Values Aren't Worth Much If They Don't Cost You Anything

Values Aren't Worth Much If They Don't Cost You Anything

As more advertising and marketing agencies certify as B Corps, the social and environmental practices of their client rosters are increasingly being scrutinized with the fundamental question being: "How can you be a company working for social and environmental impact when your talent and good work are helping clients that are working at cross-purposes to this aim?"

Case in point: Shell Oil recently announced it would put its advertising media account up for grabs, and B Lab - the nonprofit that certifies B Corps - responded that this could endanger a B Corp's certification status if it were to be the winner in this review process.

"B Lab has not stipulated the exact industries that B Corps cannot work with. That being said, if a company has clients in the fossil fuels, defense, firearms, gambling, hazardous materials, pornography, prisons or tobacco industries then their eligibility for certification would be reviewed,” said B Lab UK Executive Director Chris Turner in an interview with the media publication, The Drum.

It will be interesting to see how B Corp agencies such as Wieden+Kennedy and Havas respond to this opportunity. In a competitive industry during challenging economic times, the pressure to go after this business will be immense.

I should know. I've made what I view as the values-aligned decision many times and have turned down the opportunity for millions in client billings. But I have also made the wrong decision.

I once competed for and won the account of a convenience store that derives most of its sales through gasoline, tobacco, alcohol, and generally unhealthy food products. I didn't take on this client to make bank, but to keep people employed – it came at a low financial point for our agency. While it was my basic humanity speaking, I definitely rationalized my way to the decision; the client made significant charitable donations and every single one of our employees patronized its business - whether to fill up a tank or grab a cup of coffee. I eventually resigned the client – which had grown to become the agency's largest –to focus exclusively on higher-purpose brands, and we took our lumps to live our values, including layoffs. It most definitely was not a high point in my career from any perspective, and I still cringe even in this retelling.

I'm curious to know if you've encountered similar ethical dilemmas in your career or with your business and how you've handled them? Also: How do you vet your customers (and your supply chain) to ensure they are in alignment with your purpose a social and environmental impact business? I think we'd all benefit from hearing from one another on this one.

Godspeed, friends.


Trivia Time

How much of the municipal solid waste worldwide comes from textiles?

  • 3%
  • 5%
  • 8%
  • 12%

Today's trivia answer can be found at the bottom of this newsletter.‌‌‌‌

Find the Most Meaningful Work of Your Career

Our partner One Work has you covered with meaningful work that goes beyond a paycheck, a cubicle, or a weekly team Zoom call. In this week's "Brewing Up Impact" edition, you'll find purposeful jobs like those below, along with many more at the One Work website.

• NEW BELGIUM BREWING - From the company that made fat tires and beer synonymous, here's a cool position from a certified B Corporation that's long been at the forefront of environmental impact. Plus, it invests in the longevity of its employees by giving each one a free trip to Belgium after they have worked five years for the company. Brand Ambassador, Raleigh, NC; Vail, CO; or Ann Arbor, MI.

•  SEEVEES - SeeVees makes cool footwear from recycled materials, belongs to 1% for the Planet, and strides to be extra conscientious in its supply chain.  Assistant Store Manager, Mill Valley, CA.

• PATAGONIA - Got your attention, didn't we? So here's your chance, folks, to work for one of the world's leading social and environmental impact companies. They have a number of openings (check the One Work site). Sales Director, Patagonia Provisions, Sausalito, CA.

Check out One Work's full roster of purposeful jobs with mission-driven companies and organizations.‌‌‌‌‌

Trivia Answer‌

Gimme Five - as in 5% of the world's solid waste comes from textiles. Think about that the next time you stand in front of a rack (or an online gallery) of fast fashion.

Have an interesting social impact tool, idea, or trivia question you'd like to share? Reply to this newsletter and let me know - I'd love to hear about it. You can also hit me up at

Also - please don't hesitate to forward this to a friend you think would benefit from it - thank you!

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