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Do the right thing, ask questions later.

By Rob Morris

When Prox people see a problem, they don’t just kick it into the long grass, says art director Rob Morris. They get on with it. Because it just takes one step to change things.

Are you rest-less? Are you sitting at your desk right now, thinking a change, however minuscule, could make the place you work at better?


That’s how I was feeling a few months ago. I was fuming that our company canteen dished out thousands of single-use plastic knives and forks, when it would be so easy to simply switch to metal cutlery.


I wrote a polite email to ‘The Man’, who wholeheartedly agreed with me and then ignored me. Fail. Then I thought: if my company becomes the beacon of change, it will inspire the other 50 in the building. And The Man will be forced to listen.


With the backing of HR and management we formed Rest-Less, a Mirror Board group of likeminded people within the agency. Using our insight to spot where we could make the biggest difference, quickly.


And first of all, we found coffee. A lifeline to the ad industry, it is also a hidden single-use plastic. The takeaway cups are near impossible to recycle because of the plastic coating on the inside.


Which gave us our first challenge: reduce our single-use plastic starting with takeaway coffee cups.


So we brought in KeepCups. Proximity would put up half the cost, and hand-raisers would foot the other half as a pledge to use the KeepCups. With 100 people using them, in one year’s time we will have saved 23,000 takeaway cups from sitting in landfill.


People tend not to carry cash though. So HR had the idea of taking the money from people’s next pay cheques, removing barriers to doing the right thing.


Now we were ‘being eco’, it didn’t feel right to have single use plastic in our kitchens. So we stripped it out and replenished the stocks with reusables. To shift people’s thinking, we put posters around the agency that piggybacked the World Environment Day message ‘if you can’t reuse it refuse it’. We pushed the message on social too.


And our behaviour started to change.


People brought reusable cutlery with them when eating at the canteen. Others were inspired to go beyond the workplace and switch their behaviours and products at home.


‘So what?’ I hear you say. Why should you care whether Proximity is a particularly eco-friendly agency?


Well because, like a less toxic version of ocean microplastics, our ‘do the right thing’ ethos finds its way into everything we do.


Inside our agency, Rest-Less works by taking one person’s gripe with ‘the man’ or ‘the system’ and making a positive move for many. And we’d like to share it. So next time you’re at your desk, irked because a change that seems so simple hasn’t been made, don’t sit and simmer.


Just change it.

Robert Morris is an art director at Proximity London