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Creating balanced strategy - the Vivian Partnership's Sustainability Pathfinder™

How we do it

Business customers and consumers are expecting more and more of businesses, organisations and brands. The Information Age has driven transparency as well as expectations; or maybe cynicism towards sustainable approaches. In a recent global report by Havas, the advertising agency network, it revealed that a modest 28% of those polled agreed brand owners are working sufficiently hard to solve social and environmental problems, and an even more restricted 20% trusted corporate communications about their activities in this area.

“In many cases, the connection between brands and consumers is either weak or broken,” said Alfonso Rodes, CEO of Havas Media. “There’s [a] huge opportunity for brands to reconnect with consumers by understanding their personal and shared values and enabling them to improve their daily lives.”

For many there are significant barriers to reconnection. Our Sustainability Pathfinder™ allows these barriers to action to be lowered and removed. It is a simple, pragmatic and results driven approach that can maximise the opportunities from marketing and guide the establishment and maintenance of credibility in the long-term. It allows companies to avoid accusations of greenwash and to maximise confidence in their operational performance. In other words: walk the talk and talk the walk.

The ultimate aim is to build trust with customers in how the company operates. It guides the delivery of honest, compelling credentials, distinction from competitors, as well as deeper employee loyalty.


The Sustainability Pathfinder™ measures two attributes.

Capability – sustainability recognition and delivery – how responsible are you at doing what you do?

Transparency – sustainability message level – how much is known about how responsible your activities are?

Sustainability Pathfinder™ shows that attributes of capability and transparency need to be balanced for trust to be built. Different risks lie either side of this delicate balance.

Above the line, when transparency exceeds capability there is a risk of exposure and of greenwash accusations.

Below the line, when capability exceeds transparency there is a risk of lack of confidence because sustainability achievements are not expressed clearly, consistently and credibly, not only from customers but, as important, amongst the organisation’s own employees.

Through objective capability and communications assessments, a Pathfinder position can be measured. This initial position then dictates the recommendations for short-term action, which may start with a correction to bring capability and communications into balance.

Once a balance is defined and established, progress can be made upwards, along the diagonal to whatever point the organisation feels comfortable with. The Sustainability Pathfinder™ therefore can measure and guide effective definition and implementation of sustainability strategy by always seeking to balance capability and transparency.


It is fantastic to leave a seminar feeling inspired and full of practical ideas. Thursday’s oomph seminar did exactly that, Ben and Dan are naturals at putting an audience at ease which meant real participation from the group. As environmental professionals often form a one person team, it is fantastic to share a room with like minded individuals from local businesses who have faced and tackled similar challenges and can offer insight and advice. Eagerly anticipating the next installment of Oomph!

Nicola Duffy, Environmental Co-ordinator at Highcross, Leicester

Thank you both for inviting us to today’s Oomph seminar. From our point of view, we found the stimulus material and subsequent debate insightful from a sustainability perspective, but also in a wider context applicable to the successful deployment of general business initiatives.

Participant at Oomph Seminar 30 June 2011

Really enjoyed this morning. I have attended very few seminars over the past two years simple because they are all too similar, often the the same speakers and follow the same theme. Today was most importantly enjoyable, interesting and got the brain cells working. I like small groups with variety of people and backgrounds.

Participant at first Oomph Seminar 30 June 2011