If we think about the impact COVID-19 has had on our daily lives, most of us are now working from home, exercising outside once a day and swathes of the UK workforce is now coming to terms with the concept of furlough. But with many businesses seeking ‘business as usual’, there have been many projects that were due to go out to public consultation with the associated months of planning – leaving village halls booked for consultation events that people cannot now attend.
Given the pressures on project timelines, dates of investment decisions, and depth of work required to present development proposals there appears to be an emerging disconnect between developers and local planning authorities. It comes as senior council officials from multiple local authorities have called upon EDF to delay the next stage of their plans for a new nuclear power station, Sizewell C, until after the COVID-19 pandemic. The rationale for this position stems from fears that Government social distancing measures and the wider concerns around COVID-19 will distract from the need for rigorous review as well as challenge and debate around the proposals for the facility by the community and core stakeholders to inform the application process.
However, local authorities were recently handed new powers to hold public meetings remotely and we are now seeing councils adapting to this outbreak by now hosting committee meetings remotely and moving from crisis management and adaption to business continuity mindsets and the adoption of new ways of working to ensure vital government decisions can continue.
If we take Sizewell as an example, could bullish developers plough through with sensitive proposals and local authorities be too cautious, risking opening rifts in relationships that will be needed through the construction and operation of nationally significant assets? In his parting remarks the Government’s chief planner encouraged ‘innovation and exploring all options of technology to ensure the continuation of effective consultation.’ It is clear, especially now, that ongoing dialogue and engagement with core stakeholders is needed to understand challenges and work together to deploy new ways of bringing developments to committee compliantly.
We are all adapting to new ways of working, whether that be using an ironing board as a desk or getting to grips with video calling. When we consider the options, available there are plenty of opportunities to transform conventional consultation phases into rich digital conversations and at Madano, we are currently helping projects work through these challenges to keep timelines progressing.
Local authorities are fully aware of the danger if we lose the rich engagement and rigour of critique through full and enthusiastic engagement around developments. However, the range of options to maintain, or rethink consultation at this unsettling time can be exciting and enhance discussions with digital exhibitions, presentations to communities with video conferencing and telephone sessions pre-arranged for stakeholders. Whilst this is all very positive, we should still remember that as we transition our consultation activity online to continue the conversation, we should keep in our minds that not all stakeholders choose to, or, have access to internet. We must ensure our consultation activity remains accessible by keeping hard copies, mailing lists and telephones in our strategies.
Most solutions are scalable and flexible, but developers should engage with local planning authorities, and where relevant, the Planning Inspectorate, early in the development of community engagement programmes to ensure that new ways of working are relevant, accessible and appropriate to their proposed development.
Madano advises clients in the development sector currently transitioning their engagement programmes to adapt and embrace the challenges of COVID-19 – if you’re interested in learning more please drop me or the team a line. You can also follow Madano on Twitter.
Madano together with partners Ecuity have designed and successfully launched this month the Hydrogen Taskforce at a set-piece event in Parliament. The Hydrogen Taskforce and its member companies including Arup, Baxi, BOC-Linde, BNP Paribas and Arval, BP, Cadent, DBD, ITM Power, Northern Gas Networks, Shell and Storengy, aims to work with government to secure the role of hydrogen in the future energy mix.
Why is this important?
Hydrogen has the potential to support the vital decarbonisation of heat, energy, transport and industry and help achieve Net Zero. The application of hydrogen on a grand scale has been a long time coming, but this has often been uncoordinated. The Hydrogen Taskforce represents a coalition of organisations in the sector engaging with a unified voice.
Aligning industry and Government
The Taskforce’s objective is to align a wide range of stakeholders including Government, industry and an informed public, with the aim of driving investment in hydrogen to promote its large-scale deployment. The Taskforce gives industry an opportunity to demonstrate to the UK Government that it is united and ready to engage with Government to unlock developments in the sector. The cooperation between the Hydrogen Taskforce and Government is a clear opportunity for the UK to follow in the footsteps of Japan, South Korea, Germany and China in cross-governmental collaboration. The aim of this is to form a hydrogen roadmap on which to base clear commitments in the next spending review for projects in hydrogen production, storage and distribution projects.
