own hotel experience and live it with the same freedoms they have at home’, which supposedly translates to 24-hour service and the fact that everything from the mini-bar to the movies is included in the room charge, rather than encouraging you to wander round in your underwear or re-arrange the furniture.

Encouraging local collaboration, the hotel has been decorated with what they are calling a ‘permanent exhibition’ of quotes from local celebrities and creatives ranging from drag queen Jonny Woo to jewellery designer Hannah Martin, and curated exhibitions from local artists will be used to adorn the corridor walls. To enhance the local experience, not only are rooms equipped with pretty darn good magazine guides created in collaboration with Time Out, but as a great extra guests can also borrow ipods loaded with personal tours of the area from those who really live it; local policemen, artists, even the pub landlords.

Doing its bit for responsible tourism the hotel is also impressively eco-aware and includes a long list of energy and world-saving attributes including using 80% less water in toilets, a computer controlled boiler that reduces fuel use by 25%, and locally-sourced fair-trade food and drinks served in the rooms and restaurants.

All in all it seems like an impressive addition to the area, if anyone can afford it let us know what it’s like!

Andaz hotel

Filed under: creative ideas, Luxury

London Takes Digital Advertising Underground

Seen at Euston station- finally London gets on board with digital advertising displays. (excuse the poor quality and shoddy camera work- was best I could do!) We hope to see a lot more of these popping up soon – a prime opportunity for branded utility to enhance the travel experience.

Filed under: ads that caught my eye

Unpackaged: Shopping As It Should Be

Forget your multi-stores banding around the words ‘eco’ or ‘green’ and giving you ‘plastic bags made from 33% recycled material’, how about going back to the good old days of community shops where products were locally-grown, packaging was scarce, and people were friendly. Unpackaged is just that; a store created to be at the heart of the community, and aiming to make environmentally-aware shopping mainstream, desirable and convenient.

unpackaged

Believing packaging to be unnecessary and wanting to sell locally direct to the community who can bring and re-use their own bags, jars and boxes, Catherine Conway created her wonderful store to show consumers that there is another way possible. As she explained, “Everyone treats consumers like they’re really stupid, as though they need all this labeling and packaging. My customers are really intelligent, they get it”. And so do the suppliers; Unpackaged buys in bulk from fair trade companies, gives preference to suppliers who are cooperatives or social enterprises, and does packaging swaps with smaller suppliers to minimize unnecessary waste.

By starting out at a stall on Exmouth Market a year ago, Catherine trialled her idea with a social enterprise grant and found a base of loyal customers happy to supply their own packaging in return for a 50p discount on each purchase and the experience of guilt-free shopping. These shoppers have followed her up the road to her more permanent address, as have a staggering amount of media folk: despite being open for a mere week, Unpackaged has already received press from BBC London TV and Radio, Radio 4, CBS, The Independent, The London Paper, and most importantly for Catherine, the two local Islington papers.

unpacked store

As part of her prototyping for the launch of the store, Catherine trialled a delivery service for local shared office space the Hub. For next year this is mutating into a very clever monthly green delivery service for local offices, which will help small companies without big ‘eco’ budgets to be as green as possible. The service will mean that once a month Unpackaged will go in and fill up all the washing-up liquid, soap, toilet paper, tea, sugar and other non-perishables with environmentally-friendly products.

And as if all of that wasn’t enough, the store itself has been brilliantly designed by creative geniuses Multistorey to give a simple but striking brand identity that completely encapsulates the ethos of the company whilst staying true to the building which itself used to be the local community dairy. What is there about this place not to love? Lets all hope that many more such stores make a return to our local communities, following the Unpackaged mantra:

Reduce by only buying what you need
Reuse by bringing your containers for a refill
Recycle what you can’t reuse

Unpackaged: 42 Amwell Street,  EC1R 1XT

Filed under: food n drink, good, search this out,

My views on the Luxury Briefing 2007 Conference

Yesterday I spoke on a panel at the 2007 Luxury Briefing Conference about why web 2.0 is critical for brands, and briefly offered some ideas on the ways in which the luxury arena could embrace digital for the future. For such an influential market sector it is incredible that so many major players are still so averse to understanding the potential for their brands, and much of the day seemed to be spent on explaining what luxury on the web is now, rather than ways in which it could – and should – be leading online.

Whilst the conference offered some interesting insights and re-ignited a conversation topic that these brands seem to have been trying to get to grips with for years, there was a lot left unsaid and so many questions still to be answered. Attention was focused on sales and networks, and speakers only briefly brushed the surface of the key points of focus for luxury brands, namely the importance of using connectivity to enhance the experience (rather than just the sales), and the personalized relationship than can be fostered with a new global customer base of varying ages. A couple of these were broached during my panel discussion, however there’s still so much I never got to delve into and I would love to continue the discussion with anyone who is interested. For example, there was not one mention of the rapidly growing market in luxury rentals online and the impact of this for the brands, nor of the changing forms of ‘luxury’ and how the web offers a chance for integration.

Filed under: Luxury, my rants

Google at the Gas Pump

google gasFor lost drivers without Google on their dashboard, digital directions will soon be available as you fill up the tank. From next month thousands of new gas pumps with inbuilt Google map displays will open across the U.S. offering search categories including local landmarks, hotels, restaurants and hospitals. Once a destination is selected the pump will then print out directions to help the happy motorist on their way.

The aim is to eventually be able to offer specific directions based on an inputted address, however for now all the local results are selected by the gas station’s owner- and as this service won’t include any ads, that means they wield ultimate power. It will be interesting to see which brands, stores and chains make the grade on a local, personal level- and which are left out.

A.P: Latest Additives at Gas Pumps: Google

Filed under: brand extensions, mobile lifestyles,

Kitchen Appliances as Boutique Buys

kitchen luxeAfter the launch of the Porsche Poggenpohl kitchen collaboration, it seems that household appliances are the latest in luxury must-haves. Known for it’s exclusive fashion ranges and uber-cool design offerings, Parisian concept store Colette is the first to cross over into the kitchen with it’s newest addition: an exclusive collection from Hoover.

Collection Black is a range of household appliances in matt black that “premiered” in the store last week, hoping to raise the design profile of the brand through what it describes as a collection of “extreme elegance, perfectly in line with the new tendencies of the kitchen”- whatever that means. An impressive coup for the brand, though not sure what it says about the much-respected store: a true belief in the product and design, or selling out for a slice of the marketing budget?

Hoover Collection Black – (only available in French)

Filed under: brand extensions, clever promotion

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