Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

Following our debate in May looking at The Responsibility Deal, we were really interested in seeing the article on page 2 of The Independent yesterday: Drinks industry takes a hold on Government alcohol policy

According to this article, the alcohol industry has tightened its grip on a key government policy making committee that is responsible for reducing the harm of excessive drinking.

The name of the committee has changed from the ‘Alcohol Strategy Group’ to the ‘Government and Partners Working Group on Alcohol’, which The Independent positioned, reflecting its new commercial bias?

The article also looks at the debate on whether the Government was right to consult the industry about its plans but was wrong to include it on policy-making committees. 

It discusses whether “making money from alcohol sales is at odds with reducing harm.” 

The Department of Health will publish a revised alcohol strategy later this year. As we discussed at a previous  Conversation Society live debate, in March of this year, six major health groups did not sign up to the “Responsibility Deal” on alcohol covering voluntary deals with the drinks industry on matters like price, labels and marketing.

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern said yesterday the Government must decide if it “wants to get to grips with alcohol harm or let the drinks industry call the shots.” 

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are committed to challenging the assumption that the only way to change people’s behaviour is through adding rules and regulations.” 

Dr Vivienne Nathanson commented on how alcohol firms have a vested interest in boosting sales. She says “we badly need an alcohol strategy, but executives from the drinks industry are not the people we want writing it.” 

Whatever your view points on this, we can’t ignore the prevalence it has following these recent comments. This topic seems to be very much on agenda at the moment, with BBC Panorama looking last night at the growing toll of harm caused to young people by alcohol.

A week ago the Conversation Society hosted its third debate which looked at Sustainability: Is business doing enough? Is it OK to profit from sustainability?

Our final panelist was Matt Bell, Group Head of External Affairs at Berkeley Group Holdings, London’s biggest homebuilder and a very successful and well-run FTSE 250. 

Matt had an interesting perspective when it came to the importance of our built environment, which he broke down into three main areas. Firstly, looking at how change happens; secondly dealing with the dilemmas of consumer behaviour; and thirdly he touched on the role of technology, suggesting it might just be over-rated.

The Berkeley Group builds homes and neighbourhoods. Like most residential developers, its work on sustainability has been dominated for seven or eight years by The Code for Sustainable Homes.  The ‘Zero Carbon Home’ concept came alive in the UK in 2007 when Yvette Cooper, then Housing Minister, decided this would be the way forward for the next generation of house-building in Britain. It has taken four years since then to define what zero carbon actually means and the regulation required to enforce it. However, the introduction of the Code was a great example of conviction politics. Many people in the industry have moaned a great deal about the additional cost and complexity it creates. But we are getting better products with a better impact on society because of it.

The second issue is dealing with consumers and their split personalities. The Berkeley Group prides itself on being a sustainable house builder, focusing on a “fabric first approach”. Its focus is on build quality, making the structure robust, and ensuring there is great insulation and minimal heat loss through the floors, the windows and the roof.

With this approach, you don’t, for instance, necessarily need a radiator in your house. But ironically consumers often remain unconvinced and insist on having them installed regardless! Matt’s thoughts on this particular issue: “A lot of consumers are quite traditional. Old habits die-hard. They may say one thing but do another, and behaviour doesn’t always follow attitudes.”

Matt addressed his last thoughts to technology. He suggested that there is little evidence of smart meters or kits driving mass changes to consumer behaviour (sadly). “We find ourselves now in a situation where many of the things which will fundamentally change the way we behave relate to the built environment.  So Berkeley’s ambition is to focus on creating sustainable places and perhaps worry less about the product and the technology, but slowly reshape the relationships between the different spaces in which people live their lives. I know that for me what would most change my carbon footprint would be living in a sustainable place, a neighbourhood that equally prioritises the environmental bit, the social bit and the employment aspects of my life. If we could get the relationship between those better captured in the design of the places where we live, then I think we’d be able to make some real progress.”

We are excited to confirm The Conversation Society’s next event. Sustainability: Is business doing enough? Is it OK to profit from sustainability?

