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A podcast interview series with the people and businesses who are working towards a better future for us all.
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S01E04 Adrienne Rand
Jared Hey everyone. Welcome to The Possible Now, a podcast interview series with the people and businesses who are working towards a better future for us all. My name is Jared Henriques and I'm your host this season. I'm the founder of Renga, a brand strategy and design studio in Toronto. Our goal at Renga has been to help our clients become brands that matter.

In order to do this effectively, we felt it was important to better understand what sustainability looks like in practice across different industries. The Possible Now is a front row seat to a series of conversations with business leaders who are solving real world problems with sustainable practices.

We're excited to share our research with you in this way, a better future is possible, and it will take all of us as business leaders, consumers, and citizens to start working towards it. Today, I'm going to be chatting with Adrienne Rand. Adrienne is the VP of Strategy at Public Inc., an impact agency in Toronto, New York and Boston. They're a small team with big clients. Public Inc. Is a full service agency that believes organizations profit with purpose by creating strategies out of the intersection of three core areas: audience engagement, business fit, and impact potential.

In today's episode, Adrienne gives us a lot of insight into the journey of becoming an impact agency. She debunks some of the myths between sustainability and profits, and she touches on what businesses should start to think about when it comes to success and longevity. Awesome. That kind of leads into really the first question that I did want to ask. Where are you working right now? I mean, we're in the midst of a global pandemic. Matt tells me you have a few children. How's the working relationship going right now?

Adrienne So I'm working on the third floor of my house. I just hide in the attic all day long away from my four children. Luckily, my husband's job being in a museum allows him to be the primary chair caretaker right now, which is super helpful, but I often have visitors. So right now they're being bribed with candy just try to stay away.

Jared That's amazing. That's great.

We can just hop right into the fact that you are the VP of Strategy at Public, a full service social impact marketing agency. Tell us about the decision to work specifically in the area of social impact, what Public really does and how business is being affected by this remote world.

Adrienne Sure. I came to social impact, probably how many people actually come to their jobs, which is definitely not a clear path. I was in a PHD program for anthropology and always wanted to figure out how I can add value, make a difference. I was really into looking to behaviour change and getting people to adopt better practices, better behaviours, healthier eating, healthier lifestyles, all of that. It came to me relatively soon in the program a couple of years after the master's, where I was just like, I want to do something where it's getting my hands a little bit dirtier. I stumbled into this thing of social marketing, having never taken a marketing class in my entire life or a business class, and it was always very social science oriented. I realized that this was really interesting. This was the way the world was going, that marketing could have this force.

When I came to social marketing, which was about in 2006 I believe, I worked for a very small agency that mainly did nonprofit and government work. Actually the CEO, or sorry, the Managing Director of the time was Philip Haid, who is the President of Public. He and his partner, Paul Estey had this idea for Public after both having worked in the world of social impact, nonprofit and often the fundraising space.

Companies are starting to dabble in social impact and it's never good. Charities, they're great, but they kind of don't get how to galvanize people in the way companies do. Governments are wanting to do less and less and less, and have less money than ever. Over the last couple of decades we've seen governments actually shrink in terms of the money that they actually spend on social issues. We've actually seen corporates having more and more money and influence. So it was, how can we actually bake a little bit of good into the every day? How can I as consumers, actually add value or do something positive, and how can companies actually be producing something good in the world rather than just simply shareholder value?

They had this idea and Public officially opened in 2008. The economy crashed as you know, so was a really interesting time to start a company. From there, the intention behind Public to really create companies that can profit with purpose was really always the idea. But in practice, it really was a hard sell in 2008. It was a really hard sell.

Jared Yeah, I can imagine.

The one thing that immediately comes to mind with that is, starting an agency that's going a little counter-cultural at any time difficult, and nevermind coming out of the economic collapse we saw. Right now we are in the middle of May, 2020, and there are a lot of people rethinking how infrastructure and business can be done as we've all been forced inside. What did you notice or see, rather than just keeping your head down and believing what you guys were up to, help you guys come out of that global financial hardship and really build us a successful business?

