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The Head Of Havas On How Businesses Can Evolve To Do More Good

David Jones is the head of a global advertising company, but he wants the companies he helps to do better while they’re selling stuff.

The Head Of Havas On How Businesses Can Evolve To Do More Good
Abstract via Shutterstock

David Jones is a man who knows how to get a good message out. As the Global CEO of Havas and Havas Worldwide, Jones has made a career out of using creativity to change people’s behavior and address some of the bigger issues facing the world. The author of the bestselling book Who Cares Wins: Why Good Business is Better Business (you can read an excerpt here), he has also become one of the most vocal advocates of corporate social responsibility. For his efforts, he was honored as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and as the Guardian Sustainable Business Leader of the Year 2013.

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“When I got into the advertising business, I realized that actually what we do is we use the power of creativity to change people’s behavior,” Jones said. “And yes, of course, you can do that to change people’s behavior around the commercial side of things and get them to buy product A, not product B. But we have an amazing power to use that creativity and almost I’d argue, an obligation to use creativity to change people’s behavior around some of the big issues facing the world.”

In 2005 Jones gave a speech at Advertising Age Idea Conference about reinventing creativity, which helped crystallize and publicize his views. His first foray into using his creativity to drive positive change was a cause campaign for the Australian Children’s Cancer Institute to raise funds for a hospital. A turning point in Jones’ social good career was his work on Kofi Annan’s TckTckTck Campaign for Climate Justice, an open source platform on which 18 million people signed up as climate allies. As successful as the numbers were, according to Jones, it was also a massive failure because the world’s politicians did nothing about climate change.

In 2009, Kate Robertson, the U.K. Chairman of Havas Group, and Jones co-founded One Young World, a nonprofit organization that provides young people with a global platform through which to effect positive change. Described by CNN as the “junior Davos,” One Young World held its first gathering in 2010.


“This generation of young people I honestly think is really unique,” Jones explains. “A: They’re the best educated because of digital technology; B: they’re the most socially responsible because they see all the problems and issues in the world; and (C) most importantly, they understand better than anyone how to use the power of the digital and social revolution to drive and effect positive change.”

One Young World brings together 1,300 educated, socially responsible and techno-savvy youth from 183 countries to conceive of real, tangible action to drive change. Attendees have access to counselors from all sectors including the likes of Arianna Huffington, Jack Dorsey, Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan and more.

But the real inspiration comes from the youth, who comprise 90% of the speakers. Over 375 concrete tangible initiatives have came out of One Young World and last year, the organization launched a social business fund to help enable these young innovators to bring their ideas to fruition.

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“It’s the only time in history where the youngest adults actually understand the biggest change going on in the world–the digital and social evolution–more than everybody else,” Jones says.

As a result, Jones believes the young people have a lot more to say how businesses will function and thrive. And what young adults are saying is that they want to work at companies that have a purpose and they want to buy products from companies that have a purpose.

This is the latest post in a series on generosity, in conjunction with Catchafire.

“Yes, of course, it is good to be able to do stuff which has a good end and good aim. But this isn’t actually charity,” Jones says. “I believe that in the future if as a business you want to do well, you will have to do good. And that if you don’t set out to do good, you’ll find it impossible to do well. I think you will genuinely be able to out-behave your competitors in the future.”

Before being recognized as a leader in corporate responsibility, Jones faced a great deal of skepticism and scrutiny. There were a lot of people wondering why he was not more focused on winning clients and driving revenue for his real job or why he did not just go off and run a NGO if he was so interested in all this do-good stuff. The risk was worth it to Jones.

“My fundamental belief is that a new world is all about doing good and making money. And actually they’re not separate worlds,” Jones says. “And I really like the idea that I can be the CEO of a publicly listed company and the head of a NGO because that’s new world and you don’t have to choose. And actually I can get so much more done here.”

One of the reasons he could pull off the TckTckTck campaign and make One Young World happen was because he had access to 16,000 employees and 350 agencies through Havas. As the head of a global company, he can get an interview in most major markets and he has a large client base he can approach to help fund an idea. “A lot of the things that I have been able to do is because of the company,” he admits.

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Not wanting to give the impression that Havas is some kind of perfect corporation, Jones realizes there is a lot that the company still needs to improve and change. “We’re at the start of a journey, not at the end of it,” he says. However, he is committed to One Young World as a long-term investment in this unique generation that has the power and potential to create some amazing change over the next decade. One day, he hopes the not-for-profit will also turn into a not-for-loss for Havas.

As an additional benefit, creating a workplace where employees can feel good about their work and place of business has given them access to better talent. “People want to do things that they feel proud of. And so if we can give our employees the ability to spend a ton of time doing brilliant creativity in the commercial world but also spend a ton of time doing brilliant creativity that drives positive change in the broader world, then that will help us attract better people.”

Business is in the ideal position to have an impact and change things in a positive way. In the past NGOs have had all the great intentions without the ability for great execution; whereas, business has had great execution but not great intentions all the time. “Business not only has the most amazing opportunity to be a force for good,” Jones stresses, “I think only business can fix the problems. Even if my generation gets it wrong, the next one won’t.”

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