Meet Nick Davies, the founder of Neighbourly, an online platform that connects community projects with businesses that want to help. I recently met Nick at the launch of the platform in the Netherlands – and followed up with an interview. Here’s what he said about corporate responsibility, opportunities for brands and the leadership to drive change.
Bloom versus gloom
My vision of a sustainable future is society living within its means – environmentally and socially. As consumers and business leaders, people realize that we have to change the way we live to achieve this. Business can be a powerful catalyst for this change if it applies its resources well. By investing its marketing budgets differently, brands can inspire people as consumers and citizens – and grow the business at the same time. Brands and marketers have tremendous opportunity to inspire change with success stories as opposed to the doom and gloom messaging that puts people off.
Progressing sustainability from peripheral to core
In the past decades, many leading companies have embraced corporate responsibility by putting a CSR (corporate social responsibility) or sustainability team in place. Such teams continuously bring the topic to the agenda. But now it needs to progress from peripheral to the core, to become a systemic part of how business is done. Corporate responsibility is moving beyond the moral argument; it is an increasingly relevant for companies’ commercial opportunities. For marketing this means a change in focus from entertainment to supporting the parallel pursuit of ambitions for people, planet and profit.
In search of brave leaders
When societal impact progresses beyond the CSR department and becomes part of consumer engagement and hard business numbers, it resonates with business leaders. For companies to really capture the opportunities presented by this new reality, strong leaders are required, with a long-term horizon and brave enough to defend it to its shareholders and other stakeholders. The best leaders also realize that this change starts on the inside of the company; that they need to get things lined up on the inside before it can effectively drive change and inspire on the outside. Consumers are quite fair when they feel companies are genuinely trying, but in the connected world, consumers are quick to uncover greenwashing.
Redefining the roles of business and government
Some may argue that it is the role of government rather than business to protect people and planet, but government knows that it cannot do this alone. A real shift in behavior requires collaboration between all parties. To move together on this journey, government needs to support business to reinvent itself. And as local government has less discretionary budget to support local initiatives, there is a huge opportunity for business to step up in this role in a way that makes communities and brands thrive.
Connecting brands and communities
Even in our globally connected world. in essence, life is local. For global brands, this could make it challenging to remain relevant in people’s lives. To connect big brands to local initiatives, I founded Neighbourly, an online platform where community projects and business can connect to make change happen. In the UK, Starbucks and Marks & Spencer have been among the first clients. Not only have they helped shape and improve the digital platform to make it better for companies, they also provide great opportunity to celebrate the initial success of the connections established on the platform.
Neighbourly is Nick’s way to drive positive change. In the coming period, he’ll be working with companies to help identify underperforming marketing budgets and invest them differently to have a positive impact on the business and society.
Written by Marjolein Baghuis (@mbaghuis)