Search Interviews:

Jeremy Weisz 14:43

What is the end result that you know, you probably have a lot of background and research and discovery and things to come to then what does it look like on the other side? Once you do all that? 

Phil Haid 14:57

Yeah, so in some cases, it’s Depending on the task, it could be a community, like a community strategy, like so I mentioned Shoppers Drug Mart. You know, right now we’re working with Crocs globally on helping them think about their whole strategy. And so what ends up being is okay, where are you going to focus? And actually communicate? Or like, if it’s a foundation? Or if it’s just an extension? You know, what’s the idea? And how do you bring it to market? So who are you going to partner with? And who are you going to? How do you engage your customer in it? So one of the end products is a, what we call a community impact programme, right? You know, it could be a signature programme, if you’re familiar with REI, they have an OPT outside, right, which is sort of a, you know, they took a page out of Patagonia’s book and they closed their, you know, they closed their doors on the Black Friday weekend around Thanksgiving, right to get people outside to get there and started with their employees, and now their customers. So it could be like a signature programme, it could be a campaign where you’re trying to get a customer to engage, it could be something where you’re both buying this product, and we’re gonna make X happen. But we try to move away from just the transactional to actually something much more sustaining long term. But it usually shows up in a campaign in a programme in an initiative. 

And in some cases, you know, literally, it could be a, it could be a statement or a stance, that CEO takes on an issue. Right, and it’s more on the communication side. But it’s really sort of planting a flag and saying, you know, like many brands have done, you know, think about Tom’s and they’ve taken stances on gun control. Right, Levi’s has done the same thing. You know, using the voice of your CEO. So how do you leverage senior executives to get out there and champion issues? Right. So it could be a piece of communications, it could be a programme, it could be a campaign, it could be, this is less sexy, but it could be a framework, like when I talk about the ESG work, like we actually help them, organize everything that they’re doing in a way that they can now set measurable goals against it and communicate it to internal and external audiences in a in a cohesive way.

Jeremy Weisz 17:07

What are some best practices to communicate back to the company and the people because you created this amazing body of work, this framework, and now they’re like, Phil, I have 1000. Staff members. Now, how do I get this back? So they’re all rowing in the same direction?

Phil Haid 17:30

Yeah. So there’s a bunch. One that I think is what a lot of companies don’t do, which gets them in hot water is specificity. So a whole bunch of the pushback on greenwashing is that people are, you know, companies making claims that they can’t back up, right? And so when you just start talking about, you know, we’re going to better the world. And you don’t actually have any specific example of not just a commitment that you’re making, like, actions, right? People call BS on that. They’re like, well, that’s not and so now we’re seeing like, in Europe, like, I mean, they’re, they’re regulating against it, right? It’s, it’s, so one of the really important principles is, and when we say this specificity is your friend, right? There’s power and being really clear about what you’re concretely doing to advance an issue. If it’s if you’re talking about diverse equity inclusion in the workplace, what are you doing to actually make it more diverse, more inclusive, more equitable? So specificity is one. I think one that lots of companies struggle with is transparency, right? Easy to say, hard to do. But because there is so much cynicism and skepticism out there today, and you see things like this has been this brand study that has been dead for years, where the staff that always sticks with me is like consumers, like 90% or 85% of consumers say that if a brand is this, you know, your brand disappeared tomorrow, they wouldn’t care. Right? And you know, brands are always measuring, you know, brand love, they’re looking at how much people care about what, what they stand for. So transparency is critical, because when you can demonstrate where you are in the journey, nobody expects perfection, right? And we’ve always, you know, that expression like don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. No consumer, I should say no, but the vast majority of consumers, we’ve seen this practically. And I’ve seen it in research, do not expect companies and executives to be absolutely buttoned up and perfect, not at all. But what they will call them out in a nanosecond is if they are not being transparent about what they are doing or what they haven’t achieved. So what we advise all the time is to say, let’s set a path like set a map of where you’re trying to get to be really clear on where you are today, and what the delta looks like the gap between where you are and where you want to get to. And be very specific about the things that you’re doing and just really transparent about where you are on that journey. Ernie, I think Unilever has done a very good job of that over the years where they’ve got their, you know, sustainable living plan. And they were very clear about where they are on that, on that, on that journey and and look into the yardsticks will always change. But that transparency is critical. So specificity is critical. Transparency is critical. And then I think the maybe the sort of slightly softer one, but really, really important, is, I don’t think, companies when we try to advise us, I don’t think brands spend enough time thinking about what is their true unique, differentiated point of difference? Like, what and what’s your so what is your perspective, your point of view that is unique to the market, and then really stick with that, right? Like, you can’t, you can’t be fair weather on that. And so, you know, when you look at Nike, you know, and the very intentional calculated move they made with, you know, when they did the campaign with Colin Kaepernick a few years ago, right, they knew they would lose some some customers as a result of it, but they also knew they would gain a whole lot more. And, and the reason that that works so well was It was incredibly authentic to I believe who they are, right, it was just great, great marketing, and there was substance behind it. And so it’s really important to have a point of view, and to be able to be differentiated in that point of view, and put that out in the marketplace. And then you got to stick with it, which I’d say maybe it’s the last one I’ll just highlight. It’s really important. This is a long game, not a short game. And any company that is trying to create a quick win, and then we’ll get out and not stick with it is gonna get punished. And in the short term, and definitely in the long term. So yeah, you have to stick with the things you believe, which is why your values and your purpose are so important. Because those should not be things that you’re changing on a weekly or monthly or annual basis. 