The launch of the Taskforce this month was a clear manifestation of that shared vision of the role for hydrogen in the transition to Net Zero, with Minister of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP sharing his views on hydrogen in reducing carbon emissions. Jacob Young MP for Redcar also spoke, noting the opportunities and importance of hydrogen as an economic game changer in levelling up the regions. They were joined in Parliament by more than 90 Members of Parliament, Civil Servants and industry leaders.
A unique opportunity for the UK
The UK has clear commercial and experiential advantage in hydrogen compatible sectors including North Sea oil and gas, suitable areas for CCUS, and available capacity for large scale wind energy. We need to harness this advantage. The hydrogen clusters in the North East of the UK already offer an excellent opportunity to make the UK a world leader in the application of hydrogen technology. This can support not only the decarbonisation of the UK to achieve Net Zero by 2050, but also to export to a global hydrogen market, estimated by The Hydrogen Council to be worth $2.5 trillion by 2050.
There is a great challenge around how we decarbonise heat. However, there are touchpoints with communities and individuals where hydrogen can make a real impact. Domestic boilers can receive a gas blended with hydrogen. Building public acceptability for hydrogen will be very important in a similar way to the feed in tariffs that helped educate communities around the potential role of solar. With trials underway, the Taskforce is engaged in working with Government to amend regulations to enable the blending of hydrogen to make this a reality and paving the way for mandating hydrogen-ready boilers by 2025.
The future of mobility – can hydrogen challenge electric vehicles?
Our hunger for travel in the UK is not diminishing, as is evidenced by the rapid adoption, acceptance and utilisation of electric vehicles. However, it is important that alternative fuels are fully explored, and indeed where hydrogen can be deployed into our transport network. From hydrogen fuel cell cars such as Toyota’s Mirai to hydrogen trains and boats and even hydrogen for aviation, the Taskforce seeks to support investment into developing hydrogen as a fuel source for the future of mobility. To reflect this, we feel that asking Government to support with establishing 100 hydrogen refuelling stations (HRS) by 2025 will greatly support the roll-out of hydrogen transport and nudge investment decisions.
The Hydrogen Taskforce is committed to working with Government to secure tangible support to enable hydrogen solutions to scale in the UK, helping the government meet its net zero commitment and deliver on its promise to level up the regions.
Madano and economic analysis consultant Ecuity form the Secretariat for the Taskforce. If you would like further information or would like to consider joining the Taskforce, please contact me on [email protected] or a member of the Madano team on [email protected].
Sunday 8 March was International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s campaign theme was #EachforEqual, promoting the message that we can all actively choose to “challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements.” With this in mind, members from each of our practices have highlighted inspirational women from different backgrounds and fields that have made huge impacts to our world as we know it.
Margaret Calver – Kat Dominiak (Creative)
Female designers have had a huge impact throughout the history of design and their works are engrained in our everyday lives. It isn’t a surprise that historically the male-dominated graphic design industry hasn’t always had the best reputation for gender equality. However, female designers have played an important role in establishing graphic design as we know it today.
Did you know Margaret Calver’s work has helped to save hundreds of thousands of lives in the UK? Her very simple and easy to understand graphic language is on every single road sign and signpost across the entire country. She helps you get safely to work, school or home. Margaret is a typographer and graphic designer mainly known for her collaborative work with Jock Kinnir on the design of Britain’s roads – she’s a creative icon that had a huge impact on the design industry.
“With talent, dedication, and creativity in spades, women are – and always have been – killing it in graphic design.” – Rebecca Gross
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw – Elisha Raut (Insights)
You might have heard of the term intersectionality somewhere in the stratosphere. Maybe it’s because you’re engaged in critical race theory, or because you once eavesdropped on a pretentious and overly jargonated conversation at a LEON (just me?), or perhaps somewhere in between. In a reductive nutshell, it’s the idea that a person’s lived experience is contingent upon several overlapping axes of their identity, and it’s a foundational concept that was developed approximately 30 years ago by lawyer, professor, philosopher, and theorist, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw.
