FIVE MINUTES WITH NATASHA MUDHAR
Natasha Mudhar, founder of The World We Want, a purpose-driven global social impact enterprise, speaks to Communicate magazine about the role creative and corporate campaigns play in shifting the dial regarding the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Mudhar speaks about how working on social-led campaigns differs from other types of comms and how businesses can merge purpose with profit in an honest way.
What pushed you to launch The World We Want and what have been the major challenges you have encountered since its inception?
The World We Want, or WWW, stems from my first engagement with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. As the chief executive of corporate and consumer business consultancy Sterling Global, my work prior to 2015 had been diverse; working with FTSE 100 companies, disruptive technology companies, luxury brands, film and entertainment personalities, governments and organisations like the Commonwealth to align them with their profit and purpose strategies through strategic communications and consultancy.
There was always an element of helping major businesses and personalities find ways of being more responsible and purposeful, ‘doing well by doing good’, but it was my appointment as the India Director for the Global Goals campaign in 2015, to raise awareness of the 17 SDGs to 1.3bn people in India, which felt like a defining moment. This direction resulted in years of high-level social impact campaigns and projects pertained to accelerating action and progress towards the SDGs by 2030.
This is the remit of The World We Want; to galvanise change-makers, organisations, non-profits, governments, businesses, celebrities, philanthropists and citizens to create impact-driven campaigns, projects and communications strategies for a world ready and capable of positive action and change.
Our main challenge has been decentralising the conversation around the Sustainable Development Goals. When we look back on the pre-2015 era of global development, namely the Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) established in the year 2000, much of the shortcomings can be attributed to the lack of everyday public awareness. We realise now that discussions around sustainable development cannot be exclusive to policy makers, corporate sustainability officers, governments and charities – instead we need to make the key topics of the SDGs global household ‘chatter’, and much of this is through creative campaigns which remain relevant and relatable to all.
How will The World We Want’s new manifest impact campaigns moving forward?
The realities of 2020 were far different to the visions we had as a generation, across all elements of life, but particularly from the global development perspective.
In the silhouette of the ongoing pandemic, we knew that we needed to re-examine how we get back on track and amplify our efforts with high impact campaigns – and this is how we built our Humanifesto for change - Act, Build, Change, Do (ABCD), a four-pillar blueprint forming the backdrop to our campaigns, collaborations and projects across the next decade. ABCD is the fulcrum to our vision and these four momentum words will address the way we push ahead with our SDGs action. The Humanifesto helps us define priorities and develop cut-through to help us arrive at the biggest sustainable impact efficiently and effectively.
We believe this gives us the key criteria to work harder, faster and smarter, by provoking demanding questions which we look to provide the answers to. How do we ACT, instead of react? What steps must we take? What can we BUILD – what constructive ideas do we have? What must we CHANGE – and how must we go about that? What must we DO – and when must it be done?
We now have a concrete plan to answer these questions, so that we can individually and collectively find solutions that race against the clock.
What role does corporate social responsibility play in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030?
CSR is undoubtably one of the biggest players in the UN SDGs race. Quite frankly without engagement from the corporate sector, our 17 global goals will not be achievable. The World We Want identifies five key ‘life triggers’, each having the largest lifestyle, social and behavioural levers to achieve the largest sustainable impact. One of these triggers is business. Today corporates must define and demonstrate their mission and their corporate conscience. We are living in an ever-increasingly connected world where businesses can no longer hide behind their products, profits and services without facing public inquisition as to how they are contributing to the sustainable development goals, or perhaps more importantly how they may be hindering our global efforts.
From the development perspective, it’s clear that the role of businesses will be pivotal towards achieving our goals by 2030. The goals were designed for and approved by governments, but they also constitute a global framework for measuring business contributions to society. If corporates are not held accountable for their actions towards the goals, or simply fail their targets, then we are failing on a major global footing. Corporates have a direct impact to at least 10 of the 17 SDGs.
How does the working on social-led campaigns differ from other types of comms?
There are certainly similarities, which has given me and my team the correct grounding having worked on more typical corporate and consumer comms prior to 2015. I’m often asked about the difference between a marketing or corporate philanthropy project and a social-led campaign, and the answer is centred around the end objective.
A social led campaign is about the sustained output and legacy to an action or initiative, whereas traditional comms is judged on the receipt of gains – whether that be building brand awareness to develop a stronger revenue, positioning a launch to drive more sales or streams, or simply individual profile building via increased visibility. We measure social-led campaigns using a different metric to other types of consumer and corporate comms. It’s about how your campaign has made real-life, real-time impact which will be felt for years to come by people outside of your own organisation. We developed a concept known as Pi (Purpose & Impact), as a measure of or intent, our effort and our promise to the planet. It stands to be the benchmark on every project and a measure of how far we have moved the needle.
Social-led campaigns are different and its increasingly becoming a profession of its own, or certainly a speciality within the communications industry. Campaigns are divided into 3 subsets of activity – (1) address urgent and pressing issues on priority (2) action immediate next steps to reverse setbacks and (3) work to a sustained long-term strategy.
Greater emphasis is placed on the power of the collective. We want to drive change with concrete action, partnering with global organisations for progress and harnessing the collective strength of opinion leaders, people, ideas, networks and technology for good. We also set ourselves a mandate to make things happen by turning all effort into positive impact. We want to always be on the leading edge of trends, to be the first with bold, proactive initiatives and then to execute them with end-to-end implementation. We see ourselves as the champions of collective individualism, which is ingrained within the Humanifesto.
How can businesses merge purpose with profit in an honest and transparent way?
It is no longer enough to be just profit driven. What makes companies stand out is their ability to place profit and purpose alongside each other. In order for a company to truly thrive, it needs to be both profitable and purposeful simultaneously. An organisation that is both profit and purpose-driven provides mobility to its employees and resources in a way that is incomparable. Companies need to do well by doing good.
According to a global study by the SEFORIS project (the world’s largest study of social enterprises to date), companies implementing a social impact strategy are also seeing rapid growth in revenue. This is why we say that profits and purpose are mutually beneficial concepts which can work together. You can do well by doing good.
Transparency is achieved in many ways, but communications and visibility is perhaps the most effective. It’s important for businesses to shout from the roof tops when they are implementing purpose-driven initiatives, for their own image and to set the example for their respective industries.