Date: Tuesday July 12th from 6.30pm – 8.00pm

Venue: The Shooting Gallery, The Haymarket Hotel,

Confirmed speakers:

  • Donna Young, CSR Programme Director, BT
  • Wolfgang Weinmann, Director of Strategy, Cafe Direct
  • Matt Bell, Group Head of External Affairs, Berkeley Group Holdings plc

Lots of people are talking about living sustainably these days but do we all mean the same thing? How can we all use less but create more? Can green ever be mainstream? Is business turning light bulbs off or on with customers?   From health and wellness, through to protecting fragile eco systems, engaging employees and customers, sustainability is a big topic. To lead the conversation, and explain what excellence in sustainability means to their organisations and their stakeholders, our expert speakers will each speak for 10 minutes – no visuals, no PowerPoint, no charts, just conversation. Then it’s up to you.

To register to attend, please visit http://bit.ly/lDEqh7

Remember you can also follow the conversation via Twitter, @ConverSociety and by using #conversationsociety

Last month saw The Conversation Society hosting its second debate, looking at the UK Drinks Industry and the Responsibility Deal.

Our final evening panellist was Nick Southgate, communications consultant and proponent of Behavioural economics.

Nick Southgate

 

Nick spent time looking at the individual, as a consumer. His view is that the reason people do things is often not an individual motivation. What people often do, because we like to short-cut our decisions, is what other people do… we spend most of our lives doing more or less what we think the people around us are doing.

He went on to discuss how this is central to his thoughts on the debate in question. “I think cultural change is really the only way to affect individual change, including when it comes to alcohol consumption.”

Mark addressed his thought process by discussing things that we could do culturally to change people’s individual actions.

“First, we could change glass sizes so that smaller drinks were much more fashionable; these days the small wine glasses of yesteryear are so passé and we all want vast buckets but this is just fashion and the industry and partners could do a lot to change this.

We could, in a similar vein, make low alcohol drinks every bit as engaging and motivating as we currently do normal strength beers and wines, we could work harder to make these the drinks people want.

We could do more to routinely serve alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks together thereby diluting the effect of the alcoholic consumption more. And this could be done by improving the availability bias – for example, teaching bar staff to routinely serve a jug of water with each round or have water and glasses on all tables or simply to ask ‘would you like a non-alcoholic drink with that too?’ more often.

I also wonder why we don’t have more gourmet drinking establishments?  If you think of the number of high-end restaurants in which you have the sort of menu degustation and all these tiny amounts of food… there seems to be very little like this in the drinks world which instead seems to operate much more at the bargain bucket end of the spectrum.”

I also think about Jamie Oliver in the food industry – an engaging crusading figure who explains clearly why ‘better’ is more important than ‘more’ – someone who can almost single-handedly reframe the whole discussion.

Then there are oblique solutions… for example… I read a recent paper on how to reduce drinking on campus which said one of the most effective ways to do this was to increase the number of 9am lectures because it increases the cost of a hangover especially if those lectures are ones which are academically credited so you really do have to be there.”

“My conclusion is that the evidence seems to be showing more and more that culture is what needs to be changed. A responsibility agenda which is just about the individual looks less and less defensible and less and less credible. I think we are entering a new era of responsibility and this is what it will be about.”  Nick Southgate, May 2011.

Last month saw The Conversation Society hosting its second debate, looking at the UK Drinks Industry and the Responsibility Deal.

Following David Poley’s thoughts, we heard from Mark Baird (Corporate Social Responsibility Director, Diageo GB)

Mark Baird 

Mark continued the conversation by talking us through Diageo’s approach.

“Diageo’s approach is three-pronged: firstly we seek to create a more positive role for drinking; secondly we target specific actions and programmes on minority groups who misuse alcohol; and lastly we continually reinforce positive attitudes and behaviour among the overwhelming majority who drink responsibly.”

“Contextually, it’s hard to believe all of the following given how the media reports alcohol, but they’re all true: average alcohol consumption is down, harmful drinking is down, hazardous drinking is down, those drinking on more than five days a week is down, binge drinking is down, underage and teenage drinking is down, the number of alcohol-related crimes is down and the number of alcohol-related deaths is down.”

Mark then went on to explain that these declining numbers are NOT because of the recession, despite what some might say. “They began falling around 2004, years before the recession began. And I believe they began falling because of what we as an industry and companies like Diageo have been doing during that time.”

