Drowning in images? Control the torrent.

Struggling to manage your images? You are not alone. Stuart Attwood explains how the right tool for the job can make your life so much easier. 

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • You’ve written an annual report and then gone hunting for images from a year’s worth of activity to illustrate it. 
  • A team member has carefully prepared a presentation and then asked for some “great images” the day before the event. 
  • You are writing social media posts and want to know if a certain image has been used before. 
  • You’ve commissioned a photo shoot, and the photographer wants to know how you want the files – Zip drive, WeTransfer, or downloading them from their own site?
  • You’re losing track of the Google Drive folders and tracking spreadsheets that record information about your images.  

When is a hammer more than a hammer?

Asking me why you should use Digital Asset Management software (DAM) is like asking a builder why they need a hammer. It’s a simple, effective device that has many more applications than simply bashing in a nail.

Of course, you could also do that with a rudimentary tool like a rock, but you will soon see the difference when using a tool that was specifically designed to do this, and other tasks, quickly and efficiently.

I would say the same for DAM software. When used properly, it can save you time and money, and add sense and structure to large amounts of files.

As organisations evolve and grow, their image needs can become overwhelming: receiving and sharing files, collaborating with designers, social media managers and communication team members, and managing important content and copyright information. 

Benefits of the right tool

DAM software is more than just a photo/video library. It can be a single, secure, unified storage facility where you can organise files intelligently.  The files can be accessed by everyone working on a project, with the bonus of being able to communicate and collaborate with each other. Assets can be tagged, and metadata added to allow for quick access and bringing up a variety of images with the same tags when prompted. 

Artificial intelligence is also an aspect that DAM software has embraced. Suggestions for metadata tagging are now available on some platforms,which can speed up the process by quickly tagging multiple files in one go, rather than laboriously opening and tagging each one individually.

The collaborative nature of DAM software can be a genuine boon to speeding up workflows, especially if a project must pass through the hands of multiple stakeholders. You can track users and see who is working on files in real time – especially helpful when multiple users are working on individual files, or if sensitive documents are being stored within the application. 

The ability to archive here is great as well, especially if your organisation has the need for legacy images or documents. Cost is sometimes another factor. Most DAM software provides varying levels of storage, and the pricing is very competitive for the level of storage and ease of use.

Meeting the legal requirements of intellectual or artistic property rights is much easier with DAM software. Information about creators and copyright can be stored with a given piece of work, and displayed whenever a particular file is opened, letting any user know the copyright status of any file and any limits on using the file. This protects both your organisation and the creator of any work that may be licensed for a particular application.

Security is another factor which is worth considering. The DAM setup I use is secured against DDoS and other types of attack. The data held is encrypted both at rest and in transit and there are a host of other background bells and whistles that ensure the safety of the data being used. When I’m advising organisations on the DAM software that is right for them, I also investigate where in the cloud the data is being stored. 

If Google Drive or SharePoint were up to the task of handling bulk, high-quality images or video at the speed and flexibility of DAM software, DAM software wouldn’t need to exist. The output of the product is of course only as good as the input, and one of the advantages of DAM software is that the administrator can “allow” varying degrees of access and ability to upload or download files – key to avoiding a messy and ineffective file storage setup.

Back to the hammer – a simple to operate, well-designed tool is essential to an operation that is made up of many parts. DAM software could be a game changer for your organisation. Operated correctly, it can enhance productivity and gives you and your team near-instant access to your files, making it well worth the investment. 

Stuart Attwood has 25 years’ experience in large scale digital asset management and image enhancement for demanding international clients, and is available to manage digital assets via the Comms Co-op. Taking his own advice, he has recently set up a photo library to manage his own portfolio.  

How to build a better case study

As long as I’ve been working in sustainability communications, there have been two words on everyone’s lips: Case studies. There seems to be a bottomless need for real life stories about how businesses and organisations are doing sustainability in real life, whether it’s upskilling staff with a switch to an electric fleet, convincing senior management to set a science-based target, or engaging with their value chain to discuss joint emissions reductions. For all the acknowledged benefits of publishing case studies, however, we have seen relatively few case studies actually published. 

