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Lead Up to #SB14London: Sky Continues to Explore New Avenues for Showing Stakeholders 'The Bigger Picture'

Journalist Rob Penn (left) and cricketer Freddie Flintoff team up for a new Sky series, "Road to Nowhere." | Image credit: Sky

The Bigger Picture is Sky’s approach to building not only a more responsible business for the long term, but contributing to a more sustainable society through inspiring action on the ground.

The far-reaching programme has many highlights to draw on since its inception five years ago. These include its Sky Rainforest Rescue partnership with WWF that has raised over £8 million in fundraising, its Sky Academy initiative helping thousands of young people build skills and confidence, and the delivery of a 40 percent reduction in emissions intensity across the business.

We caught up with Sky’s director of the Bigger Picture, Lucy Carver, ahead of her talk next week at SB ’14 London to find out more about the programme; its impacts, what makes it tick, and where it might be heading next.

Being a global media firm, Sky has a tremendous opportunity to touch the lives of millions and influence change for the better. How do you decide where to focus your Bigger Picture efforts for most impact?

We build on the strengths we have as a media and communication company, what we are passionate about and where we think we can make the biggest difference. What our customers and stakeholders tell us are also an important part of how we decide where to focus our effort. Through our presence in 40 percent of UK and Irish homes, we have an opportunity to reach beyond our business and inspire people to take action. For example, our Sky Rainforest Rescue partnership with WWF to help save one billion trees in the Amazon has raised awareness of the issue of deforestation here in the UK and inspired people to take action — donating funds and pledging support.


Sky’s Lucy Carver
will share lessons
from customer engagement
next week at SB'14 London

How do you ensure effective integration of the strategy behind Bigger Picture so it can be delivered across all areas of Sky's business?

Because the Bigger Picture speaks to Sky’s core ‘believe in better’ ethos and benefits Sky across the business, it resonates with many colleagues in different areas and disciplines. Because we want to ensure that what we do is embedded in the business for the long term, we work hard on identifying the people across the business who can help us, and we make it a priority to establish effective, collaborative relationships with them. We also co-own targets and measures of success with our colleagues, and ensure that the journey is one we all go on together.

We also work on initiatives that are built on our strengths as a business, making it easier to capture the hearts and minds of people within the business so they see how they can contribute and make a difference. Finally, providing opportunities for our people to get involved in what we are doing means that we harness their passions, help them build new skills and create advocates from within.

You have been driving forward Sky’s Bigger Picture since 2009. How has your own role evolved over this time?

My career started in marketing, initially with Unilever, then with L’Oréal, which gave me a deep understanding of how communications play a role in shaping values as well as reflecting them. I moved to Sky to head up our arts sponsorships in 2007 and as part of the management team that launched Sky Arts. I then moved with our Arts partnerships into the team which was called Reputation and Responsibility at the time, and got the opportunity to lead the team in 2009.

In my role I’ve both led the launch of The Bigger Picture, which regenerated our sustainability programme, and I have been passionate about ensuring our work has a deep and wider impact, has measurable social value and benefits the Sky brand. The team now splits into two parts — responsible business, and our initiatives which inspire consumer action, both under their own senior leaders — and my role is to support those leaders as the team forms and executes the Bigger Picture strategy.

Have there been any surprises along the way in terms of lessons learned around customer engagement and brand management?

I’m an optimist and thrive on a practical and intellectual challenge, so surprises — good and bad — always serve to help me, and the team, get better at what we are doing. We have always put the customer first, using their insight to help guide what we are doing. In cycling for example, we have never linked what we are doing to the words CSR or sustainability, or even to health and well-being. While we know that that is an outcome of what we do, it is not what inspires people to get on their bikes and ride.

I have seen how powerful a brand can be if you make sure your initiatives capitalise on your strengths as a business, build on your brand values and meet a need in society. At the same time, I have learned that it’s important to let go of what you are creating so that others who are talented and passionate can take it forward in new and interesting ways.

For example, when Lily Cole became our ambassador for Sky Rainforest Rescue, she initially worked with us on a jewellery range made of wild rubber from our project area in Brazil. She saw enormous potential in this as a product, and as well as becoming our ambassador when we designed Veja trainers with the rubber from the rainforest, she also off her own back took to wearing a dress made from the same wild rubber, designed by Vivienne Westwood, to the Met Ball in New York.

Do you feel the broadcast industry in general could do more to highlight sustainability issues to viewers?

People always ask this of the broadcast industry and I think the industry is playing its part. It is certainly doing more and more over time. Our initiatives on-the-ground with customers have led to us also making a wider investment on-screen.

As well as making our own programmes to highlight the importance of saving the rainforests, and showing two weeks of rainforest-dedicated programming every year for the past five years, we also have created TV programmes such as “Gamechangers” — which encouraged children to get involved in sports, which is now in its second season - and “Sports Women,” both on Sky Sports. And most recently Sky has made a set of industry-leading commitments to improve diversity on screen.

It’s important to remember that people want to be entertained, informed and inspired by what they choose to watch on-screen. Programmes about sustainability per se don’t really appeal to a wide audience. The trick is bringing issues to light to new audiences in entertaining ways so they want to tune in and watch.

Part of your talk at SB ’14 London will focus on crossroad moments — key points in time where brands are faced with multiple options for evolving their sustainability agendas. Where do you feel the next crossroads moment is for Sky?

Sky Academy, our initiative to help young people reach their potential, is our biggest priority right now. In the first year, we’ve built good customer awareness and more than 100,000 young people have taken part. But our ambition is to help 1 million young people by 2020; that’s a big goal and will require focus and energy to get there.

How do you think companies can make deeper connections between their CSR efforts and brand value?

We’ve always designed our initiatives with where our customers currently are, and the journey we would like to take them on at the forefronts of our minds. For me, that is the key step to creating this deeper connection – trying to retrospectively find a reason and route for consumers to get involved hardly ever works, nor does preaching to customers.

Where would you like to take the Bigger Picture initiative over the next 5 to 10 years?

We have set out our store to 2020 with our objectives and targets for responsible business, and for our initiatives designed to inspire action and create new opportunities. We’ve got bold targets to continue our work to minimise the environmental impact of our business. We’ll be focusing on delivering this over the next five years, building on existing initiatives and launching some brand new ones — like Sky Academy Careers Lab. This one-day work experience at Sky for 16- to 19-year-olds helps them build employability skills, bridging the gap from school to work. It’s the latest in our Sky Academy initiatives and strengthens what we are doing to build skills and confidence from age eight right through to those in their twenties. 


Maxine is an environmental journalist working in the field of corporate sustainability, circular economy and resource risk.

[Read more about Maxine Perella]


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