Jeremy Weisz 21:48

And we’ve seen that happen, with companies putting it out and then not sticking with it, and they get punished afterwards. 

Phil Haid 21:54

Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, the, you know, what, most recently, right? If you think about the whole Budweiser and the Dylan Mulvaney scandal for the, you know, people who know about it, basically a transgender influencer. And, you know, Budweiser has had a strategy of reaching out to a variety of different communities and supporting communities. And I think that was, I think that’s authentic from what I can, what I can see from the outside. And so to mark the scent, a Dylan a can of Budweiser, Bud Light with their picture on it, it was never meant to sell they weren’t selling the beer, right. But of course, Dylan put it on, on social media, and it blew up where the Jena that Trumpian GOP went crazy ballistic, right, and they’re gonna they’re gonna boycott Budweiser, that the mistake that Biden made, was they did not stick with it. They didn’t at that moment, they could have stayed out, they, they basically said, We apologize, we didn’t mean need to make any huge divisive action. That’s what the CEO came out and said, which, you know, all that says you don’t really believe in it. If they had come out and said, Listen, we support transgender, right? It is, there needs to be a place for that in our society today. And we know that a lot of our customers may not agree with that. But we as a company absolutely support people, right? I’ll see BQ plus. And we stand by what we did. If they had done that, the narrative would have been completely different. But that’s not what they did. So then people question, will you actually so now this is just a stunt, right? This is performative. And one of the things we’ve seen in society in the last few years is, you cannot be performative anymore. At the moment, you’re trying to just show your support for something where there isn’t substance beneath it. And there isn’t true value based alignment, we’ll stick with it. You get skewered. Because there’s so many cynics and skeptics out there. But because of the echo chamber, you can create in social media, you have to be authentic. And that was an example where they really weren’t.

Jeremy Weisz 23:58

They’ll talk about why you started this company. What made you start this company? I don’t know, when I hear you talk and like, he can be a director of a huge nonprofit somewhere. Why did you start? What made you start the company?