Adrienne It's a great question.

A couple of things. One, we sort of kept the eye on the prize, or the mission of the company, while at the same time doing some other things like: continuing to help nonprofits on their communication, their fundraising, their campaigns, which actually ended up being a really good thing because our history and understanding of nonprofits has actually added a lot of value to the work that we bring to our corporate clients.

Because we understand what needs to happen for a mutually beneficial partnership. A lot of the times now, the best purpose companies are building partnerships. They're not cutting checks off to the side to charities anymore. There is this co-creation. We understand that world. We kept that focus, but of course did a couple other things to pay the bills, which has actually helped.

There was enough interest and people would be very intrigued. It was this interesting thing where companies were often intrigued. We had good conversations, Phil is a very charismatic individual. It's unfortunate you get me instead of him today. But people were so fascinated with what he had to say, and talking about this idea that actually you can create impact at such great scale when the companies are behind this and they're profiting from it. That was the sticking point in the traditional corporate social responsibility model. Companies it was just a line item. It was cash out the door. It had nothing to do with cash in the door. In something like recession, it's the first thing that you're going to cut. You're not going to keep writing checks to that Sick Kids hospital when money's bad or finances are tight.

People are really intrigued on how you could use purpose really, as another driver. You think about the P's of marketing and promotion. We really said purpose is another P. It's something that you can either leverage all the time, like a Patagonia or some of these really great examples, or it's something that you can use at times to your advantage and people would be intrigued. The really interesting thing that has finally flipped the switch, but it wasn't until a couple of years ago, which is no one wanted to admit that publicly. We'd have these private conversations and companies were like this sounds awesome.

People who really seem like their heart was in the right place, they really wanted to see how they could use their company to actually make a positive impact. But they couldn't yet embrace that they would outwardly tell the story that our profits were actually better as a result of the cause campaign we did last month. They just couldn't get their heads around that, as if it was exploiting serious social issues.

And we've seen that actually. So it's like when to think about the evolution, it's like first people were intrigued, but they definitely didn't want to say that publicly. Over the past few years now, people get it. People are talking about it. It's okay. People have embraced that this is actually how we will create more impact. The business round tables of the world actually officially saying that we need to add value. Things like this are really contributing to this kind of change in tide.

Jared Right. That's great.

In 2009, the business that I started was actually a social business. I remember it was not a very common thing to be doing at that time. It was in a consumer products, the philosophy that I was having was, why aren't I not giving in some of these areas is because I'm wasting my money on these other elements. And so, why not make just really a good product that, whether or not the consumer knows we are using to help out. But the difficulty was is that when we had made that commitment to give and to make ethically, our costs were so much higher than the competitors, and the consumers were not interested in actually making that difference. We would run marketing polls and people would say, yes, this really matters to me and I really care. Would you be willing to pay more for it? And they go, Oh no, not at all. How did you walk that line with a lot of your clients?

Adrienne This subject actually, which we call the "say do gap," between what consumers say and what they actually do. We're in the process of actually writing a white paper on this, because it's still there. You said that your company in 2009, and so, and we have a few kind of theories on why we see this gap.

The first, and often it's interesting that you said that when you ask customers that they pay more, they said no, because we actually find in most polling, they say, yes. They're like, I will definitely spend an extra dollar at that coffee shop over that coffee shop.

Jared I might've been sitting there with my handout ready to collect. That might've been why they made the quick no.

Adrienne We find they say this, and then in practice of course it just totally falls apart. And not completely. There are the passionate, purposeful consumers, the conscious consumers who are the ones researching the best everything, no expense is an issue, but that's very few and far between.

