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Should your agency draw some 'red lines'?

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When would your agency refuse potentially lucrative business?

Red lines. Barely a day goes by at the moment without a whole load of politicians declaring they are not prepared to budge on their ideological red lines over Brexit. In this political context it’s doubtless inhibiting the kind of cross-party consensus politics that’s required to dig us out of this mess.

Not all red lines stifle meaningful progress though. Red lines can be useful. As a creative social media agency (with a conscience), we’ve had red lines since our inception. In effect, this means we sometimes turn down work (yes, really) on ethical grounds, if there is irrefutable proof that a brand is damaging to individuals or the environment.

We’ve always believed in putting our money where our mouth is. Or rather, biting the hand that feeds us, if that hand is less than desirable. Over the years we’ve chosen not to help grow a food company that slaughters hundreds of thousands of pigs every day under dubious animal welfare standards. We have declined the opportunity to work with two of the world’s biggest tobacco companies. While we also rejected the approach of a weedkiller manufacturer whose products leak toxicity into the soil and air to save a few dandelions offending the eye of gardeners. And, only this week, we flatly turned down an oil giant.

All of them had the power to significantly grow our business, probably overnight, but at what cost? As co-founders we are aligned. In 20 years’ time we need to be able to look our children in the eye and tell them that we did everything we could to protect the planet.

But we’re as much defined by the brands we do work with as the companies we don’t. We’re immensely proud to work with (among others) People Against Dirty, a B Corp parent to the Method and Ecover brands, who are genuine game-changers in the cleaning category. We’re also privileged to work with KIND bars, and The Meatless Farm, a new meat alternative suitable for the growing vegan movement as well as flexitarians. And we’ve long worked with Bodyform on changing society’s attitudes towards menstruation through the ‘period positivity’ movement.

Our principles have undoubtedly cost the business financially. If we had taken on a multi-billion dollar oil or tobacco company, our business would look very different. Yet as it is, we are fortunate to have built one of the most socially and environmentally engaged teams in the business, who are driven to make a genuine difference to responsible brands and the world we live in. As for us as co-founders… there are no sports cars, but that’s no loss, we’d rather walk anyway.

Jake Dubbins is co-founder and managing director of Media Bounty

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