Friday 27 January 2012

A Poem For Friday

Not from me, so you can all relax. Gerry, the Voice Of Pier 32, pointed me at a piece by poet Martin Powell entitled The Power Of Young People. Here's an extract:

"With will and skill we can fulfil our social obligations; to build rapports, to open doors and lead investigations, 
Into every clause of current laws of rules and legislation, so everybody has the right to insight and information. 
And through our new communion of communal communication, 
We’ll march streets across the nation, trust in transformation, 
And get these corporations cooperating together; for a future that’s bright, whatever the weather."
This ties perfectly into the theme of next week's posts, when I want to talk more about welfare reform and our obligations as both individuals and a society, particularly in view of upcoming legislation that will have major impacts on charities and their ability to do their work. You can read the whole thing at the link below. Please do.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Spreading The Word

As social media becomes a bigger and bigger part of everyone's lives, it's interesting to see how big companies are taking the opportunity to communicate more directly with their customers. I'm not just talking about spam or money-off vouchers. Twitter and Facebook can be a brilliant way to let people know about less tangible benefits--like sustainability.

The second Social Media Sustainability Index, published yesterday in The Guardian, shows some astonishing growth in the use of social media for that purpose since last year. More than double the amount of major companies have an online presence that specifically addresses their ethical and sustainable projects. Blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook Pages are all helping to get the word out as the big corporations realise that it's a great idea to shout about their good deeds. Sustainability, to put it simply, has become sexy.

This can, of course, be more than a simple PR exercise. Companies that are genuinely pushing towards true sustainability, and are communicating about it in a clear and engaging way have a real advantage in social media. Some, like Renault and BBVA are putting together communities of like-minded people through their social media projects. A great example of this is @myurbangreen from M&S, a project that I wrote about last week that's engaging whole communities in taking care of their own green spaces. Even the name has Twitter connotations.

We live in a world where it's straightforward to communicate with your customer base, but tricky to do it in a way that doesn't feel pandering or patronising. Get it right and do it honestly and transparently and there are big rewards to be had.

This blog is, I like to think, a good example of what I've been talking about. And the Pier32 Twitter account, run by Guru Ian, is well worth a look: Pier32UK gives you the very latest news from The Pier.

Friday 20 January 2012

Pier32 Goes Carbon Neutral

We're starting off 2012 the right way. Pier32 is now officially certified as carbon neutral. All of our operational emissions for 2010 and 2011 have now been mitigated and offset. We've achieved this major milestone with the help of worldwide charity Childreach International. Working with a charity to get this done is important. There are plenty of scam merchants out there making a profit from our concerns about climate change. Through Childreach International, our contribution goes to directly help the people that need it most. Add that to the benefits in emissions reductions, and you can see why Childreach International was a good fit for us. Talking about fit, can we make a suggestion that could help slim down your promotional clothing budget? Buying in bulk might seem like an extravagance, but if you think about it in the same way that you'd look at your weekly shop then it makes more sense. A little planning ahead to make sure you have everything you need for the year, and getting it in one hit can save you quite a bit of cash. And it's cheaper and much more carbon-efficient to deliver one run of 2000 shirts than ten runs of 200. See, everybody wins! Of course, if you subscribed to the Pier32 newsletter, you'd know all this already. Have a look at what you're missing out on. And while you're at it, read more about our Neutral New Year at the Pier32 Carbon Neutral page.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Marking Out A Green Space with M&S

Marks And Spencer have spent the last couple of years as the front-runner in the move towards a greener high street. Their Plan A initiative has quietly revolutionised the brand's business model. Without disrupting their core values, good old M&S has made sustainability an integral part of how we as consumers view one of our most venerable shops.
That move is now spreading beyond the stores. M&S have launched @myurbangreen, a new project in conjunction with environmental charity Greenwork. The plan is to help communities to get involved in developing, managing and maintaining local green spaces. They're taking this seriously; by the end of September M&S plan to have been involved in 850 green space activities and events. They also plan to support 300 "Friends Of" groups, helping them to support and grow their local urban green space.
This is interesting stuff. M&S are already working closely with charities like Oxfam on clothes recycling projects, but @myurbanspaces (shame about the name) is more, dare we say, Big Society in outlook. It's a huge corporation actively seeking to give back to the community in a way that isn't connected with the core business. Sure, you could argue that it's simply corporate sponsorship writ large. But it's a logical step forward, given the work that has already been done. Working in lockstep with a respected environmental charity shows that this isn't a simple brand awareness exercise. I'm genuinely enthusiastic about this, and I'll be keeping an eye on how it works in parks, allotments and green spaces around the country.

Friday 13 January 2012

Sourcey Undies

A slightly naughty post to brighten up this gloomy Friday the 13th. It's easy to find green and ethically produced footwear and clothing. But lingerie for the girl who cares about what she puts on and takes off? That's a little more tricky to get your mitts on.
Kudos, then to sisters Sophie Holloway and Alice Holloway-Smith, who are bringing green credentials and upcycling skills to that most under-rated of accessories - the nipple tassel and pastie. Inspired by the rise of interest in burlesque, the sisters have created a range of cheeky scanties that are exuberantly designed and unashamedly luxurious. They upcycle scraps of antique lace and silk, but the most surprising element comes from an unlikely source--old car seats. The super-soft antique leather is used to line the backs of the pasties, to eliminate any risk of ... you know, chafing.
Sophie and Alice deserve nothing but praise for bringing a touch of naughty fun and glamour to a sector that, despite everyone's best efforts, has a slightly dour image. No danger of that with an ethically-produced jewelled nipple tassel!
Find out more at the Holloway-Smith Noir website.

Monday 9 January 2012

Building The Big Society

The idea of The Big Society is great - in concept. It's the Blitz Spirit writ large. Everyone does their bit, and together we forge a Britain that's a more compassionate and productive place.
The problem is that no-one can quite figure out how it's supposed to be done. Since the Coalition came to power, the Big Society concept has been relaunched four times. No-one seems sure what it is, what it means for us, and how it's supposed to work out there in the real world.
The problem, at least according to a Royal Society Of Arts study, is that of education. For the Big Society to work as more than an abstract concept, there needs to be a major push to make people aware not just of what they're expected to do under the scheme, but also what it can do for them. It's a tricky job to get right. It involves signing up and taking part in activities that the majority of the population don't believe are their responsibility.
David Cameron has tasked a workgroup to look into the problem. One of the first recommendations is a trench of formal and informal education that will help teach us about notions of solidarity and responsibility. Citizen school, in other words. It's not such a bad idea to my mind, but you do have to wonder where the money for it is coming from.
In fact, it's very easy to pick holes in what is after all an early working document. But it's clear what needs to happen. The Big Society concept has to be nudged away from a purely economic "we have to pull together because if we don't the country's going down the pan" argument, to a more social "it's fun and everyone benefits" strategy. We see ad hoc community efforts springing up all over the place, and the Big Society will be a success if it can figure out where they come from and replicate them on a country-wide scale. I still find it interesting that the RSA, rather than the charity and voluntary sectors are so heavily involved at this stage in proceedings. We'll see what the new workgroup comes up with. Who knows? Fourth time could be the charm.

(Side note: hello and Happy New 2012 to you all. The New Year resolution from The Blog At The End Of The Pier is an expansion of remit. I will be writing more often about the charity and voluntary sector, especially as this year would seem to be the one where Cameron's Big Society plans are more likely to impact upon them, and therefore on Pier 32 as a whole. It should be interesting to see what happens, and I hope you'll join me in finding out.)