While the inception of the term was mostly within the context of legal advocacy, where discrimination regarding sex and discrimination regarding race were treated as mutually exclusive entities, it has now pervaded many areas of academic and everyday discourse.
While Crenshaw’s past achievements could span novels, she remains consistently active in educating the masses, not just through academic avenues, but also as a public speaker. Many of her highly engaging and thought-provoking talks are available on YouTube.
Although the term intersectionality has entered the everyday vocabulary of many people who may be characterised as, and sorry in advance for using this term, “woke”, it has also faced criticism from the anti-woke crowd. This is the main reason her continual educational efforts are still invaluable: in the information age, we can (fortunately and unfortunately) still believe whatever we want, whether it is justifiable and evidenced, or not.
Rosalind Franklin – George Mitchell (Healthcare)
Science is supposed to be paving the way for the future and yet, when it comes to gender equality, it is stuck in the past. At present, less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women and they continue to be overlooked and undervalued in a male-dominated field. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Rosalind Franklin, a chemist and x-ray crystallographer who, in May 1952, captured an image that would quite literally change the DNA of biological and healthcare research.
Franklin’s seemingly uninspiring and blurry ‘Photo 51’ would lead Watson and Crick to discover the DNA double helix, for which they won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. Since then, we have sequenced our genome, increased our understanding of genetic disease and even learned how to edit our DNA.
Franklin died in April 1958 from ovarian cancer, possibly caused by exposure to the very x-rays which led to her discovery, something for which she was not recognised until the years following her death. With the Nobel Committee still unwilling to award posthumous prizes, Franklin remains one of the greatest unsung heroes in the history of biology and healthcare research.
Admiral Grace Hopper – Ben Gascoyne (Technology)
While the typical tech sector stereotype is male-led, you should know that some of its earliest and most influential innovators were talented and inspirational women.
That includes Grace Hopper, an American mathematician who began her career in computer science as World War 2 began. Working with the very first computers throughout the 1950s, she pioneered the development of programming languages that were based on natural languages, such as English, instead of abstract mathematical symbols.
That may seem obvious now, but was met with resistance at the time. Delivering her vision for computing made programming more accessible for everyone who followed her and paved the way for the tech giants you know today, like Microsoft and Apple.
Somehow, alongside a hugely successful career in computing, Grace Hopper found the time to rise to the rank of Admiral in the US Naval Reserve. Admiral Hopper passed away in 1992, but today, social enterprises such as the fantastic Stemettes are making sure that girls across the UK can follow in her footsteps and are inspired and empowered to take up STEM careers, including in the tech sector.
Mary Prince – Hoda Awad (Energy and Environment)
Mary Prince was a courageous woman who helped to change Britain as we know it. She was an enslaved woman who campaigned in the 1800s for abolition.
In 1829, Mary was the first woman to present an anti-slavery petition to Parliament, arguing for her human right to freedom. She was also the first black woman to write and publish an autobiography, which was a key part of the abolitionist campaign in Britain. It was during that very same year that her peers in the abolitionist movement introduced a bill proposing that any slaves must be freed.
Mary was an inspiring woman who invented political activism almost 100 years before other more well-known movements began to gain traction, such as the Suffragettes.
With modern society becoming increasingly competitive and divided, it is more important than ever that we champion and communicate the achievements of women. We have a shared responsibility to remove barriers and create opportunities so that, regardless of gender, anyone can fulfil their potential. By working together towards gender equality and providing women and girls around the world with heroes and role models, we can inspire the next generation and create an environment from which we can all benefit.
A few years ago, while working as a communications consultant at a listed industrials company, I was at a PR industry event and got chatting to the organiser. I casually mentioned to him that I was considering moving from my in-house position to try my hand in a communications consultancy. He looked at me in horror.
