Gerson Barnett, Founder, Right Thing Media: “It’s not just about doing the ‘right thing’; it’s about showing everyone that you’re committed to being part of the solution to climate change”

Over the past six months, we’ve interviewed many CEOs, futurists and thought leaders about the future of work. After all, with the dual impact of AI and the pandemic, we’re living through the biggest change in our lifetimes. Possibly ever. Here, we interview Gerson Barnett, the Founder and Executive Director of Right Thing Media, for his insights.

You may need to sit down! Gerson has clearly been thinking about this topic for some time, and he sees this as a chance to place ESG responsibilities at the heart of their new strategy. For those unfamiliar with the term, ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance.

It’s a topic close to Gerson’s heart. Right Thing Media is a B Corp business that empowers brands, agencies and media partners to deliver on their ESG responsibilities through media and advertising. Here’s his take on the future of work, and how ESG fits in.

What was your first role in tech (or marketing/advertising) and what is your current role today?

Gerson Barnett Founder Right Thing Media
Gerson Barnett, Founder of Right Thing Media

My first role in advertising was as a sales executive on the launch team for a leading film reviews magazine called Total Film. I still remember we had Al Pacino on the front cover promoting Heat, so I think that was quite a cool start to my career.

I am now the Executive Director at Right Thing Media, a company I founded a few years ago. I am proud to say we are a B Corp business and we work with brands, agencies and media partners to help them redirect part of their ad budgets to contribute towards supporting various non-profit organisations — both social and environmental, which in turn also helps our partners to deliver on their own ESG responsibilities.

Who are some people (or one person) in tech/marketing/media you find inspiring, and why?

I would say Paul Polizzotto, the Founder and CEO of ScaleWith. His work is particularly inspiring because of his commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles in business. He has demonstrated that it’s not only possible but also profitable to embed positive social and environmental impact into businesses, by pioneering a formula that shows the dual benefits of increasing both business outcomes and societal good, he has set a remarkable example of how to ‘profit with purpose’.

What are the major factors influencing the future of work?

I think the future of work has really undergone a transformation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s fascinating how it’s reshaped our perspectives. Since the pandemic hit, remote work and smart working have taken centre stage. It’s like we’ve reimagined our workspaces, giving more importance to comfort and personal well-being. Surprisingly, or maybe not, this shift has had a positive impact on productivity at both personal and professional levels.

Covid was a really challenging period for many, including myself. However, one positive aspect is that it has underscored the significance of mental health and well-being. Employers are beginning to understand that supporting their employees’ mental health is not only the right thing to do but also vital for personal and professional growth.

Technology has also played a massive role in all of this. The tools and technology we all started using during the pandemic have not only made remote work possible but also incredibly efficient. There are obviously some things that can’t be done remotely, but definitely, in our industry, lots of it now can!

Looking ahead, as we see even more advancements in technology, like automation and the wider adoption of artificial intelligence, I think it will only continue to mean we work smarter to the benefit of our personal time.

What innovative approaches can media and marketing companies adopt to integrate sustainability goals into their core strategies and operations?

Integrating sustainability goals into media and marketing companies’ core strategies and operations is not just about adopting a checklist of green initiatives, but it involves a holistic and innovative approach. One key approach is to effectively embed sustainability throughout the entire business ecosystem and this should be aligned to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals).

One innovative way to achieve these goals is by establishing partnerships with social enterprises and non-profits. These collaborations can help media and marketing companies align their profit-driven objectives with positive social and environmental outcomes. By working together, these businesses can create mutually beneficial relationships that go beyond traditional profit margins.

Furthermore, these partnerships can and should extend into the supply chain, sourcing sustainable materials, checking how their suppliers manage their own operations and recruiting services from social enterprises and so on, whilst ensuring that their operations are aligned with their sustainability goals. This approach not only reduces the environmental footprint but also supports businesses that prioritise social and environmental responsibility.

In addition to partnerships, leveraging technology and data analytics can also be an innovative approach. Media and marketing companies can use data to identify areas where they can reduce waste, optimise energy consumption, and improve the overall efficiency of their operations. This not only aligns with sustainability goals but can also lead to cost savings in the long run.

