#WaterWise: CT agencies focused on changing behaviour — part 4
by MarkLives (@marklives) We 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. Last up are Taryn Walker of King James in Cape Town and Andrew Brand of Ninety9cents.
• #WaterWise: CT agencies focused on changing behaviour — part 3 — Hero
• #WaterWise: CT agencies focused on changing behaviour — part 2 — FCB Cape Town & VML South Africa
• #WaterWise: Cape Town agencies focused on changing behaviour — M&C Saatchi Abel & John Brown Media SA
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.
Taryn Walker is the managing director of King James in Cape Town. With a background that has spanned tech incubators, digital startups, client-side advertising and traditional marketing, her experience has always been held together with an unwavering passion for creativity. She holds an MBA from GSB and a bachelor of business science in information systems.
The biggest challenge facing businesses — or citizens in general, for that matter — during this water crisis is the uncertainty inherent in the situation. No-one knows quite when, or in some opinions, if, Day Zero will hit. And what will happen after the unthinkable occurs is anyone’s guess. We’re all entering unchartered territory.
Planning for the unknown
In our business, we’re doing everything we can both to conserve water now, and plan for the worst-case scenario. In the immediate term, we’ve implemented rain-capture systems to ensure not a drop gets wasted. We’ve shut off our dishwashers and replaced crockery with compostable wares. We’re all mellowing our yellows and we’ve implemented handless sanitisers where previously taps might run errantly unattended for minutes. These, among many other similar, are seemingly small initiatives that we believe all add up.
To manage the day zero implications, our independence as an agency is once again something we are fortunately able to leverage. Our plans are built around the personal challenges and needs of each of our staff members. Where possible, we will enable remote working and flexible hours to accommodate for the water collection and childcare challenges of our staff. We’ve asked our team how they’re planning in their personal capacities, and we’re doing our best to work with everyone individually to accommodate.
Planning for the future
But it’s not just the immediate problem that is being solved. Through the implementation of long-term infrastructure that makes smart use of water, we’re able to futureproof our business. The crisis has, to some extent, been a fortunate “kick in the pants”. What is important to us is not to succumb to the immediacy of the situation. Instead, and despite the pressure, we’re doing our best to make sure the actions we are taking build a sustainable, alternative future for us, our team and our community.
A bigger conversation
If there’s one thing that’s for certain, the crisis has elevated the conversation around this precious resource. We’ve been involved in the water conversation through Sanlam and its WWF partnership for a number of years, and most recently we launched Sanlam’s 2-Minute Shower Songs campaign, where we invited some of South Africa’s top-selling musicians to remix their hit tracks into two minute versions you can, literally, time your shower by.
And because tourism plays such a large role in the consideration on how best to manage the crisis, especially during the busy summer months in Cape Town, we launched the #SiemensAirDrop initiative through our partnership in our Johannesburg office to raise awareness amongst Gauteng travelers venturing to the Mother City on holiday. Visitors were encouraged to trade 5kg of their baggage allowance for 5kg of water — very valuable cargo indeed.
All these efforts have been done to raise awareness of the situation but there’s nothing like a crisis to escalate the urgency, and really (really) get everyone to stand up and take notice. Day Zero will come. We’ll adjust and innovate. We’ll rethink how we do things to ensure business (and life) continuity. But our relationship with water will never be the same. With South Africa ranking among the 30th driest countries in the world, the actions being taken now to deal with the immediate crisis will surely give Cape Town a significant head start on a challenge we all need to address.
Andrew Brand (@99cbrand) is founder and managing director, as well as group CEO, at Ninety9cents (99c), the Cape Town agency best-known for its work on Shoprite/Checkers but which also works on Ackermans, Bryte and Capitec. He was a joint runner-up for most-admired agency boss in Cape Town in our 2017 Agency Leaders’ Most Admired Poll.
As Day Zero — albeit a moving target — looms, Cape Town companies are planning for the worst. However, there remains only a murky idea of what ‘the worst’ entails, as no major global city has ever run out of water before, and our provincial government failed to come to terms with the drought early enough to ensure the probability could be better managed.
Mitigate the impact
We can mitigate the impact to our business by rapidly adapting to our impending reality, planning carefully, and keeping channels of communication with our staff and other stakeholders open.
Fortunately, it appears that, because our agency’s offices are based within the City Bowl, it’s likely that our water supply will remain on if this day arrives. Regardless, it is still our responsibility to do everything within our means to save as much water as possible, and to ensure the wellbeing of our staff.
We have implemented a number of water saving initiatives internally, including replacing soaps with handless sanitisers and placing bottles of Eco Flush in the toilet cubicles. We have been in the process of rolling out alternative water sources, such as installing inverters which capture moisture from the air and convert it to drinking water, which will be used in all staff drinking fountains, and for tea and coffee. The aim is also to allow employees to fill personal containers with any surplus to take home, thereby augmenting their own supply. Naturally, we will also allow staff the necessary time to visit collection points to collect their daily water allocation. As we do not own our building, we are also relying on our landlord to implement additional water-saving initiatives, and it has already decreased the internal water flow; invested in aerators on all taps, and will be trucking in non-potable water for the toilet plumbing system.
Shoprite Group initiatives
We are also proud to have also worked on a number of campaigns on behalf of our clients, which promote more-rigorous water savings. Some of Shoprite Group’s initiatives include:
- Widespread in-store and POS collateral offering tangible water-saving tips to customers
- The installation of in-store water-saving ‘zones’ that house waterless and water-saving products
- Ongoing CRM and DM campaigns — particularly via its email marketing ecosystem — detailing water-saving tips and information
- The installation by Shoprite of smart water meters at 100 high-usage schools in Cape Town and a challenge to corporates to take the pledge and sponsor a water mater as part of its Smart Water Meter Challenge. Every installation saves around 1m litres of water a month and 99c has stepped in to sponsor one of the installations
The time is ripe
If any good is to come from this, it’s that we will become more conservation-focused and less wasteful. This event has the power to also change our city’s consumption habits across other areas, such as electricity and waste. The time is ripe for our government to use this current crisis as an opportunity to create a far more sustainable city.
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