Some of this is due to lack of resources. I sympathise with busy communications managers crying out for more content, but who are unable to step away from pinging emails and phones to concentrate on writing. I used to be you! 

I also wonder if we are reluctant to ask our members or clients to talk about their projects, due to lack of their time, or from some other fear that it will expose the organisation to criticism for not doing enough. When I worked with Abbie Reynolds at the Sustainable Business Council, she often referred to greenhush, the opposite of greenwash, or the tendency to downplay what your organisation is doing as not worth celebrating. 

For example, one company was significantly reducing their chemical usage and installing solar panels to generate their own power. But unfortunately the use of plastic cups around the premises – for safety reasons – was a more visible practice than their electricity generation and waste reduction. They were subject to criticism about plastic usage to the point where they no longer felt comfortable being vocal about their achievements. 

Handled by communicators with experience in sustainability issues, a deep-dive into a project is not to be feared. And the time invested will be well rewarded by the wide benefits case studies can produce for the sustainability community. 

  • Sharing your story shows real organisations dealing with real-world sustainability challenges. This is key to inspiring other organisations to take action.
  • Case studies make your organisation more relatable and give it a human face. This allows customers and stakeholders to connect on a different level beyond traditional marketing. 
  • Case studies also help you fulfil the principles of SBC/SBN/CLC membership, by contributing to a pool of knowledge about sustainability and climate action.  
  • And not least, appealing to an ever-growing population of conscious consumers will grow your brand loyalty and increase investment in your product by these often vocal and passionate consumers. 

Research shows people are now willing to spend more money when they perceive the company to be genuinely investing in sustainable and green initiatives. In the latest Colmar Brunton Better Futures report, 58% of respondents were prepared to invest their time and money to support companies that try to do good, and 46% would make eco-conscious choices, even if they were a bit more expensive. 

In the 2019 report In Good Company, (SBC, Perceptive and Porter Novelli), research showed that at least 47% of New Zealanders care about a brand’s sustainability and that for 34% of those surveyed, perceived sustainability would influence the consumers choice of a brand or product.

We’ve pulled together some tips to make case studies easier: 

  1. Allow plenty of lead-in time before you need to publish them. We recommend a month for written and designed web/PDF case studies, two months for video. 
  2. Give companies a heads-up in advance. Plant the seed early, preferably through a one-to-one chat or phone call. Ideally, the approach will be part of your existing relationship and build the trust you have already established. Let them know you’ll make it as easy as possible for them.  
  3. Find a writer you trust and send them a simple brief – just a handful of bullet points or a couple of sentences is enough for experienced writers to produce a reverse brief. Put them in touch with the organisation directly to interview the spokespeople. 
  4. Recognise the organisation’s time is in demand. Send through an outline of what the case study will focus on, and potential questions to give them time to prepare. 
  5. Be sensitive to the potential risks of telling their story and have the approach and draft text peer-reviewed by another sustainability professional.  
  6. Make sure their comms team is in the loop from the start, rather than two days before publication. This helps prevent any clashes with other publication dates. They can often provide visuals, including operational photos and a high-resolution logo.
  7. Allow for multiple rounds of revision and time for client signoff. 
  8. Have it nicely designed. Do I even have to say this? An attractive visual design will draw your readers in and can convey as much of the message as the text itself. 
  9. Keep the organisation informed at each step of the process, especially if drafts are taking longer than anticipated. Don’t forget to thank them – and co-ordinate publication with their social media team. 

Who should you approach? It depends on who your key contact is. The sustainability manager and communications team should always be involved. Including the voice of staff delivering the organisation’s core mission will really bring it to life. Senior management can provide high-level quotes outlining the project vision and how it ties into the organisational strategy. But make sure you get the experts to provide detail about the challenges and milestones along the way, to really put some meat on the bones. 