What we need to do is to actually make that purpose more mainstream. And there's a few principles. There's a couple of things of why we see some companies being more successful, and of course the product itself has to be good. You can't actually use purpose to mask crappy things, or services that are just not actually as good. We always say, you have to get that right first, because otherwise you have no business. We've seen that with some companies that maybe are really purposeful, but the whole concept of what they are hangs on that purpose.

If it's not actually tasty or an effective cleaner it's just not gonna work. So that's one thing. But also with the gap. I think people answer as consumers when they talk about their intentions, sorry, answer as citizens. What they believe of how society should operate, whether for themselves, or because of peer pressure. Here in a research assignment and someone's like, would you prefer to buy a sustainable product? And you're like, no. Of course there's a perception of, why are you like that? I think when it comes down to it, things still are more expensive often. There's less convenience still to even some of the behaviours remembering to bring your reusable bag, all of this. I think that we tend to think of the consumers as liars. In this whole research experience they just lie. They're untrustworthy. And I actually think the message is they really wants to, and they're actually fairly well educated on what to do. Corporates need to help figure this out. Which is why I love the companies where the scale of what they're doing matters so much. It actually brings that cost down and they can give that back to the consumer. So you can buy sustainable coffee now that's actually very affordable. You can buy sustainable chocolates. In some ways, not having them have to spend more, having them have a selection, convenience, all of these things are really important to consumers.

People are talking about the consumer and the citizen coming together. I think it to some degree they are, but we also have to remember that they might be answering as citizens, and shopping still like consumers, which there is an inherent trade off because they're putting down money and they need something.

Jared We've seen so much in the manufacturing industry that it's a race to the bottom to reduce the costs. Then that gets reflected in the price point. What seems to be required is mass adoption to holding the brands to a higher standard so that the manufacturing also has to elevate. When you're talking about food and fashion, some of the areas where we're seeing this accelerate the most, I would love to hear where in other industries do you feel that we can be really calling to a higher standard in some of these components? Or even if that perception of what I have in terms of the pricing structure is correct. How do we actually make that sustainable change?

Adrienne It's a great question. I definitely think other industries, insurance being one. We worked with an insurer last year and they sit upon some of the most meaningful auto data, as one example, that we would have in this country. But, until we worked with them, they weren't doing anything with it. Except figuring out how to charge their customers, their actuaries, their status. They use statistics all day long and it's like, so why don't we actually take some of that information? And instead of saying, you know what? You live in Roncesvalles in Toronto, I'm going to charge you this much to say, actually, people who live in Roncesvalles in Toronto are really struggling with a couple of intersections. What can we do to bring value to the city of Toronto and the people living in it, and our customers by helping stop that car accident? Which is actually good for us as a company, because car accidents are very expensive to us as companies, and obviously good for the people we're insuring.

I don't think it really just has to be within the consumer goods category. I think this area is ripe for this this model, and actually I'm comforted to see actually in the pandemic because in light of COVID-19, I was not sure what would happen to be honest. Again, especially if you haven't fully embraced it as a company, it feels like, again, the first thing that you're going to just pull back. It's got to be the lowest cost we can do to manufacture this again.

Actually, it's interesting to see we haven't seen that yet. In fact, some of the largest companies have said, we're sticking with what we're doing. We're sticking with plans as usual, consumers are looking for this. It's heartening to see that purpose seems to be here to stay. In fact, it's even brought to light some of the human aspects of work, which I think are really fascinating.

You think about Amazon as an example who has always been able to deliver things to us really, really quickly. Of course we know there's a human cost to that, but you didn't really see it and you didn't really know about it. This has drawn so much attention to working conditions and what low wage workers actually do to get that package on your doorstep.

Whether or not this sticks around, I think there's a greater appreciation for some of these social issues that there never has been before. Where people are like, people in grocery stores should get paid more, this is outrageous. This is such a social good. I think it's going to start that conversation to some degree.

Jared Yeah, that's great. That's really interesting to think about.

