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June 26, 2020

Telling the CLF Story

by Anne Banta
Marketing and Communications Consultant

anne banta

Anne Banta, Banta Communications

What led to the development of the Carbon Leadership Forum’s new website, and community platform, along with its revised messages and visual identity?

Early in 2019, while reflecting on its ten years of existence, many members of the Carbon Leadership Forum wanted to better understand what key attributes had drawn people to our community, where do we want to go and what do we want to achieve in the next five years. To help answer these questions, the board asked if I would conduct a feedback study, develop a summary report and recommendations, and move forward the initial actions.  This subsequently led to a Message Platform, recommended Action Plan, and the implementation of phase one of the plan, including an enhanced visual identity to better reflect the brand messages, the development and launch of our new, more robust Online Community platform, twice-monthly newsletters and a new website.

Can you share highlights from the feedback study?

I had the pleasure of talking to over forty Carbon Leadership Forum members and partners for nearly an hour each. The key areas we explored were: Why had they joined the CLF, network and/or the EC3 team? What value did they believe these entities delivered? What actions would they like to see prioritized in the next 5 years?

There was a high level of engagement and the participants offered very thoughtful, precise answers. In addition, I was struck by the level of consensus they expressed for why they had joined the Carbon Leadership Forum and/or the Network.

The key takeaways were:

  • The CLF value proposition coalesced around this very simple, but powerful statement: The CLF — along with the previously named Embodied Carbon Network (ECN) — is the go-to place for “Everything Embodied Carbon”
  • The attributes that members and partners value are:
    • The robust research/data. Benefit: Information they trust.
    • The depth of knowledge and resources regarding embodied carbon. Benefit: accelerated learning.
    • Bringing together all the stakeholders in the building industry and offering our members multiple ways to collaborate and network. Benefit: our environment delivers collaboration at its best. We are positively bringing together all the stakeholders necessary to make more informed decisions and propelling them to better enact change. They praised our collective action model.
    • The Carbon Leadership Forum is not just talk, but action. We foster and support our members to incubate and develop high-leverage initiatives and help them to deploy those initiatives. Benefit: we empower rapid impact.
  • In the near-term, the Carbon Leadership Forum should prioritize these actions:
    • Research: continue to pursue research. Research is the foundation of data-driven decisions.
    • Resources: expand the resources. In particular, there were requests to initiate “foundation” resources, such as Embodied Carbon 101 Tool Kit, Architecture Tool Kit, SE Toolkit, Contractors Tool Kit, Material Suppliers Tool Kit and Policy Tool Kit.
    • Networking: with the significant growth in members, participants felt that we needed to find a replacement for Basecamp. They asked that we seek out a more robust platform.
    • Grow the Membership/Network: Participants offered many suggestions, including:
      • Expand the “chapter” model initiated in Vancouver
      • Train members to tell the Carbon Leadership Forum story. These “ambassadors” would then train more and more trainers so we could rapidly achieve exponential growth and reach through the story.
    • Initiatives: participants saw the exceptional promise of the EC3 tool and its potential for enacting real change. They recommended a formal Initiatives program – one that would encourage a review of member-led ideas and an incubation and support environment that would allow the initiative to take shape.
    • Policy: significantly expand our knowledge and develop concrete deliverables that will advance policy tools and recommendations. It was noted that we must have the “adoption and pull” from policy to mobilize change.
    • Communications: They all noted that we needed to move to a “communications phase”. The best way to empower our members is to reach them and share the research and resources, community collaboration and network options, how to get involved, and how to tell our story. Immediately they wanted a clear position platform developed, stronger visual identity, new website that expressed the value propositions and twice monthly newsletters to keep them informed.
    • Funding and Support: Secure the funds and staff to fuel our growth.

What is the essence of the Message Platform?

The essence of the Message Platform is communicated through the two position statements.