Phil Haid 24:13

So, you know, my, I’ve always been interested in social change. I joke that, you know, it chose me, I didn’t choose it. It’s sort of a nature thing. You know, if I love cars, I would have been working in the automotive industry. And so my trajectory has always been sort of in the social change space. You know, in around 2000. When I was working, I actually fell into a social issue advertising agency, which was so far from what I did before. I mean, I worked at a think tank on public policy. I mean, you know, very far from it. But I was really intrigued. This is like 2000, and I was really intrigued by the work they were doing and corporate social responsibility, which was like a big buzzword back in 2000. And it was this idea that companies could do things in the Space that are more substantive than just writing a check really, really intrigued me. And so I joined this company, and probably around 2004, what I started to see, so we were developing CSR programmes for all beer companies, insurance companies the like. And what I started to see was that no matter how successful we were, they wouldn’t put more money against their CSR initiatives, because it was seen as an expense to the business. It wasn’t something that drove the business, they felt good about it, but it didn’t drive the business. So I’d say probably around 2004, that sort of, you know, the penny dropped for me. And I thought, this can’t be the way forward because I was having a conversation with somebody at one of the big banks. And we were talking about what we had created. And we very naively said to them, you know, this is we’re so excited about what we’ve created together. Let’s talk about how we to x the budget next year, right? And the person looked at us and said, well, we can’t do that. For the reasons I’ve just explained, right? It was a cost of the business. And for me, that’s when the light bulb went on. I thought this can’t be the way if we don’t actually show them how this drives tangible business results, they will never put more money into it. And the problem with philanthropy, I love philanthropy don’t get me wrong. 

But the challenge with philanthropy is it doesn’t scale. Right. And the number that I always proselytize in presentations and the like, is that if you take all of the money in the US on an annual basis, you’re talking depends on the year, but you’re talking between 400 and $500 billion, right? Sounds like a huge sum of money. But it costs less than what it costs to educate Kindergarten to Grade 12 For one year in the United States. So philanthropy is a really important piece of the puzzle, but it cannot be the solution. So which means coming full circle to your question. For me, the reason it started Public was probably 2004, it started to ruminate. And I’m like, we have to prove that companies, if they think of social environmental impact, are a business advantage and a business strategy. I want to prove that they can make as much money or more money and create more good, not less. And so that’s why in 2008, I, you know, I went off with a business partner at the time. And we created his company to prove this idea of profit with purpose, which wasn’t a term that people were talking about in 2008. Today they do, but it was to really go and prove that could this be the way forward? How do we accelerate? You know, there’s all kinds of language right, generally, like there’s stakeholder capitalism, conscious capitalism, like there’s all these different terminology. They’re all about the same idea, which is how do you actually create an economy, using economics, using business practice, to create a world that is more sustainable, more just more equitable, right. And if you don’t use market forces to do that, you’ll never get scale? And so that’s why I created the company was to be a part of that, and to try to accelerate that, you know, through this sort of marketing, you know, communications lens.

Jeremy Weisz 27:59

How did you get your first clients? I mean, you’ve at this point served some really large clients. I imagine, like when you have your shingle, I don’t know, if you were going to Johnson and Johnson say, Hey, do you want some help? But how did you get your first clients?

Phil Haid 28:15

It’s a great question. So in the early days, I would say more of my relationship. And that work was actually with nonprofits. And we worked, I worked with a bunch of companies, but my network was much, much broader in the nonprofit space. And so in the early days, most of our clients were nonprofits. And we were sort of doing the flip side of the coin, we were doing the, we would say, like nonprofits don’t separate money from mission. So let’s think about how we can create public education campaigns, advocacy campaigns, and fundraising campaigns that will make you money, generate revenue and advance your issue, but which was great, and it was fun. And I love working with them. And I love the issues, but it wasn’t proving our thesis. And to be honest, you know, I just chipped away at it. I mean, the amount of conversations I had, and the really tough part was tough and exciting. I would go to these execs when I would get meetings with senior execs and companies. And we would talk about this thesis, this is in 2009 Talk about profit purpose, the response that we would get was either I think this is just wrong. You shouldn’t be, you shouldn’t profit by doing something good, right? So it’s like a categorical rejection of the thesis. Got a lot of hay that’s really intriguing. But that’s nice to not need to do. And I’ve got a whole bunch of KPIs I’ve got to achieve. 