“No one does that!” he said, incredulity spreading across his face.
“Don’t they?” I replied, suddenly concerned about my intended career path.
Fast forward to now and here I am, a senior account manager approaching my first anniversary at integrated comms consultancy Madano. So, has it been as bad as I’d been warned?
In a word – no.
Consultancy vs in-house
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely been on a steep learning curve in the past year. In fact, it’s been a double curve, as I’ve had to adjust to the peculiarities of consultancy life while immersing myself in entirely new industry sectors.
Not surprisingly, one of the most challenging things I’ve had to get used to is the dreaded time sheet. Initially, dividing my working day into 15-minute blocks to be either billed (hooray!) or not (boo!) just felt so… weird.
Another big adjustment I’ve had to make is getting used to the sheer number of meetings that seem to take place every five minutes. In the early days I’d come in, see that my diary was virtually empty and look forward to a day spent catching up on work, or even getting ahead of myself. But then the calendar invites would arrive, one after the other, and suddenly I wasn’t nearly as free as I’d previously imagined.
Sometimes I miss the old in-house days, when I’d spend a whole morning working on one project and a full afternoon working on another. But I’ve gradually come to enjoy the extra structure offered by the consultancy working environment, and the discipline and organisational skills it demands of me.
One thing I definitely don’t miss from my in-house career is having to repeatedly explain to virtually anyone outside of my department exactly what my job entails. No matter how many times I patiently outlined how I was able to support their business objectives with strategic messaging or media relations techniques, managing directors, sales directors and even the brand marketing managers who were my regular points of contact would often ask me to produce an ad for them, or design a product brochure!
A favourite question I was often asked while in-house was: “Can we PR this?”
To which the answer was always: “What do you mean?”
In my experience, the financial investment a consultancy’s clients are required to make tends to oblige them to commit a similar investment in time and effort, which ultimately makes for a stronger and more productive relationship.
Inevitably, this has inevitably caused me to view myself as a revenue-generator. Although slightly daunting at first, learning to think in commercially responsible terms ends up making you feel empowered, whether you’re going after new business or identifying potential opportunities with existing clients.
It’s all a long way from the uncomfortable feeling shared by more than one in-house practitioner of being unfairly seen as primarily a business cost and, worse, one whose financial contribution to the organisation seems unclear.
A final, pleasant surprise I’ve had over the last 12 months has been the friendly, supportive culture I’ve encountered within Madano. Working in-house, you hear all sorts of horror stories about the back-stabbing and infighting that goes on in agencies, but I’ve yet to experience any of that behaviour.
All of my colleagues are talented, collaborative and, most of all, fun to work with. If there are one or two Machiavellians among them, they’re very good at hiding it.
So, there you have it – one man’s journey from two decades of in-house service to cutting his teeth in a cutting-edge communications consultancy. The last year has been one hell of a ride and I can’t wait to find out what the next has in store.
This important question was posed at a lunchtime event that Madano recently hosted with Chris Stark of the Committee on Climate Change and with clients on what companies should be doing to tackle net zero.
It is a question that will doubtlessly arise time and again given the sharp focus on climate change, net zero and last month’s official launch of COP26 to be hosted in Glasgow in November.
How should communicators act?
1. BE A LEADER AND DEMONSTRATE LEADERSHIP WITH CLEAR NETZERO-FOCUSED MESSAGING
The net zero challenge and climate change aren’t going to go away anytime soon so respond to it now. Those companies with clear, consistent and contemporary messaging on net zero are going to be better placed to respond to the inevitable questions that will arise about carbon mitigation strategies than those that aren’t. This is the new net zero paradigm.
Define what your company’s net zero narrative is and that you have a plan to reduce your carbon footprint.
Present how your company or organisation is helping others tackle the net zero challenge too. This might be through technology, better and more sustainable ways of working or awareness raising among employees of the net zero challenge thereby stimulating lasting behavioural change.