Case studies we love

Climate Leaders Coalition – DB installing solar heating at their Redwood Cidery 

It’s easy to read and concise, with graphics which represent the data clearly. The layout makes it easy to understand and absorb the information at a glance – with a pop-out box for key learnings and tips for other companies looking to get started on their sustainability journey.

EECA – Kōkako Organic Coffee Roasters low carbon future

There’s a lot to like about this case study. It has a short video with upbeat music, engaging visuals such as close-ups of coffee beans and drone footage of their operational site and the city. There is enough breathing space in the video to take in what is being said, and there is a good mix of b-roll (footage which goes over the top of interview audio) and the talking-head subject matter expert. 

The written case study has logical headings which divide up the page into bite-size chunks. There is clear advice with bullet points of key takeaways – which helps other businesses wanting to progress with their own sustainability journey. There are relevant links throughout the page for those wanting to delve deeper. 

Climate Leaders Coalition – How ecostore is tackling the plastic problem

This case study was prepared in the form of an aesthetically pleasing booklet. It is pleasant to look at, with its pastel green hues and bespoke graphics and images, and it is also very easy to read, with big, bold writing and clear messaging. Written from the point of view of the company, it gives a more personalised story about their path to find a bioplastic source to make bottles. There are also clear headings about the company’s future goals, its partnership with the Climate Leaders Coalition, and its certification achievements.

Between us, the Comms Co-op has written at least a hundred case studies and produced video versions for leading sustainability NGOs, government agencies, and businesses, big and small. We’ve profiled those who have made major headway on their sustainability journey, as well as those who are celebrating small wins as a first step to leave less of an impact on the earth.

With annual report season upon us, the best time to start thinking about case studies was yesterday. The second best time is today. Give us a call to help you get started.

By Catherine Jeffcoat with contributions from Sarah Cull-Luketina

The plant-based revolution: How new proteins are disrupting more than just what we eat

A condensed version of this article was published in The Post on 18 July 2023.

By Kirsten Taylor and Catherine Jeffcoat

What you eat has always been a political act, whether you know it or not.

Read more: The plant-based revolution: How new proteins are disrupting more than just what we eat

What we put on our plates reflects our upbringing, our income, our attitudes to health, nutrition and animal welfare – and increasingly our desire to have a cleaner environment and sustainable planet for our children. Academics from Otago University researching climate friendly diets within Aotearoa New Zealand found that a vegan diet would have the most significant benefit, reducing diet-related emissions up to 42%, gaining 1.46 million life-years (quality-adjusted) of health gains and saving the health system NZ$20.2 billion).

New research shows that choosing plant-based proteins may be more than just an environmental or health decision. It may be a vote for a new way of doing business.

In Kirsten Taylor’s Master’s thesis, submitted to the Ara Institute of Canterbury for the Master of Sustainable Practice, she delves into what drives the founders of small and medium enterprises producing plant-based proteins, and what sets them apart.

Plant-based proteins are not a new idea. Many cultures have consumed lentils, chickpeas and soy proteins for millennia.

But depending on our dedication to reducing meat and dairy in our diets, especially when faced with fussy eaters, some of these can be challenging to work into our regular consumption. They require a different approach to preparation and flavour.

In recent years curiosity about plant-based eating has increased across the spectrum from vegans to flexitarians and Meat-free Mondays. The Facebook group What Kiwi Vegans Eat has over 20,000 followers, and vegan hospitality businesses are now on the map.

The revolution comes from the emergence of products which act more obviously as meat and dairy replacements, which can be more seamlessly integrated into diets and offer a familiar transition away from animal-based foods.

Plant-based proteins include oat, almond and soy milk, as well as meat analogues (nuggets, sausages, and even chicken, beef and bacon) which give a similar cooking and eating experience. There’s vegan sour cream, vegan cheese and vegan mayonnaise. Even the middle-of-the-road Foodstuffs own brand “Pam’s” has a whole range of plant-based products.