All over your website, you see the phrase "profit with purpose." This sounds ideal as a business because it's like, Hey yeah, profit sounds good, and I can do it with purpose, that sounds even better. How do businesses actually accomplish this?

Adrienne Sure. So there's a few different sides really of that profit. Some people are immediately thinking profit, like your sales. That's one way it adds brand value, it adds brand love, brand loyalty, consideration to buy all of those things when people feel very connected to a company because of their values, and so you create that. That's one area.

It wasn't initially what people saw, but now people are seeing the impact it has on both employee retention and recruitment. Someone I just talked to the another day, an executive in a big company saying hiring is no issue for this person, this company, but the retention is really, really hard. Part of that, we have millennials in particular who are many of the people that this company is interviewing. They're looking for value and they want value. They might come and hear that there's purpose, but if it's not really there, they don't want to stick around. That's a very costly for a business to actually not have to constantly be looking and training people. Not to mention, there's tons of studies on level of productivity for employees who feel really engaged. Purpose isn't everything about employee engagement, it's a piece of it. There's other ways to engage your employees, but it can be a very strong driver and peace. Those are our big costs as well. Not to mention, in some cases with sustainability, although there's usually a significant upfront investment, a lot of the changes the companies can make, do save them money.

So when you think about changes in packaging, that might reduce packaging, might end up being a lot cheaper for the company as well. We were working with Converse and they made the big decision to go from two boxes that you get in the mail, one around your shoes and the other one. And then they're like, why are we sending people to boxes? It's bad for the world and it's bad for our bottom line, it doesn't make sense. So some changes that's like the low hanging fruit, but there's a lot of different ways that that companies can really profit from purpose. And we're seeing that they ended up being actually B Corporations, which are, I don't know if you're familiar, they actually were more recession-proof than their counterparts of similar sizes. So actually seeing that and having this purpose mindset means you usually have that more loyal employee base, the loyal consumer base and it's really, really important.

Jared I want to talk about the millennial mindset and talking about the desire to feel a sense of belonging and a tribe with the value. Are you seeing that the same way in the brands that they buy and the their purchase behaviour, or is that mainly in how they would communicate about their place of work?

Adrienne Definitely when they're looking for employment, it actually is very significant. There's research, again you have to take with a grain of salt some of the things that are said in research, because they'll even say that working for a company that is purpose-driven, they would take a pay cut to do so. Which is pretty powerful.

Jared Yup.

Adrienne It's really hard to test when someone's given those two options to see if they did in practice. So I can't say they have, or have not but that's a hard decision probably. Definitely looking at it when going to work somewhere.

They are definitely looking when they're buying as well. Again, there is a range. By and large, millennials are the ones that are driving companies to behave differently. We work with a lot of them who come in and say, we're doing just fine over here with the grey haired subset, but actually we need to start engaging this other group. We've heard the same from companies that actually just need, like the same insurance company I talked about, who was saying, we're having trouble actually hiring younger people, which is the problem for their business.

So you know, insurance, which was probably a pretty glamorous industry to be in back in the day, has no longer kept that up. So there they are saying we have to actually change because we're not going to have the pool of talent.

Jared Right.

So the one thing that this brings up in my mind is, Gen Z is now approaching the 22-23 mark and looking for work. They've been calling them the generation that the Millennials were supposed to be if it weren't for 2008. So let's see what happens after all of this COVID-19 stuff. But the trends before the pandemic struck, are we seeing similar social impact, driven decision making?

Adrienne I don't know. I can't say for certain that we're seeing that their consumer behaviours are matching it. Again, definitely purported values for sure. Reason why a lot of these companies are making some of these decisions because they know that's coming.

