Connecting SMEs for a green economy

An innovative and low-carbon marketing and publishing agency business model - bee hives included as standard.

Big Ideas Collective's picture

The Big Ideas Collective (BIG) is a creative marketing and publishing agency based in York, UK that puts sustainability at the heart of its business model and helps secure incredible emissions reductions and resource efficiency improvements across its customers' marketing and publishing activities.

From the germ of an idea by co-director Ned Hoste in 2006, the Big Ideas Collective (BIG) has developed as a benchmark multi-award winning sustainability and innovation marketing and publishing business. Currently the two co directors work from their home office/studios and collaborate with creative consultants across the UK, putting together project teams as required and working with clients face-to-face at their premises and via the Internet.

Behind the creation and development of BIG’s business model there is a marrying of personal commitment towards the environment, economic considerations and ethical conviction. The challenge was to create a new and innovative business model in an industry with a reputation for not thinking about resources and the environment. BIG wanted to address the need for greater environmental awareness combined with a robust income stream; a model not currently in the sector and one that would match the directors’ personal values shared with clients, associates and the whole of BIG’s supply chain.

From the first contact with a new client, BIG’s way of working makes less impact on the environment. Firstly, BIG holds a "discovery meeting”, usually at the clients’ premises to find out what the client would like to achieve for its products and/or services. It’s also vitally important to understand the clients’ values and current brand behaviour. BIG then scopes out potential routes and themes, questioning and investigating the impact of each on the environment and wider community in order to identify the most effective combination of what the client is looking for and minimizing as much as possible the negative consequences on the environment. The investigation also includes the analysis of the supply chain, prioritizing, for example, solutions with the longest life cycle and lowest emissions (including embedded emissions). Discussed directly with clients, informing them of all the environmental and ethical implications behind any of the decisions within the marketing campaign or publishing work, the outcome is the identification and implementation of the best available routes.

In addition to BIG’s project journey with its clients, BIG has an internal Environmental Management Schedule (EMS) that to ensure that BIG is monitoring its own practices and impact annually. Currently, the main areas monitored are: utilities, travel, paper and ink consumption, sustainable and ethic procurement. Electricity is the main utility for the administration office. Both administration and design studios are part of domestic residences. For the administration office a 2Kw system (eight PV solar panels) were installed by another member of the GreenEcoNet platform: Solarwall Ltd. The reduction of CO2 emissions over the first year of use has been 24%, plus cost savings of more than 90%. These results also take into consideration the reduction in energy consumption by introducing reduced wattage kettle, low wattage ceramic air heater, low energy light bulbs. A travel policy is also in place to make sure that short journeys are not made by private car but rather by public transport and care sharing is standard. The implementation of such policy resulted in a saving of 331.6Kg of CO2 emissions. A printing policy also seeks to ensure that substantial paper and ink consumption reductions are achieved. In less than 5 years, more than £1000 (€1250) has been saved. Both administration and design studio sites undertake 100% recycling of waste.

Finally, BIG actively seeks to get involved with local and international green projects and education initiatives, such as the provision of funding to support bee hives in each of the UK regions where their clients are located. It is, they believe, a small but important contribution towards the preservation of biodiversity, which is highlighted on their website and in turn encourages clients to look at their own social responsibility projects and how they can expand and promote them.
(You can read more about BIG’s approach here.)  

Facilitating factors
During the initial stage of the implementation of BIG’s business model, it was important to attract companies who already shared the same values, so that they could then become advocates to start a process of consolidation of our reputation and creation of trust with new potential customers. Much of this has been achieved by participation in networking events, always following our travel policy, and social media, for example, blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +. About 75% of companies, who start to work with BIG stay, guaranteeing business stability.

The two main issues BIG struggled with was to convince people that this new approach to marketing and publishing and more generally this new way of doing business is a good way to go. There is still an enduring feeling that environmental solutions are more expensive. BIG are working hard to prove that this is not the case.

Lessons learnt
There are already some lessons learnt in the implementation of this business model, such as finding something peculiar and particular that people will remember, such as the bee hives which also articulates its eco credentials and working with award bodies, including the UK Investors in the Environment Awards. Most importantly, for the success of this business model, BIG feels it is all about its values and that of its clients, underpinning good stories told to the right audience, at the right time for the right kind of impact and sustainable profitability.

Further details

How was the green solution financed?: 
Would you characterize the green solution as: 
Low capital intensive investment (i.e. €500 - €3,000)
Operating and maintenance costs description: 
20% of turnover
Emission reductions description: 
450 Kg of CO2 emission during last year
Operating and maintenance costs: 
Yes, low O&M costs
Energy consumption description: 
254.5 kWh during the last year and saved 90% on electricity costs
Material consumption savings description: 
In the last six years (from 2009 to 2014) we reduced consumption by: 75% in colour cartridges, 100% black cartridges; 36% in paper; 100% spray mount