And then there were others who would say, you know, I really think you’re onto something. But I can never be perceived to say that in the market. And so I would say the first five to seven years. I can’t even count how many conversations I had with senior execs trying to convince them of This thesis, and of course, you know, it’s the old adage of like, when you’re breaking into the marketplace as a young employee, right? You don’t have experience if someone won’t give you a chance. And so we kind of cut our teeth on the nonprofit, and then just chipped away, just chipped away, chipped away, at getting, you know, early on, we got Starbucks in the US hired us to help them map their global volunteers on a platform. And then we tried to parlay that into another opportunity, you know, but honestly, it took the market catching up to the idea to really get traction. In Canada, Maple Leaf Foods was a brand early on that took a bet on us, which was amazing. And then we just tried to parlay that into others. You know, as you say, today, we work with huge blue chip companies. But it’s because of two things. One is that we stuck with it. You know, when I get asked by social entrepreneurs, when I meet with them, they’re like, Well, how did you know, how have you been able to grow? You know, half of what I always say is, how badly do you want it? Because there were a lot of tough years, but I really, really, really believed in the thesis. really wanting to prove it, and just being really stubborn, and loving what we were doing, and just that I’m just gonna stick with it. But you know, that’s 90% of the effort, right? How badly do you want it to someone, someone’s willing to work harder than you. So how badly do you believe in what you’re doing? And do you have the expertise to do it, but it was just hard work determination. And then you just build on one little success for a second. and third,

Jeremy Weisz 31:34

I mean, I could see you. I mean, you could have listened to the market at the time, and be like, listen, we’re just going to specialize in nonprofits, and just go down that route, listen to the market and do that. But you have this underlying belief. So you just kept chugging along, and you had some breakthroughs. With Starbucks, and like you parlay, you say, you parlay those to the next thing you use now some social proof, they’re like, hey, here, are these companies, and it finally caught up?

Phil Haid 32:05

Yeah, exactly. It was like, you know, we got Maple Leaf foods out of the body shop, you know, so you get, like, one of the original, you know, as my kids got the yo G in the social purpose, business, you know, so we get the body shop. And, you know, look, success begets success. And when you show that you can actually deliver something of value, then you can parlay that. But yeah, a big part of it was believing in it and letting and letting the market catch up to us. But no, my wife jokes, it’s like I’m just to me, it’s, you know, no, is not always no, it’s just no is not, not now, right. And I also joke, I say, you know, one of the differences between Canadians and Americans. And I say this, the very proud Canadian, but I love working in the US, because so often the Canadian may get a Canadian maybe really means no, they’re just too polite to tell you that it’s a no. And, and so I always love to say to everyone, I love a yes. And I love a no, a fast No. But, uh, maybe that’s really a no, it’s a terrible answer. You know, and, you know, nobody owes you anything, but they do. But I do believe we owe each other to always be honest, and be direct and transparent about it. So someone doesn’t want, you know, doesn’t want your business, they can just say they don’t over you don’t have to give you business. But to string someone along. So, you know, you just persevere. And I think how badly you want something really, really determined success. 

Jeremy Weisz 33:37

Some of the evolution of your company we’ll fast forward to today, which is navigating a virtual culture. Right. And so I’d love to hear what you do to help maintain it again. Your core is helping people with social issues and which are going to get promoted into their culture. And that’s ultimately why consumers are going to buy, that’s why people stay sometimes. What do you do to maintain a culture in this remote world? For your team? 