What we're seeing is a level of sophistication, I would say in what I do know of Gen Z and their kind of willingness to delve into the issues that maybe previous generations, it was enough to say something. We know that Gen Z is actually like, what are you doing? What's behind that? What's really there?I'm on the older cusp of the Gen X and Millennial, but if something was official looking on a package or whatever it was like, yes, that must be true. Having grown up in the world of digital ,what you see isn't necessarily. I think they are much more critical consumers. We'll have to see if their money can follow their attitudes, but we're seeing that they really have shown a level of sophistication with what they're dealing with.

Jared That's great. All right, I'll switch gears back to Public.

I really appreciate the insights that you had on some of the behavioural psychology of generations. I'm really interested to know how you filter work that comes into Public to ensure that the desire of doing social good is actualized. That it's not the marketing ploy, but it is actually a genuine interest from your clients.

Adrienne One thing I would say is generally we don't end up having to filter because I think it's almost pre-filtered for us. And I know that that sounds kind of funny, but the types of companies that usually get excited about working with us are the ones that see us. We are a bit of a hybrid of consultancy with agency. If you just want someone to make it look beautiful and tell a story, there are endless arrays of some really excellent agencies who can do that. So usually when people are excited about us, it's because we really understand the impact space and we help design the strategies, we design the pillars and the impact goals. We work with companies who help us with impact measurement. There's more depth there and they usually are excited that for a reason. So they've got the goods.

It's funny that you say that because in all my years, I think there was one case where I was like, I'm not sure there's something there. It was after we started in this particular instance, and so I would say I'm usually really jazzed by what are the companies that we're working with are actually doing behind the scenes. And that is super important to us. A lot of times now, companies are hiring us to tell what they call their sustainability story. We're calling it that because it's not necessarily designing their purpose, but it is helping them to tell this kind of story.

And we're like, with sustainability, it's not really what you say, it is what you do. And so you can say all the things you want, but if there's nothing behind that, as they were saying, we're getting more and more scrutiny. Of course, from consumers, there has to be some real meat there. Fortunately, we haven't had to say too often, I don't think there's any reason for us to be doing this together. I think there's just this automatic filter that you can get people who can work probably faster or cheaper than us to just tell that flashy advertising of it.

Jared Got it. It makes sense.

On your website, it says it's not by accident or magic that some organizations are able to benefit from solving social issues. I want to know how you measure the success of your work at Public, because the typical marketing agency or consultancy are going to generate your return on the investment. You want to be able to look at the actual financial impact to the organization itself. With social impact marketing, there's also a level of, how do you actually measure that social impact? How do you say that this was actually successful from a social impact standpoint?

Adrienne It's a great question.

Our clients are in different places with their level of interest in measurement period. So I will say that out of the gates. There actually are tools to help us measure what we call SROI, which is that social return on investment, which is really, really interesting. For every dollar spent, and calculations of the lives that could have been saved from the social impact program. The employee engagement. Change from kind of baseline to where it ended up after the onset of the program. So putting all of those types of calculations, some of them sales, but some of them also those soft benefits of employee engagement, employee morale, "I'm proud to work at this company." You can actually compute for the dollar spent on how you actually change that game.

It's funny that you bring that up because we are wanting to do more work in that, and make that tool more available. We're working with a partner because that will change the game. So often, we get clients from the sustainability department of the company. That's another interesting tension, is that we work with very different parts of companies, and it completely will change what they're looking for out of it and what they want. When we work usually with the sustainability or social impact team, of course, they want to show that the work that they're doing is really critical to the health of that company. So their really invested in understanding these metrics, and they're also looking for ways to be able to measure it.

It is a challenge. Measurement is a challenge, especially impact measurement, even for nonprofits who often end up trying to solve food insecurity, but what they end up measuring is an output of how many pounds of food were delivered and as a proxy. It's really hard to say what your impact over total reduction of food insecurity or these really complex issues. So it's complex, but it's not impossible.

