Sustainable Mail? — A Q&A With Mal Warwick
The age of corporate responsibility is here, and many direct mailers didn’t see it coming. And many don’t know what to do. Mal Warwick — founder and chairman of Mal Warwick Associates, a Berkeley, Calif.– and Washington D.C.–based fundraising agency specializing in direct marketing — got a head start more than a decade ago, when being socially and environmentally responsible wasn’t necessarily profitable.
Now he serves as a model for direct marketers everywhere who want to achieve the so-called “triple bottom line” — social, environmental AND financial success — that actually is more profitable for most of the companies that pursue it. Warwick is the co-author of “Values-Driven Business: How to Change the World, Make Money, and Have Fun” (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006) with Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s. For a full transcript of this interview with Warwick, go to www.insidedirectmail.com
Ethan Boldt: Did your business immediately practice “corporate responsibility”?
Mal Warwick: The company was founded in 1979, and we were unusual in a lot of ways, but I’d hardly say that we were conducting the business from a socially responsible perspective. Our major claim to being a values-driven business back then was not so much about how I operated the company [for example, Warwick paid 100 percent of an employee’s health care insurance and, later, started ESOP, an employee stock ownership plan], but in the clients we worked for. We were acting out our values by working for nonprofit organizations that were working for progressive social change that we felt was desirable.
EB: When did you begin to understand the concept of the “triple bottom line”?
MW: Not until I joined an organization called Social Ventures Network in 1990. That was an early pioneer in the field and in many ways responsible for putting the concept of social responsibility on the agenda of corporations around the world. I learned over a period of a few years from my fellow members how much benefit they were getting, both on a personal level and a corporate level, from operating their businesses in a way that respected the needs and aspirations of all their stakeholders, not just their owners — so the employees, members of the community where they did business, the suppliers with whom they partnered and who didn’t just buy the lowest price, and the environmental concerns.