At industry level, the Drinkaware Trust was established around six years ago and its five-year, £100million “why let good times go bad?” campaign, aimed at 18-24 year olds, has had significant  success; backed by 45 companies involved in the production or retail of alcohol it now has results showing around 70% of target groups have been prompted to reconsider their drinking as a result of the campaign.

“As for Diageo specifically, we were the first company to launch a national responsible drinking campaign in 2007 and we fund a wide range of social responsibility activities up and down the country. For example, we fund the delivery of a hard-hitting drama about the risks of alcohol which has been delivered to 12-14 year-olds in more than 90 schools – 18,000 kids; we fund a programme in Angus which takes troubled teenagers from three high schools and involves them in rebuilding old motorbikes, preparing them for race days and then acting as race-crew – the rebuilding happens on Friday nights and the races on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so no drinking and no hangovers.”

“We support a police-led project in West Yorkshire where volunteers go into the streets in the early evening and engage with young women to warn them about the serious risks involved in drinking too much.

These are just some of our community initiatives; on a broader scale we also support the Home Office backed Purple Flag and Best Bar None schemes as well as Brake, The British Liver Trust and the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.”

So, to answer the question ‘are we entering a new era of responsibility?’ my view is a resounding no. And I base this on the fact that we as an industry, and Diageo as a company, have been involved in a new era of responsibility for at least the last seven years. Mark Baird May 2011.

Last month saw The Conversation Society hosting our second debate, looking at the UK Drinks Industry and the Responsibility Deal.

 

First to talk from our excellent panel was David Poley, CEO, The Portman Group. David started by taking us on a trip down memory lane, where we remembered the campaigns of 20 years ago,  ‘George’ the Hoffmeister bear and the campaign which featured cartoon woodpeckers and the strapline ‘spend some time out of your tree’.

 But David then examined that these are examples from 20 years ago and we’ve since been on a long journey of gradual changes. We have seen a huge change in attitudes towards alcohol marketing.  What was considered safe is now considered irresponsible.  What was considered irresponsible is now, hopefully, not even considered.

David commented by saying “The industry is expected to go further.  To be proactive in educating, informing and influencing consumers into more responsible behaviour.” This has led to a new way of thinking in many drinks companies. So, now, bottles and cans routinely feature unit content information, responsible drinking guidelines and warnings against drinking during pregnancy. On drinks marketing, point-of-sale and on websites you’ll see references to Drinkaware and its website and of course, in the last few years we’ve launched the Drinkaware Trust.

We also now have the Responsibility Deal between industry and Government.  This is providing the impetus for companies to look at new ways that they can help tackle alcohol misuse and promote healthy lifestyles.  In return for this, the Government has resolved to resist imposing legislation in these areas.  The Responsibility Deal is therefore a good thing for industry and, I believe for society. 

David concluded by saying “But the Responsibility Deal is not the end of the journey.  Sooner or later, the industry will face fresh pressure in one area or another.  So my view is that we need to keep doing what we have been doing, to try and anticipate where public expectation is going and make sure that we’re doing all we can to act responsibly and meet that expectation.”

Looking back at our last event, we wanted to share some conversational highlights from the evening itself. On 11th May 2011, we invited marketers, PR and comms and industry professionals to discuss, challenge and argue the topic ‘Is The UK drinks industry in a new era of responsibility?’

So why did we decide to tackle this topic? Well, the responsibility agenda is rarely far from the headlines of late. Six leading health groups rejected the government’s new responsibility deal earlier this year, deeming “it just wasn’t tough enough”.  This spotlight seems unlikely to dim in the near future.

To lead the conversation we invited three excellent speakers: David Poley, CEO The Portman Group; Mark Baird, CSR Manager Diageo GB; and behavioural economist Nick Southgate, to each speak for 10 minutes – no visuals, no PowerPoint, no charts, just conversation.

The event was a great success with over 30 attendees on the night, actively joining the discussion and posing questions to our brilliant panel.

The conversation also didn’t stop within the 4 walls of the privately hired room at The Soho House Hotel, but went online via Twitter too. Many people were using our #tag  #conversationsociety, choosing to follow the conversation via this channel!

 “I think The Conversation Society is a great idea to get people talking, face to face,  about the issues that matter in our society today” Mark Baird, CSR Manager Diageo GB