One of Marks & Spencer's goals is to become the world's most sustainable retailer. To do this, they had a look at their entire supply chain to make sure at every stage, their suppliers were working in the most environmentally friendly and socially responsible way possible. With the support of M&S, local communities are transitioning to organic and sustainable farming methods, sustainable energy consumption and fair employment practices.
But no one knew about this. M&S had been unsuccessful it communicating this as its normal marketing channels were not fit for purpose.
What was needed was a humanistic journalism approach. We needed to tell the stories of the people on the ground that were affected by the positive changes made by M&S. We travelled to the Sorwathe tea plantation in northern Rwanda to see the impact of this work and create a collection of various content and to create stories about their efforts.
Integral to this was to focus on new channels of communication. A new platform was on M&S's website became a channel to tell these stories along with new sustainability social channels.
We focused on telling stories, one of which is of the M&S funded NGO, Emerging Leaders that teaches leadership courses in local communities. This is in the form of training and mentorship that partners with companies to bring the latest hi-tech leadership coaching into their workforces.
The training has clear and measurable effects on efficiency and quality as well as being a great benefit to the community. Those trained walk into work taller, are more proactive and develop initiative and courage to question the status quo. Many have not only stepped up to leadership roles within their place of employment since training but also in their communities, as coaches, teachers, organizers, and mothers and fathers. The training is addressing the fact that poverty is not just about a lack of wealth but also requires a change in mindset to leave behind, and in Rwanda's case, the courage to deal with some deep traumas.
The below portrait series is of graduates of the program - Rwanda's new generation of leaders
The approach of creating journalistic style stores was a huge success. The created portrait series was published in various media outlets and was used widely across their social media channels and dedicated sustainability website.
The portrait series went on to place running-up in the Sony world photography award, the world's largest photography competition.
But more important than winning awards; It was inspiring for us to witness the way the work of M&S was having on the community. Progress such as embracing solar power, expansion of educational opportunities, and the introduction of sustainable agriculture practices and better working conditions. With momentum like this, it's hard not to be hopeful about the future.