Havas is committed to maintaining social and environmental standards
- Havas New York was awarded B Corp status from the nonprofit B Lab.
- The trend has started to gain momentum among other advertising and PR agencies lately.
- Certification is a way to attract more talent and new clients for agencies.
As people increasingly hold companies accountable for their social and environmental values, advertising companies are also engaging on these issues as part of their business case to attract new businesses and talent.
Havas New York announced today that it has achieved B Corp status, a certification that assesses a company’s practices through initiatives such as sustainability, employee well-being, pay equity, diversity, social benefits and community. Havas offices in London and Amsterdam are already certified.
The B Corp distinction is awarded by the nonprofit B Lab, which scores companies on a point system measuring five key areas: governance, workers, environment, customers and community.
The Havas certification is a way for the agency to show its stakeholders, investors, employees and clients its continued commitment to social, environmental and economic good as a business strategy, CEO Laura Maness told Insider.
The agency, for example, recently created a new role to lead its social impact efforts and has attracted clients, including commercial real estate company JLL and sustainable packaging company Yash Pakka, who embody the same shared values, she declared.
“A majority of consumers today believe that businesses must act now for the good of society and the planet,” she said. “We’re sticking to that standard because it has to go beyond storytelling and plating. It’s not just greenwashing – we have to take the plunge.”
Since 2006, B Lab has certified 3,500 companies, including sustainability-focused brands like Patagonia and Allbirds. The trend has also started to gain momentum among advertising and public relations agencies lately. One of the hottest names to jump on the bandwagon is Havas, which is part of the fifth-largest advertising holding company in terms of workforce and market capitalization. But other agencies that have been certified or are looking for it include Dept, Teak, and VCCP.
Forrester analyst Jay Pattisall attributed the growth to the shortage of advertising talent, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
âThe values ââare not new, but enjoy a renewed status during the talent crisis and the great resignation,â he said. “Employees are reassessing their priorities and if companies have any hope of retaining talent, tangible certifications like B Corp are important tools.”
For some, seeking out a B Corp status may just be another PR move or a case of reporting virtue. But Maness said Havas would be selective about who he works with and won’t accept clients who don’t match his shared values, like gunmakers, for example.
“We want to work with partners who want to take responsibility for their supply chain and their impact on the collective,” she said.
But it’s easier said than done, Pattisall said. Agencies are theoretically supposed to be the agents of their clients’ needs, which requires separating their values ââfrom those of their clients. So a certification like B Corp can end up presenting complications, leading employees to believe that the agency will opt out of certain accounts, he said.
“Where do you draw the line with categories like automotive, insurance, pharmaceuticals? Pharmaceuticals have played an immeasurable role in helping society fight the pandemic in 2020 and 2021,” he said. he declares.
It’s also a luxury that the advertising industry, which continues to rebound after being ravaged by the pandemic, cannot necessarily afford. And the jury is still out on whether certifications like B Corp actually lead to business wins.
âThe agency world is resurging, but we are still a long way from a point where holding companies can afford to turn down business,â Pattisall said. “I have yet to see an example of certification such as B Corp explicitly linked to agency selection.”
There are other challenges. B Corp companies must recertify every three years to track their progress. They are also subject to random audits and may lose their certification if they do not continue to achieve a minimum score.
While Havas still needs to make improvements in some areas like reducing its environmental and property footprint, Maness said he is committed to the long-term program.
âI don’t see this as a DCI initiative, a sustainability initiative, a philanthropic initiative or a wellness initiative,â she said. “I see this intersectionality as the future of work, and every leader in every business in America, and beyond, must take responsibility for their own supply chain.”