To some extent, I'm thinking of a campaign we did with The Body Shop, where it was a social campaign to stop animal testing, to get it banned officially in Canada. During our campaign period, we did see that sales and profits of the store had actually increased as a result. There's no other reason that traffic would have increased by 20% outside of this, nothing else had changed. You can see these things, but it's great to put it all together to tell that bigger picture, because what happens is then you really do get this isolated. We saw this in sales. We saw this over here from HR about employees. This space is still so new that we haven't yet actually come up with this easy formula that people can plug and play the way they know how to do with a typical ROI from a marketing campaign.

Jared Right. That makes sense. Yeah.

I can imagine it would be quite difficult to measure the difference in how hungry someone was feeling based upon food distribution, or just even the delta of the food that they had in their house before versus having it now, and the quality of that food. I imagine it gets quite complex.

Adrienne It does. It's comforting because it's quite complex, also for the nonprofits who are doing a lot of the program delivery. But it's still really hard because every now and then you get that CFO in the company who's like, why are we doing that? I want the response to be, it's doing so much good for your company. But when you talk to finance people, they need to see that very logical, we spent this, and this is our return on I want to see the social impact too but it depends where you sit in the company how important that is to you. Tying it all together, I think that's where the space is going.

Jared Yep.

Adrienne More and more, our clients do want to measure. They do want to know. They need to prove that it's money well spent. When there's a world where there's a lot of places that you can invest in, this ultimately often does cost money.

Jared Yeah, for sure.

If that's where the world's going, what the longterm look like for nonprofits? As for profit corporations start to develop a more impact mindset and have the resources to be able to self fund a lot of these different things, I'd imagine there'd be less and less of a need for nonprofit organizations that rely on fundraising.

Am I completely off base there?

Adrienne It's an interesting theory. I don't have a crystal ball either, but I don't think that's what's going to happen. That's actually because, if they're smart and this is how we advise our clients, you do your business and let the issue experts do theirs, and collaborate and work together.

We never want our clients to try to come in, particularly when you're talking about really sensitive issues with communities where they aren't established and actually kind of try to intervene. There are people who know what to do. There's sometimes a purpose company might be developing a new innovation for instance. That's a bit different. I would put that in a whole other area. You can do solar panels on houses or whatever, you don't need a nonprofit partner. If you want to make an impact in the community, you still want partnerships.

I don't think we're going to lose nonprofits, in fact, I could almost see an argument for smaller nonprofits being able to flourish. Right now, so many of the nonprofit partners of the past had to be big, you had to be national. Now, companies want to have that really local flavour. They want to partner with someone who isn't the massive Heart and Stroke or Cancer Society. They actually want to invest in someone who's doing something really cool, but it's smaller on a grassroots level.

Jared For sure.

I think your answer definitely convinced me that I was way off base. It might just be the end of charity golf tournaments and fundraising that way, and a revamp of the fundraising

Adrienne I think you're onto something there. We did have a client last year was like, can you give us a walk? And we're like, can we do anything else? There's a place for lots of these things, but I think some things get stale and they need that constant innovation. Even if it is, what are those fun events that raise a lot of money that employees have fun at? There's a lot of space for invention, even in that thing.

Jared Yeah.

Adrienne There's a role for events once hopefully we get to see humans again in real life.

Jared Could you tell me about an activation, a project that you guys were just really proud to be a part of, and how it might have innovated on the ability to bring social impact or sustainability mindset to the masses?

Adrienne Sure. I would say one that I'm really proud of was with Maple Leaf Foods. They came to us and they knew they wanted to impact the issue of food insecurity. Especially as a food company, a space said that the individuals there and Mike Michael McCain as CEO, they feel genuinely, very passionate about. They wanted to do something really meaningful, not just writing a cheque to a food bank. Not that there's something wrong with food banks, I think that's really part of it. They were like, there's this dire need for food. Then there's this desire on our part, and many in the food insecurity space, to create more systemic change. What do we do? Where do we fit?