Phil Haid 34:14

Yeah, it’s a great question. And it’s really hard. I will just say off the top that we’re still trying to figure it out. And we’ve gone through different iterations. Because during COVID, you know, our policy was you, do you? And so it was completely flexible. And people decide, and I think a lot of companies did that. In our, you know, we’ve asked people to be in the office one day a week all together, because they really believe it’s really important to have FaceTime and build those trusting relationships. But in terms of the culture and how we navigate it. It’s a work in progress for sure. A couple of things that we have done. One is that we and I would highly encourage people to think about this. We worked with a great firm performance by design to help us with this, which is we built a code for the public. And so a coach is really how you know, it is. It’s your, it’s your purpose, it’s your values, it’s your behavior in one small, tight box, right that everybody buys into. And we really feel it’s really important that we talk about this with any new hire, we ask everyone, what is your like? What’s your impact portfolio? Right. So some people have a deep impact portfolio, meaning that they’ve done a lot of work in a social environmental realm. Others won’t have, but they may be doing it in their volunteer time, right, or they’re sort of passion projects. And so one thing we do to kind of keep the culture strong as we have a code, and our code is driven by our purpose, which is to go to work everyday to accelerate change in society, and our code, we have one core value of Public, which is courage. And so it’s the courage to stand up, the courage to stand out and to stand together to accelerate change in the world. And we’ve built a whole code and a set of behaviors and attitudes around that. And so one of the things is that, you know, we, I think we have an advantage here, because we are a purpose driven company, but everybody comes to Public because they want to accelerate change in the world. And so that binds us already very tightly. The other thing that we’re working on and so work in progress is how do you really create a culture of real talk, because what I find is, you know, I’ve worked in different cultures, everybody brings their baggage into a culture. And I think part of that baggage is that they don’t believe that it will be rewarded, to be completely honest, and to confront, you know, real challenges, right? It’s so easy to accept it, and then have all the side talk and the right. And so we’re really trying to lead by example, but have real talk all the time with our team. And then we do other things, right? Like, 

Jeremy Weisz 36:56

How do you do that? internally?

Phil Haid 36:58

How we do it is we like, continuously talk about the need for real talk. And so every Tuesday we come together, we shout out. So we start with like, why do people appreciate it, but someone else in the company, so that’s on the positive side, right? But you gotta put like, you got to put the good coins in the bank before you can do the negative stuff, right? The harder stuff. So because if people don’t trust you to believe you’re coming from a good place, they won’t be open to constructive criticism. So we actually do talk about shadows, we do shadows every week. And we also, with the code, talk about things that have happened over the past week that are a reflection of the code, good or bad. And then in one on ones we’re trying, and we you know, we still have a road to drive on this one. But we tried to do it in constant feedback mode. And this is the real talk, what’s working, what’s not working? What would you do differently? And so the more we can build the muscle of constant feedback of what works, what doesn’t work, what would change, you get to the real talk, right? You build that trust. And so those things that you think about having a code, you know, really celebrating the positive and shouting out in a positive way, right, constant, you know, feedback on on the work and what people are doing well, and one less well, as I think is built, you know, a pretty nice culture, we still have a way to go, but putting this culture and we do all kinds of supports for people from our policies on top, as far as you know, paternal and maternal leave to, you know, we have a week of volunteerism paid volunteerism that we do for everybody, like we have a whole bunch of things to really support our team as as individuals both outside and inside the office. But at the core, if you want to really build a great culture, it has to be in the work, right? It can’t be all the stuff around it has to be people loving, believing in the vision and the values of the company, wanting to do this kind of work, and then having a level of autonomy to do great work. Right. So that, you know, and that’s true for any company.

Jeremy Weisz 39:06

Now, Phil, with your saying you know, the open conversations, real talk, what’s not working, what’s something that someone said that said, this isn’t working, and you had to go back and change it? Because listen, I mean, you take pride in your business and your company, even though you want to hear it, it hurts. It’s like a punch in the stomach sometimes to hear those things. What was one of those things that was maybe a punch in the stomach that you had to go back and with the team and look at?

