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By Leah Montebello
The S4Capital Annual Report outlines sustainable wins and CSR ambitions, which brings Zero Impact Workspaces, Sustainable Production and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to the forefront of growth.
“As a fast growing company, we’re focused on making sure our economic growth always remains larger than our ecological footprint. This is not a one-person job and there isn’t a magic button to solve it but rather a complex mosaic of solutions that will help us do better” – Victor Knaap
Since merging with S4Capital back in 2018, MediaMonks has experienced significant growth as one of the world’s largest creative production companies: shifting S4 revenue from £169,9 million in 2019 to £295,2 million in 2020.
With sustainability at its core, MediaMonks developed a strategy enshrining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) back in 2019, which has now been embraced by all S4Capital companies and defined in three key pillars: Zero Impact Workspaces, Sustainable Production and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I).
S4Capital’s overarching vision defines creativity and technology as a force for good, and ultimately visualises themselves, and their agencies, as a catalyst for positive change.
Zero Impact Workspaces: “Digital first and physical second”
Conscious of their “relatively large carbon footprint”, S4Capital aims for carbon neutrality by 2024 within their first pillar of Zero Impact Workspaces. Not only does this mean building environmental-consciousness into their everyday operations, but it also involves developing a procurement policy that reflects relevant SDGs: increasing the share of renewable energy, reducing waste generation and promoting sustainable procurement practices. Crucially, S4’s report documents their direct company emissions, as well as the carbon footprint of their external servers; this is the first time they have collected this type of data.
From this breakdown, they were able to track their total carbon footprint decrease of 2.812 ton CO₂ emissions in 2020, with a relative CO₂ emission of 1,24 ton CO₂ per FTE. Notably, S4Capital does acknowledge that ‘like for like’ figures of previous years is tempered by the number of acquisitions in the past year, increasing the size of the company, number of employees and locations. This makes the immediate impact of the statistics less radical, but ultimately a useful benchmark moving forward.
In addition to this, S4Capital recognises the environmental benefits that have emerged from the coronavirus pandemic, due to reduced travel and closed offices. According to their report, business flights emit 1.097 ton CO₂, which represents almost 50% of their ‘indirect emissions’ figures.
As a result, they have taken the relevant actions to enforce a new travel policy, which will be embedded in their post COVID-19 infrastructures and embrace a “Digital first and physical second” policy. In practice, this means limiting unnecessary travel, boosting green consumption (with 39% of their electricity consumption already coming from green sources) and taking a more strategic view towards sustainable reporting. Nevertheless, a more pertinent comparison may be comparing the figures from 2021 to 2022 as economies begin to re-open, and goals are faced with the realities of ‘normality’.
Interestingly, they will work with EcoVadis, the world-leading sustainability business measurer, to examine supply chains, and ultimately strive for the S4 stated aim of B-Corporation status. There are over 3600 B-Corporations, from 150 industries and 74 countries, and they are legally required to consider their stakeholders in decision making processes. This will have a huge impact on S4Capital’s sustainable strategy.
As a fast growing company, Victor Knaap, CEO MediaMonks and Executive Director at S4 Capital Group, says that they are focused on making their economic growth larger than the ecological footprint. “This is not a one-person job and there isn’t a magic button to solve it but rather a complex mosaic of solutions that will help us do better”, Knaap says. He goes on to explain, “Our main goal is to help everyone in the company to make an effort to contribute to tackling this challenge and to enable them to prioritise this within their means”.
Sustainable creative production, procurement and projects ‘For Good’
The second pillar of S4Capital’s strategy hinges on clients and what they represent in the sphere of sustainability.
Within this goal, S4Capital looks to embrace its position as a change-maker by designing a Green Production Manifesto, which will act as a guideline for all client work and sustainable goals. These will again work towards sustainable procurement practices, as well as Quality Education and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. For instance, it is reported that over 80% of their procurement budget is spent on suppliers that publicly disclose a CSR policy, and transparency and accountability will continue to be a key aim moving forward in their procurement processes.
Measuring their 2020 performance, S4Capital is keen to improve its production figures: only 0,04% of their projects used green hosting, and 0,77% used sustainable or recycled materials. By the end of 2021, their Manifesto will address relevant figures and ultimately commit to leveraging expertise to innovate with technology and creativity for good.
With an ambition to facilitate clients’ sustainable production options that limit the environmental impact, Richard Nieuwenhuis, Chief Operations Officer of Mediamonks, explains the centrality of working on ‘For Good’ that have “an actual positive impact on our surrounding”.
On top of this, the ‘For Good’ focus will take a more holistic look at their client work and its alignment to SDGs. For instance, at the end of 2019, S4 stopped working with tobacco companies. By committing to R&D and donations to ‘For Good’ charities, S4Capital has promised to dedicate at least 50% of all client work to projects that align with their Manifesto by the end of 2025.
A level playing field for diversity, equity and inclusion
The third and final pillar focuses on building an inclusive culture that values people with different backgrounds, genders, sexual preferences, caregiving status and health. This will embrace four core values (Humility, Inclusivity, Authenticity and Responsibility) and ultimately support gender equality, decent work and economic growth and reduced inequality.
Whilst S4Capital has a commendable 45-55 split of women and men respectively (relative to the 32- 68 MediaMonks split from the previous year), they recognise the limited number of women in leadership roles. Similarly, those from BAME backgrounds are underrepresented at senior level, and 60% of S4Capital US employees are white.
Imma Trillo, S4 SVP Global People/Talent, expresses her pride in the company’s diversity record and how crucial it has become within the business. She explains, “we had diversity as a goal in the past. In 2020, we systematized it, set up action steps, and gave ourselves a series of goals to measure our progress”.
Trillo goes on to say, “These goals inform our recruitment practices, career pathing, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) training, the Fellowship program for students from underrepresented groups, ERG promotion, public forum participation and additional programs that will launch soon for the women of S4”.
S4 say they have aspirations to increase diversity to at least population levels, with a key target of employee DE&I training for all. This will define a Code of Conduct on discrimination, sexual harassment, workplace bullying and reporting misconduct, which they hope will nurture a more welcoming and people-focused workplace.
S4Capital firmly believe in the power of diversity, and according to Pete Kim, Co-founder and CEO of MightyHive, which was acquired by S4 in late 2018, “The teams at S4 have made a public commitment to move forward in this regard, and this initiative is one example of how we are keeping our word”.
You can read the full S4Capital CSR report here.