Right now, we’re in a time of unprecedented environmental uncertainty and global political upheaval. With a fractured Paris Agreement and worrying data emerging about the escalating impact of climate change, we feel it’s more important than ever for businesses (big and small) to make a proactive commitment to upholding their sustainability policies. After all, Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer a “nice to have,” but a fundamental part of running a company in contemporary society. The circular economy is inching closer, more emphasis is put on the importance of long-term vision instead of quarterly sales, and stakeholders are demanding accountability—not just to the bottom line but to business practices that embrace diversity, inclusion, social impact, transparency and environmentalism. In short, innovation and values are no longer mutually exclusive concepts.
Here at FFunction, we’re continuing with our existing CSR practices, and implementing more policies to try to ensure that we give more than we take. In some areas we met our targets, in others we still have room for improvement. Let’s go through the last financial year and look at the stories, the projects, the policies, and most importantly, the data.
Within our studio environment, FFunction consciously implements strategies for environmental sustainability and a reduced environmental footprint. We take many different approaches, including:
Maize Seed System Application
Across much of sub-Saharan Africa where maize is the most important staple crop, production is primarily rain-fed, which makes farmers vulnerable to food insecurity due to global climate change. Approximately 40% of Africa’s maize crop suffers a loss in yield due to occasional drought conditions, endangering the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers and several hundred million consumers. The maize area vulnerable to drought is increasing by nearly 1 percent per year. USAID is working with other agencies and organizations, including international development company, DAI, to provide a new climate resilient maize initiative. DAI asked FFunction to design and develop an interactive map of the maize seed system in sub-Saharan Africa, to be used for sharing knowledge, identifying connections and relationships among system actors, and for better understanding how to improve investments, programs, and interventions in order to create a more efficient and productive system.
L’état du vélo infographics
Client: Vélo Québec
For nearly 50 years, Vélo Québec, a non-profit organization, has played an important role in the Quebec cycling scene. It constantly encourages the use of bicycles—whether for recreation, tourism or as a clean, active mode of transportation—in order to improve the environment, health and wellbeing of citizens. Vélo Québec asked FFunction to design several infographics to communicate the benefits of cycling and talk about the impact that biking has on Quebec society. We used data on how many people bike in this province (4.2 million), and dissected the split across gender and age. The infographics were disseminated across social media channels and other digital communications in both French and English, in order to help spread the word about Vélo Québec’s important mission.
In this financial year, 14% of our revenue came from projects supporting an environmental cause; a 5% increase from the previous financial year. Energy consumption within the studio: 412 kWh per employee vs 417 kWh per employee in baseline year 8,550 GHG emissions per employee vs 8,658 kWh per employee in baseline year
These numbers represent a 1.25% decrease in energy consumption and GHG emissions, which is a positive result. However, our target was to decrease by 4% compared to baseline, so we still have some work to go in this area.
Political transparency and open data is an area close to our hearts at FFunction—our Director Sébastien Pierre was one of the original founders of the Montréal Ouvert, a citizen-led group which campaigned for open data as a default position within local government. In terms of policies in this area, FFunction actively bids for contracts that have a positive impact within this sphere, and sometimes offer pro bono hours for projects of this nature too.
Security Force Monitor
Client: Open Society Foundation
FFunction designed and developed a tool called Security Force Monitor for Open Society Foundation that aims to increase the transparency and accountability of police, military and other security forces. Security forces are often opaque, making it difficult for human rights researchers, journalists or others engaged in public interest work to find the answers to even simple questions, such as:
The Monitor compiles public information on security forces with a goal of aiding journalists, human rights groups, litigators and others to hold security forces accountable.
In this financial year, 1.46% of our revenue came from political/transparency projects. This is a 10% decrease from the previous year’s numbers. We are keeping our eyes open for more opportunities to contribute to this niche area.
Our ongoing aim is for at least 25% of FFunction’s projects to have a positive social impact. This minimum quota is an ongoing statement of who we are and how we do business.
Client: Children’s Investment Fund Foundation
The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) is an independent philanthropic organization headquartered in London with offices in Nairobi and New Delhi. The organization works with a wide range of partners to address problems including nutrition, health, climate change and early learning - transforming the lives of poor and vulnerable children in developing countries. CIFF contacted FFunction to create a series of seven screens showing how CIFF focus-issues impact children. They wanted an interactive experience for their users that would transcend the data and engage people on an emotional level. The end result, entitled Beattie’s Life, brings CIFF’s goals to life using animated data-driven illustrations supported by a carefully crafted narrative that gives a child’s perspective on how nutrition, birth, environment and education can affect his or her life.
Infostories Youth Employment
Client: International Labour Organization (a UN agency)
More than 200 million young people are either unemployed, or have a job but still live on the poverty line. FFunction worked with the International Labour Organization to create some infostories using global youth employment data.
We once again exceeded our target this year: 37% of FFunction’s revenue came from social good projects. However it’s hard to compete with FY14/15, which was a bumper year on the social good front; 56% of the revenue came from social good projects. Despite the drop, we’re still more than happy with this year’s result. Additionally, in this financial year, 31.97% of FFunction’s revenue came from under-represented clients, and 9.64% from local (Canadian) clients.
FFunction offers one paid work day annually for employees to volunteer with the nonprofit/charity/cause of their choice We use our purchasing power to support women, minority groups, and local businesses. For example, we buy our cleaning products from local eco B-corp, Baleco (http://www.baleco.ca/) and our tea from Montreal-based company, DAVIDsTEA (https://www.davidstea.com/). In the 15/16 financial year, we wrote a formal policy to address procurement and ensure that this ethos is followed consistently. We continue to offer prono bono hours towards certain events and organizations that are aligned with our values.
Pro bono hours: 177 hours
We’ve freely given our time and expertise to a range of deserving events and organizations over the last year, including the Association of Registered Graphic Designers. In FY15/16 FFunction was involved in several great community events. We sponsored a VisMtl meet-up, gave a free presentation at The School of Canada and offered the services of our Creative Director for a portfolio review event organized by Shopify called On Display.
The FFunction Scholarship is awarded every year to a graduating UQAM student. In FY 15/16, the recipient was Fanny Vassilastos, who did a research project on information feeds for her graduation project.
Over the next 12 months, we’d like to really work on our carbon footprint here at the studio. We already have a variety of green strategies for the studio that we outlined above; recycling, using environmentally conscious products, and relying primarily on natural light to save power and reduce emissions. But we would like to work more closely with building management to ensure that we have access to a solution for organic waste, that the windows are properly insulated, and that heating is not unnecessarily pumped up to a sauna-like level in winter. We recognize the challenges of making an old industrial building into a sustainable office space, so we’d like to work together to see what can be done.
Thanks for taking the time to read about FFunction’s steps towards better CSR. The idea of this report is not only to establish better public accountability, but also to start discussions around CSR within our sector, and the impact that information design can have on the world. Please email your thoughts on our CSR approach and performance at email@example.com, or join us on Twitter / Facebook.