Sustainable Society Initiative, or SSI, the first company featured on the Building Collective Futures section, has a lot in common with the 4D Sustainability Canvas. The most obvious are the two languages we attend our clients on, Portuguese and English, but more importantly our shared view on the role of business, as powerful force for change to solve today’s socio-environmental problems.
The person who tells us a little more about the company, a strategic sustainability consultancy that was born as part of the largest communication agencies in Portugal, is the world explorer Charlotte Mure-Ravaud from France, who occupies the Strategy Manager position since the beginning of this year.
Charlotte, let’s begin from the basics. Who are you and what is your role at the Sustainable Society Initiative?
Trained as an engineer in renewable energy, I had the opportunity to work in Chile at ENGIE, it was an absolutely rewarding experience, under the inspiring and innovative leadership of Isabelle Kocher.
Having been passionate about social sciences and creativity, I started to work as a Strategic Planner at BBDO Chile. That is where I was first able to learn about Corporate Social Responsibility, which allowed me to discover the concept of positive brands. I was involved in several projects to shape or highlight the purpose of companies, and this approach was more in line with the meaning I wanted to give to my professional life.
In the end, I returned to Europe more than a year ago, and now I work in Portugal at the Sustainable Society Initiative. At the beginning of the year I was promoted as a Strategy Manager and since then I have been in charge of the restructuring and strengthening of the agency’s position within sustainability. In other words, my role has been to help with the design of a new range of services to support organizations to build brands of positive change.
About SSI, what are the main services offered by the company? For whom? Where are you clients based?
Sustainable Society Initiative positions itself as a true strategic partner for the public and private sector in Portugal.
We are a sustainability consultancy that aims to transform the purpose of organizations and accelerate their transformation process through sustainability aligned with communication strategies and unique methodologies that translate knowledge into real results with a positive impact. We have been investing more and more in social innovation through multistakeholder projects to catalyze and promote sustainability.
SSI creates strategies and builds reputation for purposeful organizations, committed and aligned with the 2030 Agenda, providing a platform that integrates a complete range of services:
· Analysis of trends on new behavior patterns and socio-environmental changes by activity sector;
· Consulting projects to reinforce the purpose of organizations, and to structure an action plan to translate it into the day-to-day operations;
· Communication (we equip brands to be change agents and influencers).
One of our main goals is to create the first community of Positive Brands – purposeful brands – in Portugal. We are building a space to share, discuss and cooperate on the implementation of actions so it could be an added value for brands and their consumers. However, we would like to go beyond and implement a trend barometer that supports other brands in the design of effective and sustainable strategies in times of uncertainty and transformation.
Speaking of uncertainty and transformation, I’d like to take the opportunity and ask you: what future does SSI aspire to? What kind of future do you want to build?
In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, climate crisis, loss of biodiversity, the future the way we imagined may not happen. However, it is possible to move from fear to acceptance, and thus rewrite the story that makes more sense from a socio-environmental perspective. We can interpret what we are experiencing as a real challenge to consider or reinvent a new collective narrative, and thus reach more serene horizons.
With that said, on a personal level, each of us must ask ourselves about the world we want live in. Collectively, it will be necessary to find a new way of living in community and reject an individualistic and nefarious survival. This crisis may be the beginning of a new cycle of hope, based on compassion, altruism, solidarity, inclusion…
On our end, we want to help reimagine the future of our partners and the narrative of collectivism on important societal issues, in line with the strategic values and needs of organizations.
How do you think collectivism and collaboration can help on this purpose / mission?
We defend the idea of a sustainable, balanced, and integrated society – which is based on raising awareness among different actors for the adoption of more inclusive and supportive behaviors.
From this perspective, we are looking for “instruments” to reinforce cooperation between different economic actors in responding to the most urgent socio-environmental needs of our time. Collectivism can, therefore, be a pivot and a prism in building a network of actors that work together to implement a new socioeconomic development on a local and also a global scale.
By creating human connections and discussion around conscious action – mutualism, collectivism, cooperation … All of this can help us fostering social ties and transmitting the best values, such as promoting a sustainable economy and a development committed to nature and people.
What is your biggest challenge today?
Our main challenge is precisely to transform global goals – the Sustainable Development Goals – into business goals, incorporate the socio-environmental factor in any equation.
The SDGs unite us around important issues, triggering cooperation and knowledge-sharing in an unprecedented way.
But it is becoming increasingly urgent for companies to take a more active role, there need to be a radical change in the scale and depth of their involvement. Today, companies have the power to change the status quo by helping the public sector to respond to unmet social needs. They have the power to intervene and solve the disorders prominent in the society, for instance by changing their practices and mobilizing their marketing to promote social norms and behavior.
Since we believe that companies represent a powerful force to solve today’s socio-environmental problems, we want to help brands find their purpose and become Positive Brands. In that sense, we propose multistakeholder tools that aim at establishing a new social contract for a more just, equitable and sustainable transition.
Finally, could give us examples of projects and impact created by the Sustainable Society Initiative?
Particularly, because of the pandemic, we are involved in public projects, such as the creation of a solidarity currency in response to the crisis, an action tool for the public and private sector to respond to covid related sustainability challenges, etc. Since these are projects that are still ongoing, we will be able to see and measure the impact only in a few months.
It is a very challenging and captivating adventure, there is still much to do in the area of sustainability here in Portugal, both in terms of opportunities and challenges.
Huge thanks to Charlotte and the entire team at the Sustainable Society Initiative for the responses. We would love to have you back here soon, so that you could tell us about the impact of the amazing work you have been doing on the mission to create Positive Brands.