We did a ton of research at the time trying to understand the space of food insecurity. One thing that we learned was there was a lot of innovation on the small scale. A lot of these groups had almost no ability to share what they were doing and the innovative ways they were going about actually trying to solve food insecurity, then kind of bandaid it. But they couldn't share it because they didn't have the money. They didn't have the research to study it, et cetera. So Maple Leaf set up the Maple Leaf Center For Food Insecurity and it is really dedicated to giving voice and sharing these innovative projects to scale. It's something I'm very proud of as work we did because they went from being people who were like, what are you going to do in this space at first? You sense that skepticism to now, I think they are seen as such a progressive company. They have this crazy ambitious goal, which I love, to be like the most sustainable protein company in the world.

Jared Wow.

Adrienne And they're doing a ton of stuff to get there. This isn't all work that we have done for that. They're doing this themselves and I'm very inspired by the work that they're doing. I feel really lucky to even get to be part of, you know, we worked on the food insecurity, but stuff with what they're doing even vegan meet. Alternative proteins, that's the word.

Jared There you go.

Adrienne It's just really cool. It's just innovative. It's ahead of the curve. It's bold. They are having to look at and have hard conversations around what you pay employees to be doing this type of work. All around, it's been a really great client and project to get to be a part of.

Jared I think you touched on something really interesting there, which is the underlying skepticism when we see a big company trying to implement these sustainable practices. How have you worked with these large businesses, is it just a matter of you do it long enough and people will start to associate it with you?

When you talk about alternative proteins with Maple Leaf, I immediately felt skeptical. Now, keep in mind, I was just listening to a podcast with the Impossible Foods founder, where it's like, they've been doing that since the beginning. So for some reason, their mission is more noble or more admirable, which is completely off base because Maple Leaf has the resource to be able to actually do some of these things, do it well, and make a real impact.

So how do you deal with that inherent skepticism that comes to consumers?

Adrienne Yeah, that's a good question.

First and foremost, we would say you do need license to play somewhere. So it's interesting that your first reaction, I think I'm so used to it now that I didn't even notice, but you do need license plan. Gillette, if you'll remember the toxic masculinity campaign that, too many people just came out of nowhere. Suddenly stuff like that. You know, that the Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner, it was like, what are you saying suddenly? Like, who are you? We usually, when we're developing a purpose or working together, pull out, we're not giving someone their purpose. We like to think we're trying to help bring a purpose that we hope is actually there to light, if that makes sense. What we're looking for is what is the origin of the company? Tell us that origin story, what was really the goal. Sometimes there there might be a nugget of, oh that's really interesting. I think that thread still exists.

We're working with Theory right now, a clothing line and they thought workwear can be much better than it is. So while that thread is still there, one of the ways that now they're really innovating around it to be more sustainable. We're actually keeping that philosophy of their design, which it should be great clothes to wear. But also they want it to be these enduring timeless pieces, which is a very sustainable kind of idea of how we think about fashion.

You do you look for those origin stories, you look for authenticity. You have to understand corporate culture, that's the first thing. The first thing that's going to happen if you come out with this big, bold public, our new purpose, your employees will be like, WHAT? You treat people how? And we've had that. We've had these hard conversations with clients who will say, I think we might want to move into mental health, we have an app. And we're just like, Hmm, what are you doing with your employees? How would they feel you do supporting your mental health? Those skeletons and corporate closets have to come out. In some ways we're like, we have no judgment, but tell us everything because it will ultimately really hurt you if there is the sniff of inauthenticity. Your employees will call you out. Your consumers will call you out. Industries will call you out. People will know very quickly.

It's really hard to pull one over on people anymore, especially now with how, you've given a platform through social media, to all of the employees. When Wayfair, I mean, it wasn't their purpose, but when they were selling beds to the Texas State Detentions for immigrants and migrants who are coming across the border, and Wayfair employees were like, I do not stand for this. No one would have known that Wayfair was selling those beds. Your employees will call you out.

Jared For sure.

