#WaterWise: Cape Town agencies focused on changing behaviour
by MarkLives (@marklives) We’ve emailed a panel of key industry executives for their take on the business impact of Cape Town’s water crisis, and their contribution towards avoiding it. First up are Mike Abel of M&C Saatchi Abel and Lani Carstens of John Brown Media South Africa.
• #WaterWise: CT agencies focused on changing behaviour — part 4 — King James & 99c
• #WaterWise: CT agencies focused on changing behaviour — part 3 — Hero
• #WaterWise: CT agencies focused on changing behaviour — part 2 — FCB & VML
While Day Zero — the day water runs out in Cape Town and residents are expected to queue for water at water collection posts — has been pushed back several times, Cape Town still faces a water crisis. This has numerous implications for agencies and the people in their employ. We asked a number of organisations how they are planning for any possible business disruptions and how they are assisting in saving water.
Mike Abel (@) heads the group he and his partners started in 2010: it now comprises M&C Saatchi Abel Johannesburg and Cape Town, M&C Saatchi Africa, CONNECT, Creative Spark and Dalmatian. He has 28 years of industry experience, and has built and led major groups in South Africa and Australia. In our MarkLives Agency Leaders’ Most Admired poll for 2016, he was named a contender for the most-admired agency boss in South Africa and was runner-up for most-admired agency boss in Cape Town.
We’re taking #DefeatDayZero extremely seriously. The initiatives we have implemented in the company have had a meaningful impact both within and beyond M&C Saatchi Abel.
Gordon Ray, founding partner and Cape Town ECD, sums up our attitude and approach: “When a crisis hits, you can either panic or you can use it to inspire innovation, development and a new way of thinking. We’ve decided to go with the latter, letting this crisis inspire creativity to help create real change.”
Our key objective has been to change behaviour in our agency and, importantly, inspire people to take the same steps in other businesses and their homes.
Launched in December 2017, our campaign, #WeeWiser, comprises a series of posters providing information about how water can be used more sparingly in areas like the kitchen and bathroom. The campaign is open source and available to the public to download from mcsaatchiabel.co.za/news/wee_wiser.
Our aim is to prevent wasteful water usage — not just during times of disaster but every day. It is hoped that #WeeWiser will encourage people to change their behaviour both at the office and at home. As Cape Town gets drier, it’s going to take each and every one of us working together to #DefeatDayZero. That’s why we decided to share our ideas with other businesses and homes, to have a greater impact than we could have alone.
We’re down from four to one dishwashing-machine load per day (15l). Mugs are being reused the whole day. Fewer plates are being used as staff are eating from tupperwares or takeaway boxes. Urinals have been shut down. Sanitisers are in every bathroom. The #WeeWiser is doing a fantastic job to limit flushing. On the day at the time of writing, when our staff arrived at work, there was a 20lt bucket on everybody’s desk, packed to the brim with a whole bunch of tips and goodies for saving as much water as possible at home and at work.
If and when Day Zero hits, we need to be ready. We have developed a worst-case scenario plan to facilitate new ways of working, allowing freedom and flexibility for our staff to manage the impact without negatively affecting deliverables to our clients. This plan includes highly flexible working hours and remote working. In the event of water shedding, staff may request to leave the agency to be at home. Should there be no water in our taps or grey water for flushing, we will install portable loos outside our building. In addition, we will give our M&C Saatchi Abel staff a weekly water allocation for home use.
We have to do all we can to #DefeatDayZero.
Lani Carstens (@lani_carstens) joined John Brown Media South Africa as group managing director in September 2010. Before that, she spent three years in Shanghai, China, on secondment by Naspers as group business director, where she helped launch a number of lifestyle titles. She oversees John Brown’s operations in South Africa as well as expansion plans into Africa, and is an executive board member of the international John Brown Media Group.
At John Brown Media, we are avid recyclers, composters and have 18 outreach bursary programmes. So, when it comes to being water-wise, we had already begun to embrace all things water-related by mid-2017. Naturally, these efforts have been ramped up considerably in recent weeks. We do, however, take the effects on both climate change and the environment as a whole into consideration — there is no point in frantically saving water but simultaneously ruining the environment with non-biodegradable wet wipes or unrecyclable plastic bottles.
So what are our plans leading up to Day Zero?
- We have replaced all our crockery with paper plates and eco-friendly, recyclable alternatives
- Our taps have been fitted with aerators to slow down water flow and staff are encouraged to flush “only when necessary”
- We have sent out emails with tips and ideas on how to save water and have a weekly “water monitor” communications highlighting our water-saving each week
- The dishwasher has been turned off and plastic basins have been placed in all sinks. Grey water is reused to water our very grateful plants on the balcony.
- We have ordered two water tanks with a supply of drinking water, as well as a grey water filtration.
- We have waterless hand sanitisers
- Our landlords have assured us that they will be using borehole water to keep our toilets running
- We are supplying all our staff with water-wise hampers including buckets, waterless cleansers and eco-friendly items to support them and their families at home.
If Day Zero comes to pass and the taps run dry, we will ensure that our staff members are supported and safe. We will provide as much water as possible and ensure that staff are assisted with water transport. In addition, we are planning a rotational system along with IT support to accommodate staff who will need to work off-site, and for those who will need to provide childcare. For us, it will be business as usual.
As dire as the situation is, the generosity, team spirit and general camaraderie of staff have brought solutions, laughter and an incredible sense of being in it together.
Updated at 11.02am on 14 March 2018.