Everyone recognises that every company impacts the environment – some more than others. This is particularly the case in the energy and environment sector, which generates the electricity that we need to live our modern lives.
Within a few years, I believe it will be incumbent upon all decent-sized organisations and companies as well as SMEs to outline their net zero plans.
Those companies that don’t do this will likely be left behind. The clock’s ticking.
As one sector expert remarked to me recently, in the following decade it is possible that producing and emitting carbon will become akin to how most now view smoking as socially harmful and a societal ill.
The proof of the pudding with these recent initiatives will ultimately be in the delivery of net zero but it’s a good start.
2. BE AUTHENTIC OR RISK GETTING CALLED OUT
Authenticity is key. The new ‘net zero neighbourhood’ is a tough one. It’s also becoming an increasingly competitive one in which to communicate. In the new net zero paradigm don’t fake it. Remember that no one is expecting every company to become carbon neutral overnight. But there is growing expectation for corporates to define what net zero means to their firm and its employees highlighting what that change will be.
Indeed, there has been an immediate backlash from environmental groups towards the aviation industry’s netzero targets released in January, which failed to convince many with how the industry would be able to reduce its carbon footprint given that the number of flights is set to rise rapidly by 2050.
You’d be right in thinking that environmental groups have called out companies, particularly the aviation sector, for years. Easyjet was targeted late last year after publishing its netzero plans.
The difference now is that the public is being bombarded by the net zero message from government, business, industry and NGOs, and that some leading companies and organisations have convincingly articulated what the net zero pathway is and how they will get there.
That’s not to mention prominent pressure groups like Extinction Rebellion, which have quickly and effectively changed the dynamic around public protests on climate change.
Tellingly, The New Yorker recently called out a couple of corporates that seem to be hedging their bets with net zero rhetoric but whose actions suggest that profit still lies ahead of purpose. There will certainly be more of this to come as the level of scrutiny on net zero increases.
Perhaps of most interest will be how established energy majors will react to the net zero challenge. BP’s announcement last week on its plans to become a netzero business by 2050 are monumental in scope for an industry that has underpinned modern societies by exploiting the world’s carbon-based resources for our prosperity.
Will they develop their renewable energy portfolios quickly enough to sate the desire of many who want to see change? Only time will tell.
It is vitally important to be authentic about change and how you communicate it.
3. COMPANIES WITH A STRONG NET ZERO PLAN AND THE COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY AROUND IT, CAN GAIN SOLID COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
Building on the points above, it’s not a great leap to argue too that those companies and organisations with strong net zero plans and solid communications strategies will be at a competitive advantage vis-à-vis their peers.
Those companies communicating actively and convincingly about their net zero plans are simply far more likely to become more trusted than the companies taking the fifth on climate change.
Why? Let’s take a look at the general public’s growing concern towards the environment.
According to BEIS’s public attitudes tracker, in March last year, 80% of the public said they were either fairly concerned (45%) or very concerned (35%) about climate change – the highest numbers ever.
In the recent UK General Election in December, there was the first televised climate change debate among political leaders and climate featured prominently in every party’s manifesto.
The Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, has galvanized millions around the world, particularly the young, with her support of climate strikes and direct action.
With record temperatures in many parts of the world and prominent media focus on extreme climate change related weather events including the Australian wildfires, Indonesian floods and winter storms in the UK, it’s likely that public concern towards climate change will grow not wither.
This concern is almost certainly going to be confirmed on a global level by the UN’s Mission 1.5 opinion poll, which will be the world’s largest survey on climate change.
In the new ‘net zero paradigm’, it is inescapable that those businesses and organisations that can define and communicate net zero and purpose will be at a strong competitive advantage vis-à-vis their peers at a time when public opinion behind taking stronger action to protect the climate has never been higher.
If you would like a conversation about net zero and how communications around net zero, purpose or COP26 might impact your business please feel free to drop me a line directly at: [email protected]
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