Phil Haid 39:36

Yeah, I’ll give you a couple really quick ones that were pretty, pretty important transformational for us. One has to do with their there’s points not that long ago where our team would tell us we would do these sort of quarterly surveys and then they would tell us that they didn’t feel that leadership had their back, which really, really hurt us. Um, because we spent so much time thinking about the team and I always say like, and if you ask anybody on the team at Publix, only 40 people, but they will tell you like, I am super responsive, anybody on our team? And I say to them all the time, so why wouldn’t I be like, we’re just the sum of the people at this company. Like, there’s nobody more important than the people at Publix. But so that the fact that they felt that they didn’t have their backs, like, I got it. And so what I realized was, we were doing a very poor job of communicating, we weren’t bringing them along, and the decisions we were making, and we weren’t doing it well enough, or often. And so that was one where we had to really change how we communicated. And you know, so classic, right? I mean, we’re marketers and communicators, I mean, you have to tell somebody something seven to 10 times before it sinks in. I mean, that is just true. You, you tell somebody once and you think they’re gonna remember it doesn’t happen. So except in the rare exception, so what that was one, I’ll tell you another one was, though, that we have a real commitment to having a diverse workforce at Publix. We’ve made really good strides. But we’ve had some real pushback around how are we, you know, are we retaining people of color? And different ethnic backgrounds? And are we doing enough to attract them? And what we are doing is our approach to hiring good enough. And so, you know, we were guilty, like many where we were just hiring based on the networks of people we knew, well, if you’re predominantly white and middle class, guess what you’re going to find. And so we had to change the way we’re doing it, it’s still a work in progress. Because, you know, we’re about to work with the DNI consultant to help us improve our employee attraction and retention, and really put that lens on it. So we got feedback from saying, like, we’re worried that we know you’re committed to it, we’ve made great strides, but it’s not good enough. And these are from some of the people in our company, people of color. And so that’s really important. So you know, there’s, there’s been a bunch like that. And I think when you can create safety, where people will really call out what’s not working for them, it always makes your company better. But you really have to be open to it. And it could hurt.

Jeremy Weisz 42:18

Yeah, I could see that. I mean, if someone’s like, we don’t feel the leadership has our back. And like, like, that’s our purpose is to make sure you know that. So you were mentioning communication, things had to change. What were some of the things you did to alter the communication? So people felt that? 

Phil Haid 42:36

Yeah, so I would say, two core things. One is that so we were getting this sort of pre COVID, and then COVID hits, right. One of the things that helped in this regard was, like, I think copy most companies, especially smaller companies, we were hell bent on protecting our team. And I was also personally hell bent on not making sure that they were whole from a financial perspective. But we were really transparent, transparent to say, Listen, I mean, you know, when COVID hit in mid March, you know, so much our business just dried up, because people just put a freeze on everything. And, you know, so we said, look, here’s our intent is we don’t want to let anybody go. And also, our intent is that we don’t want to have to cut anyone’s salaries. But we may have to depending on what happens, and little start from, from me and everyone else at leadership down. We were saying we could get some government support. And if he said, if we can get the government support, we will not make the cuts. And that’s exactly what we did. So throughout the entire, you know, height of the pandemic. And, you know, basically since COVID hit, we did not fire one person and we did not cut anyone’s salary. So, you know, when people are saying, Do you have my back, that’s a pretty clear indication you have their back, because we could have gotten the government subsidy, and still cut people by 20%. Right. But we didn’t, we didn’t do that. The second thing we did is we started to communicate way more often, and with more depth to everything that was happening in the company in the decisions that we were making, and doing it on a very regular basis and bringing a whole new level of transparency. And it was a bit of a hangover for me as we were growing because, you know, we’re still a small boutique shop with 4040 people. But when we were like 10 people and 15 people, there was a closeness, but also, you know, if you share too much with your team, especially when you’re just trying to grow and you’re not doing amazing and you’re not very profitable. It can scare people that like I might not have a job tomorrow. So I think I built speaking personally, I think I built a bit of a defense mechanism, the way you do for your children to protect them, I don’t mean to sound paternalistic at all, but just didn’t want to worry them because they knew we can navigate it as we’ve grown and we’ve you know, very luckily knock on wood. We’ve had three fantastic years of growth. What I realized was, especially with the pandemic, we need to get really good at being very transparent with everything that’s happening in the company. On a quarterly basis, we share the results, financial, where we are, we talk, we set a plan for the year, we tell them where we are at the plan, whether we succeed or where we do not succeed. And we constantly reinforce and communicate. And I still think we have a ways to go to be excellent at it. But that constant communication and that level of transparency has had a huge positive impact on the company and the culture.

Jeremy Weisz 45:33

So first of all, thanks for sharing that. I just want to be the first one to thank you. Thanks for sharing your journey. Thanks for sharing everything that you’re working on. I wanna encourage people to check out And you can see if you’re watching the video, you can see right here, they work with some and work with some amazing companies and people. You can see if Johnson and Johnson here you can see converse and much more. So check it out, check out more episodes of the podcast and Phil, thanks so much. Thank you. Thanks everyone.