A World-Changing Marketing Agency? Commuter Challenge Is Just One Way Imc² Is Leading A Movement.

The 2009 Net Impact Challenge drew to a close a few weeks ago and winners have yet to be announced. You’ll hear about them soon here on Triple Pundit. The annual challenge recognizes and rewards outstanding Net Impact members who lead employee or student-driven projects with tangible positive social and/or environmental impacts on their campus, in their workplace, or in their community.

We’ve invited challenge participants to share their story with Triple Pundit readers. This is the first in the series – from brand engagement agency imc2 who successfully implemented a “Commuter Challenge” to encourage positive changes in the way employees commute.

Please read on for their story…

imc2_logoThe imc² Commuter Challenge is pretty simple: ask employees to take one alternative commute a week – telecommute, carpool, ride public transit, bike, or walk. Participating employees log on to a site created by a coalition of local governments (www.tryparkingit.com) and report how they get to and from work on a weekly basis. One participant per week receives a $20 gift certificate, the team is updated on their collective impact, and awareness of commuting options is spread across the company.

Since the Challenge was issued on Earth Day in April, the imc² team has saved more nearly than 32,000 road miles and prevented more than 26,000 pounds of CO2 (that’s over 11 tons!). And participating employees note improved relationships with co-workers, significant financial savings, and increased productivity. How’s that for triple bottom line thinking?

imc²’s program has been so successful that a regional challenge was modeled after it in collaboration with the North Texas Clean Air Coalition. To date, this larger effort has 364 participating employers who have combined to save 433,000 road miles (that’s equivalent to 17 trips around the planet!) and 191 tons of CO2.

So, how did imc² make this happen? A small group of employee volunteers quantified the cost and opportunity of various commuter options across the triple bottom line: carbon impact (planet), productivity (profit), and out-of-pocket spending (people). The same team issued and analyzed an employee survey and created short testimonial videos of those already taking a regular alternative commute, brief “how-to” videos that walked viewers through the online registration and logging process, and a promotional video that included several employees alongside both the CEO and president (watch below).

But the real story is behind the Commuter Challenge: how has imc² become a place where this is possible? Founder and CEO Doug Levy says, “The stubborn optimist in me believes that business, right here and right now, can be a force for good.” The agency has long had a triple bottom line orientation, but made its first public commitment to integrate this approach in early 2008 with its inaugural CSR report (PDF). Having created a baseline of its impact on various stakeholders – employees, clients, local communities, and the environment – imc² set measurable goals in each of these areas in its 2008 report (PDF) and is now sharing its progress on a quarterly basis.

But imc² isn’t content with making a positive impact on its own. In fact, the company is determined to play a much bigger game: leveraging its work as an agency to transform the world of marketing – an industry often connected to many of the world’s ills (unsustainable consumption being one), but also one with the scale, reach, and incentive to do tremendous good.

imc² wants to accomplish this through brand engagement – an approach that elevates the role of trust in helping build sustainable relationships with people. The agency has done the research and evolved its services to help clients identify their purpose and stakeholder impact so they can act in ways that are authentic, genuine, and consistent with their intentions. With changing consumer attitudes and behaviors and the rise of new media technologies, imc² is convinced that the real opportunity lies not in thinking exclusively about the financial bottom line but in making meaningful connections with people that can be sustained and which are mutually beneficial over time.

Definitely an ambitious journey and one to keep watching. Meanwhile, imc² will keep walking the walk (and carpooling, riding public transit, and telecommuting).

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imc² is a brand engagement agency that helps clients build sustainable relationships with people and works across digital, traditional and emerging media. With offices in Dallas, NYC and Philadelphia, and more than 300 team members, imc² is known most for its digital heritage and successful partnerships with clients such as The Coca-Cola Company, Pfizer, Pizza Hut, Campbell’s Soup, Samsung, and Omni Hotels.

Net Impact 2010 will be hosted by the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Stay tuned for coverage!