A team trying to instil hopeful optimism for the sustainability agenda at OMD
Culture, Employee benefits, Operational
OMD's Better Planet team aims to bring tangible and significant changes to their agency, client work, and partners by embracing hopeful optimism and tackling sustainability challenges. They meet bi-weekly to discuss initiatives and ideas, ensuring a clear focus and allocation of resources. The team's first success was creating the agency's first Pre-Loved Swap Shop, which garnered impressive results. By aligning with the Omnicom Green team leads and securing support from the Board, the team has grown substantially and gained recognition agency-wide. The initiative has become an integral part of the agency's culture and new-starter induction.
What are you aiming to achieve?
As OMD’s Better Planet team we are hoping to make tangible, important changes to our agency, our client work, and our partners. Our ethos is to embody hopeful optimism rather than shy away from a problem that can feel too big to overcome. We are all learning along the way, but we have already created some exciting events and initiatives in the last few months alone. Whether it’s 5 mins or 1 hour out of our OMDers weeks, anyone can help make our agency and the advertising world a better place, and the Better Planet team wants to help facilitate just that.
Describe how the initiative works
We meet up once every two weeks and discuss any upcoming initiatives or ideas we want to get off the ground. The meetings are chaired by the Better Planet lead. We have a rough timing plan where we detail the initiatives or events we are planning, based on our 4 core pillars: our house, educating our staff, work with clients, and media partners. This enables us to remain focused on our overarching ambition and ensure we allocate specific members and time to specific initiatives.
For example, for the house pillar we worked with 30+ colleagues across Omnicom to create the agency’s first Pre-Loved Swap Shop, a fashion pop-up shop that saw clothing donations from 100 people across agencies being swapped for a small (optional) monetary donation: 300 items were swapped, with the rest sent to the Care4Calais charity, and £900 were raised for the earthquake appeal.
For the partners pillar, we invite media owners who have green credentials or new sustainable ambitions to come in to talk to us so that we are all aware of the newest developments, regardless of our roles.
If people put their hands up for specific initiatives, then the lead will help coordinate if needed, otherwise we try keep it so that everyone can play an independent part with the help of others, rather than the onus being solely on the team lead.
What was the first step you took to get the initiative off the ground?
I talked through my idea to refresh the team with the Omnicom Green team leads who are my counterparts at a broader UK agency Group level (as the OMD UK Better Planet team itself isn’t new, but it had lost some momentum due to a heavy pitch season). I ensured the vision was clear and structured, hence the 4 pillars, and aligned to the wider Omnicom vision and ambition for sustainability across the group. I then sent out “recruitment” emails for the team, reached out to previous members to gauge interest, and consistently appeared in agency huddles to ensure the team had a voice and role to play within OMD, as a whole. This enabled more people to become aware of the team, put themselves forward, and even get media owners involved for wider projects.
What budget or resource did you need to get started?
For the initial recruitment and refresh no budget was needed, but as the team lead it required some heavy lifting especially in terms of time and resources to ensure the reset was effective, organised, and up and running. Of course, this was done above and beyond the day job, so passion for the cause and overall enthusiasm were key to making this a success!
What positive impact has it had?
We are now one of the biggest teams in the agency and we have presented our initiatives, vision, and ambition to the Board. We have also secured budget to help us get ideas off the ground this year, and have been asked to contribute to an article for The Drum in light of our involvement in the sustainability agenda. Furthermore, more people are now wanting to join the team, get involved in the next Swap Shop, and present in agency-wide meetings and away days, meaning we are now very much at the forefront of agency life. This has allowed teams like ours to be recognised at agency level and the work to form part of our contracted hours for a % every week. As such, we now also form part of the new-starter induction which means we can get in front of new talent from the start of their OMD career.
What have you learnt that could help others looking to do something similar?
A few things that I have learnt along the way:
- Just start. Starting is better than waiting until it’s perfect (nothing ever will be!) and it’s better to do something than nothing at all
- Working on these kind of projects requires extra time on top of the day job, so make sure you are truly enthusiastic and passionate about whatever it is you are throwing yourself into as that’s the only way you can be motivated through the tougher times
- Make sure you have a sponsor or person on the Board/leadership body within the agency. When looking to secure budget or wider agency visibility, it is very important to have someone in a leadership position to back you when you can’t always be in the room. We are lucky to have 2/3 people in Board who are active participants and it’s been invaluable
- Set some boundaries and ask for help: you can’t do it all on your own! Ask for people to lead on specific projects and initiatives, empower others to take ideas into their own hands, and act as an enabler and facilitator, rather than a leader. Ultimately you are all there for the same reasons and are all learning along the way, so lean on each other!
"Ellie has been instrumental at giving the OMD UK Better Planet team a fresh lease life of life. Her energy, passion for the cause and great organisational skills have got a team back on track with new members, a vision for what we’re working towards, and crucially she turns thoughts and ideas into meaningful action. Turning the first Pre-loved shop from a nugget of an idea to a real-life event in the middle of the agency building is testament to that- and there is so much more to come."