Position statement:

The Carbon Leadership Forum propels knowledge, collaboration and action to radically decarbonize buildings, with a keen focus on reducing the embodied carbon in building materials and construction.

The expanded position statement:

Recognizing that buildings account for nearly 40% of global CO2 emissions, the Carbon Leadership Forum, a non-profit organization at the University of Washington, is dedicated to accelerating the transformation of the building sector to radically decarbonize buildings and building materials through collective action.

The Carbon Leadership Forum propels knowledge through its carbon research and resources, collaboration through its robust network of architects, engineers, contractors, material suppliers, building owners, policymakers and associations and action by supporting and empowering its members to advance new ideas and approaches through impactful initiatives.The coalition of members and partners, numbering more than 2,000 across the world, envision a transformed, decarbonized global built environment – better buildings for a better planet.

Why was the website updated?

The website was completely restructured to communicate the position statement (the problem, what we do, how we do it) and employ a voice and visual identity that reflected our brand personality. The attitude, tone and style were centered around these personality traits:

  • Togetherness, teamwork, commitment to mutual actions.
  • Ask questions. Be exploratory.
  • Demonstrate passion, commitment, and follow-through.
  • Show aspiration; hopeful, positive, can-do attitude.
  • Inviting, open, encouraging, and inclusive.

As visitors to our website will see, the Message Platform and Our Story have driven the new layout. The navigation across the top is arranged to tell our story. It communicates a complete story thread:

  • THE CARBON CHALLENGE in the built environment and why we must act now.
  • WHO WE ARE – We exist to take on this challenge! The content states our position for being, vision, mission, values, and the people behind our movement.
  • WHAT WE DO. This section is organized around the value propositions communicated through the study: To eliminate carbon, investigate pathways through RESEARCH, accelerate learning by crowd sourcing and disseminating knowledge through our RESOURCES, connect inspired advocates to achieve action through our NETWORK, and accelerate market transformation by inspiring and fostering action through MEMBER-LED INITIATIVES.
  • We are supported by industry thought leaders (OUR SPONSORS).
  • The world is validating the importance of the challenge and recognizing our organization and our partners found in the NEWS section.
  • After hearing the challenge, why we exist and what we are doing, and seeing the support and validation, we end the website story with JOIN MOVEMENT, hoping that our story has mobilized them to take action and offering them many ways to be part of the movement.

What drove the color palette and new visual elements?

We adopted a new color palette for our logo and subsequent materials. This color palette is now white and yellow, as white symbolizes light, brilliance, illumination and understanding, and yellow communicates clarity, happiness, sunlight, positivity, enlightenment, honor, loyalty, wisdom, joy, and creative and intellectual energy. The use of blue, the color of the sky and sea, conjures the beauty we want to protect in our environment while also communicating freedom, expansiveness and inspiration.

newsletter bannerKnowing that many people remember concepts and ideas best through visual cues, we developed icons to communicate to communicate our key offerings. When our members open this new newsletter, they will also see a new header design. The “notch” communicates that the Carbon Leadership Forum is the hub for knowledge ad collaboration, its placement into the yellow area communicates the ability of our organization to drive change and act as a catalyst for action, while the radiations emanating from the circle, express the far-reaching impact we are actively making.

What other outcomes have emerged?

In addition to the Feedback Study Report, Message Platform, and new website and newsletters, Andrew launched the new online Community Platform, featured in last month’s newsletter. This platform takes our collaboration to new level, delivering a more robust and intuitive way to share ideas, best practices, and tools. In addition, as requested, our reach is expanding through a well-thought out Regional Hub process and deployment, resulting in 17 Regional Hubs across the world. At the same time, a team is devising a roadmap for evaluating and supporting member-led initiative, responding to request for increased pathways to action.

Any closing thoughts?

It was such a pleasure working on this project. I was so impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment exhibited by the participants in the feedback study and the honesty and clarity with which they communicated their recommendations. I hope that our members are inspired by the steps we have taken to-date and those planned going forward.

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