Raising the Voices of Sustainability Thought Leadership

Interview with Tim Gnatek, President and Co-founder, Blue Practice

Sustainability thought leaders are seeking experienced communications organizations to help get their vision and mission communicated both internally and externally, along with promoting new trends.

Tim Gnatek is President and Co-founder of Blue Practice, a communications agency dedicated to providing media relations, corporate and employee communications, thought leadership programs, content generation, and creative campaigns for clients in the sustainability space. A former New York Times reporter, he was also awarded a fellowship with Frontline/World to report on leading sustainability programs in Curitiba, Brazil. Tim is a member of the executive board of TEDxMarin (Marin, CA) responsible for event strategy, adjudicate content and themes, along with selecting speakers, and assisting in year-round programming activities—Kelly Eisenhardt.

As Blue Practice celebrates its tenth year in business, which project in the last ten years has most positively impacted sustainability?

Sustainability is a continuum and we’re proud that we contributed to this effort over the last decade. Some of the projects we are most proud of focus on solar technology, electric vehicles, and promoting the sustainability movement with prominent individuals in the industry.

One of our first campaigns was SolarCity’s Community Purchasing Program. Through grassroots community outreach, we helped introduce the benefits of solar across California before the technology became widespread. This enabled Californians to see solar technology as an affordable option for their homes.

Another longstanding commitment of our agency has been to boost interest in electric vehicles (EVs), in places as varied as TED, the pages of the Niemen Marcus catalog, and the TODAY show.

One of our more engaging and ongoing projects includes supporting the leadership of formative figures in the sustainability movement like William McDonough - famous for his Cradle to Cradle approach to design that mirrors nature’s systems.

As sustainability continues to evolve, so will we. Building communications and advocating for sustainability advancements is one of the most important efforts we can undertake.

Which trends or issues are you most excited to help your client’s with now?

Our mission as a communications agency is to elevate the role of sustainability and support our clients by helping them build and promote their sustainability efforts.

There is an increasing importance on integrating sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) into the management of a company’s supply chain and financial performance. This trend continues to grow. We believe it is the basis for showing the value that can be gained with net positive impact and by increasing accountability to the triple bottom line.

In terms of specific trends, we’re continuing to follow the adoption of circular economy and cradle to cradle principles within the built environment, product design, architecture, and supply chains. There is a fundamental shift happening in the way companies view the environment and the economy. We will continue being part of these discussions and grow alongside our clients.

In addition, one of the biggest trends is in helping sustainability leaders promote their vision, mission, values, and programs.

Recently, we have focused on our Executive Branding Program to enable thought leaders to build their digital platform and brand, along with promoting their real world experience. This program helps leaders better communicate with their audience on topics like CSR, Cleantech, environmental advocacy, and sustainability. Some of the tools in the program include – identifying strategic areas for thought leadership and aligning relevance with trending topics, writing supporting content for personal channels or opinion pieces, expanding their social media footprint, and persona building through curated media interviews, and speaking opportunities.

It’s important that we help promote the incredible and innovative work that is moving the world of sustainability forward. 

Describe in more detail your slogan “Communications for a Sustainable World.” 

Our founding principle is to promote the voices of people that are working hard to make the world a better place. Since 2006, we’ve worked together with companies that want to leave a positive global footprint or even better, no footprint.

This slogan is our way of communicating our purposeful and intentional approach to the work we do. In addition to providing a special sense of purpose at our agency, it also is a unique advantage in the communications field.

By staying engaged in the environmental sustainability community, we are better able to support our clients and the work they do. We take pride in raising their voices higher. We’ve been able to develop supportive relationships within our network by communicating with a common language and mastery of the sustainability world. 

Can you talk more about some of the exciting projects in the areas of mobility, natural capital, and innovation?

Mobility is an exciting ride for us. Jessica, one of our co-founders was the first Vice President of Marketing for Tesla. I also collaborated with Tesla before starting Blue Practice. Mobility is in our DNA. This can take on many forms as we have launched nearly a dozen programs in the electric vehicle, battery design, alternative drivetrain and fuels space. 

Mobility goes beyond the vehicle, of course, and our work in mobility has extended to urban designs for walking and park spaces like we did for the ParkScore program for the Trust for Public Land. As we re-think mobility and with the convergence of AI, sensor technology, and smarter city planning, there will be more programs and products focused on greater efficiency and purpose.

Natural capital is a relatively new accounting concept measuring the way a company uses natural resources like water and energy. As our most precious economy, natural capital remains under appreciated as a resource and is often taken for granted.

To get deeper into the trenches on this subject, we’ve worked with groups like the Economist’s World Oceans Summit, the United Nations Development Programme, and the wildlife rescue organization Wildcare on accountability for natural resources, advocating on all levels for the support and preservation of natural lands the creatures that inhabit those lands.

Innovation has always been a top area for us, even before our inception when I was a technology reporter.  We believe that innovation can be a huge driver of change, and in fact is a needed mechanism for remediating our current environmental situation.  With our backgrounds as communicators in technology and innovation, we have from early on been involved in the introduction of new technologies and product designs that center on sustainability and aim to make positive environmental impact and influence behavior change. We’ve brought attention to brand new technology in the lighting space, building products, transportation, energy, smart controls, just to name a few.  Launching new and positive solutions brings us both a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

How have you worked with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition in the Design space?

We worked with the SAC team to publicly launch the organization as well as their initiative to design a framework by which key sustainability efforts could be measured and improved upon. The tool, called the “Higg Index”, provides greater transparency across the retail industry and enables companies to choose more sustainable options for their design and manufacturing processes.

We helped design the SAC’s internal and external communications strategy, as well as curate the stories on the organization internationally when they were ready for a global reveal. It was a great media relations campaign to work on and we were excited to help seed staff at conferences and events to share this new model for pre-competitive industry cooperation with the world. 

How do you partner with clients on Community Impact profiles?

Each company we work with has its own unique audience with a set of requirements for what they need to help them advocate, educate, and influence the communities most relevant to their work. This has given the Blue Practice team exposure to many micro and macro-communities, we otherwise might not have reached.

Community can be a traditional concept and follow a grassroots campaign with a broad approach. Community can also be a smaller community that is a honed audience within a niche category.

It’s important when we work with clients that we truly understand the audience they want to reach and build purposeful programs. We’ve helped with on-the-ground campaigns for broader messaging in the energy efficiency space to reach homeowners in various communities and we’ve worked with a marketing association for the nation’s largest utility companies so that they might share energy efficiency and smart grid information with all their customers. 

If readers want to learn more about how to get the word out about sustainability programming, where might they find more information and case studies?

I encourage readers to learn more by going to our website www.bluepractice.com. There’s a broad range of information available there on both the sectors in which we work and the services we provide. Plenty of case studies to refer to as well. Contact Blue Practice directly for more information.