How can tech, media and marketing companies proactively address their carbon footprints?

In addressing their carbon footprints, companies should follow a holistic approach, often referred to as the four R’s: Review, Reduce, Remove, and Report.

Review means taking a step back to assess your supply chain.

Reduce is looking at what you are doing now and what you and your suppliers could be doing better. This is a better solution than removing carbon you are already using. So set tangible targets for reducing them and start implementing changes. This could involve adopting energy-efficient technologies, optimising how you move your goods and people, and fostering a culture of sustainability within your organisation.

Remove – this is about creating permanent, deep cuts in the emissions from your operations, such as moving to 100% renewable energies, removing carbon from your production and supply chain etc.

And lastly Report – a robust system for measuring and reporting your progress is necessary. You should use established standards and methodologies to ensure that your reporting is accurate and credible.

Transparency is key. Share your carbon emissions data and your efforts to reduce them with stakeholders – that includes your clients, investors, and the public. You might even consider third-party verification to back up your claims. It’s not just about doing the ‘right thing’; it’s about showing everyone that you’re committed to being part of the solution to climate change. Remember nobody has cracked the code yet, but it is important that we are all on the journey to omitting emissions from our climate.

As technology continues to evolve, how do you foresee the role of AI and automation in media and marketing contributing to a more sustainable work environment?

AI and automation have a significant role to play in promoting sustainability in media and marketing. Firstly, consider content creation. AI can streamline this process by reducing the need for extensive research, travel, and resource-intensive production methods. This not only saves costs but also reduces the carbon footprint associated with traditional content creation.

Furthermore, AI can improve the efficiency of media production. It can automate tasks like video editing and graphic design, which not only speeds up production but also reduces the reliance on manual labour, making it a more sustainable approach.

In terms of content distribution, AI can analyse audience behaviour and preferences to optimise content delivery. This ensures that content reaches the right audience at the right time, minimising wasteful distribution and potentially excessive energy consumption in data centres.

I think we will only continue to see more and more of its use in the coming years and from a sustainability point of view. I think it will be a good thing. Although of course, it is easy to forget how much energy we all use plugged into our computers and phones every day too!

In light of the growing importance of ESG principles and CSR initiatives, how can media and marketing companies effectively measure and communicate their progress?

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) principles and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives should be deeply ingrained in the DNA of media and marketing companies. This commitment to sustainability and responsibility shouldn’t be a mere checkbox; it should permeate every facet of our operations.

First and foremost, communicating our progress in this regard is vital. Not only does it inform consumers about our commitment to responsible practices, but it also reassures shareholders and motivates employees. Recognising the evolving landscape of consumer preferences, where ethical considerations play a pivotal role in purchasing decisions, we must underscore that our commitment to ESG is more than just philanthropy; it’s a sound business strategy. environmental and social Impact Investment, all based around ESG should be brought to the heart of business. Integrating ESG practices can drive innovation and ultimately lead to more profitable outcomes, all while contributing to a healthier planet and society.

To effectively measure and communicate our ESG progress, we need to adopt an end-to-end approach. Just as many FMCG or manufacturing companies meticulously scrutinise their supply chains to ensure fairness and sustainability (think Fair Trade certification), we must do the same within the media supply chain. We need to measure our carbon footprint, track emissions, and monitor our positive social impacts on society.

Transparency is key. Sharing this information isn’t just about ticking a PR box; it’s about genuinely demonstrating our commitment. Communicating our efforts to reduce emissions, support social causes, and advance responsible practices is vital. This communication should extend not only to our partners but also directly to consumers. They need to know what we’re doing to mitigate our environmental impact and how we’re contributing to the greater good of society.

Future of Work Series

Our thanks to Bensen for taking the time to share his thoughts on the future of work. For more predictions, read on:

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Tim Danton

Tim has worked in IT publishing since the days when all PCs were beige, and is editor-in-chief of the UK's PC Pro magazine. He has been writing about hardware for TechFinitive since 2023.