I think that's a very good warning or piece of advice for anyone that might be running a business. On the topic of people running a business, if someone is hearing what you're saying and really interested in jumping into the pool of sustainable practices, it sounds like you just said you can't go cannonball because there's people sitting around the side and they'll get wet. You have to walk in gradually and go through there. What are some of those first steps that businesses can really start to do to look about doing this the right way?

Adrienne You need people on board. this will never drive profit for your company, let alone great social impact if you don't have people aligned with wanting to move forward. So sometimes we say the best strategy is the one that you're going to embrace. We might love this flashy thing over here, and we may feel like this is so cool. If you do not feel like you're going to wrap your arms around that well, let's not do it. You can have this much more tame, smaller kind of idea if you think you're going to do that well. It has to, it has to be authentic.

One thing is to also, as I'm saying it feels like I'm saying the messages tread carefully and cautiously and that's true to some extent, but also it's going to sound maybe contradictory. You're never going to get to perfection. If you're actually fearful of criticism at every step of the way, you will never get anything out. There's always going to be somebody critical of something. And we really think, give people the benefit of the doubt. When you tell people we are not perfect, the only bad thing is to pretend you are perfect when you're not. It is totally acceptable.

In fact, we see that consumers really embrace companies who are like, we are imperfect. We have flaws too. This is where we are today. Here's where we want to go. Here's what we're doing to get there. Lay that path. Consumers, while on the one hand they want to spend a second. Generally they will also, I think because everyone is on a personal journey with where they are in their own sustainability, that it's very understandable that a billion dollar company also doesn't change overnight.

I think there's an understanding, and it's all about being transparent about that, and not masking things under the rug. So while I say be cautious, still be bold. Still get your voice out there. A few years ago now, Starbucks did this race matters campaign.

Do you remember this?

Jared Yes.

Adrienne People hated it. Oh my God. They hated it.

At the time, Phil wrote an article, and I still remembered it because I thought it was such a great point to be making at a time where nobody wanted to defend this move because they were just like, wow, you just completely missed the mark on where people are, how people really want to engage. And I would agree with all of that. You have to take into existing behaviours, always. Do you talk about race with your barista? It is an odd concept, but in understanding they solicited employee feedback. They said, what do you think you can add value with consumers. Race was a big issue to their employees. It made a lot of sense and they went there. All to say is, I would agree with Phil on that I'm glad they tried. Because it was for good reason. They saw themselves for all the wrong reasons. They were just like, coffee shops, you debate, you sit, you chat again, pre COVID. You do all of these things in coffee shops. It feels like a good place to have these kind of meaty discussions. It was wrong, and they listened to their employees to get there. But, I appreciate companies who are willing to take a chance, with enough reason to think that maybe this will work out well. And it didn't, but they tried.

Jared Yeah. So it sounds like I can do a cannonball as long as I have some self and social awareness of what's going on, and that everyone around the pool is cheering me on. You don't want to jump in if people in the splash zone are not paying attention.

Adrienne Ya it's a great analogy. Do the cannonball, and you should be aware that you probably will splash a few people, and some of those people might hate splashing.

Jared Very good.

Well, I think that's a perfect place to end in terms of all my questions.

I would love to give you the opportunity to send people to take a look at Public, or anything that you're working on personally, or anything that you would desire for people to go look at.

Adrienne Sure.

So if you are interested in the area of social impact and wondering how your company can profit from purpose, come check out


Jared Well, thank you so much, Adrian. It was a blast. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Adrienne Great. Thanks so much. I did too. Bye.

In our next episode, I'm going to be speaking with Nuha Sidiqqui. Nuha is the Co-founder and CEO of Eco Packers, a revolutionary startup that is helping manufacturers create single use plastics in a 100% ecofriendly and nontoxic way

Jared You can find all the links for everything discussed in this episode, as well as the transcripts for every episode on our website Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments that you have on Twitter or Instagram at the handle @thepossiblenow.