But even before we buy the product and take it home, the small Kiwi companies bringing us these proteins are germinating a quiet revolution of their own. Not content with upending the way we structure our meals, they are starting with their own approach to business.

Kirsten investigated the values that are important to sustainability entrepreneurs in the plant-based protein sector. As can be expected, they prioritised environmental justice, reflecting on how things are connected in nature itself. This seemed to go with a holistic view of the company as part of an ecosystem itself, and a vision for changing the food system. They go beyond just measuring their carbon footprint, they also take into account other sustainability measures such as the importance of biodiversity.

The entrepreneurs constantly assessed their company’s practices to avoid unintentionally greenwashing, which is consistent with the values of authenticity and transparency. Their values also translate into less conventional business structures and ways of working which are more focused on co-operation and decentralised decision-making.

The advantage of starting a business that reflects your values means that sustainability entrepreneurs naturally put climate and sustainability at the centre of business activity rather than having to graft it onto a traditional business structure.

These characteristics give plant-based protein producers the potential to influence change beyond their own organisations and transform the way we do business. These values and non-traditional structures will attract highly skilled and motivated employees with similar values, who may then go on to found similar companies or look for other companies with these values in their next career move. There are approximately 30 plant-based protein producers in New Zealand, which represents an emerging sector gaining critical mass.

Kirsten also looked at barriers to progress in the plant-based protein sector. Common debates hinge on the amount of protein in products, for example in plant-based milks versus animal milks. The results of this debate favour animal-based products, but the focus on protein content may be misleading because Western diets are very protein heavy, and so we are very likely consuming far more protein than we actually need. The question is not about direct replacement. Rather, we need to shift our thinking, from the nutritional value created for humans, to the overall impact of our food on the planet. We need to balance the amount of animal products we consume with more plant-based alternatives.

Traditional dairy and meat sectors market their products with images of beautiful green paddocks and happy animals. This does not reflect industrial farming’s effect on land use, the intensive irrigation demands, and the treatment of animals as commodities. Increasing consumer awareness of the environmental impact of dairy and meat farming may reduce future demand, both here and overseas. As Aotearoa has just signed a free trade agreement with the European Union which includes agreeing to respect the Paris Climate Agreement and trade sanctions in case of material breaches, our ongoing trade relationships will depend on meeting emissions reduction targets. The incentives are clear for New Zealand to rapidly diversify what we produce towards proteins with a lower environmental footprint.

Once we start to shift the story to lowering our impact and eating food that aligns more with our values, plant-based protein producers have an authentic story to tell about being embedded in their local communities, caring about farmers and producing protein with a much lower environmental footprint.

Despite the fact that food production contributes to one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities, we often underestimate its impact when making purchases. Carbon emissions are only one aspect of the problem, and consumers who genuinely intend to make environmentally friendly choices by buying food with low-carbon labels may unknowingly end up purchasing products that contribute to biodiversity loss or contaminate local water streams. Consumers have a growing desire to understand the full impact of the products that they are consuming. In the same way as we have commonly understood nutrition labelling – ingredients, fat and sugar content, the Heart Tick, etc.

Now is the time for mainstream impact labelling to avoid potential greenwashing. As an example, Oxford University and a global food service company are trialling an environmental impact framework which clearly communicates the impact of their products. By incorporating various factors such as biodiversity, pesticide toxicity, and water usage, the impact score presents a comprehensive narrative about our choices that extends beyond greenhouse gas emissions. This approach allows for a holistic evaluation of a product’s overall impact throughout its entire life cycle, providing a complete snapshot of its environmental footprint.

Plant-based proteins also connect to the emerging discussion around degrowth, where common themes are not producing or consuming more than we need. Degrowth discourse also gives us a lens to rethink the role of business in society, which sustainability entrepreneurs are already doing. Policy makers could do worse than keep a watching brief on these new ways of doing business, and integrate the lessons to be learned into future economic strategy for Aotearoa New Zealand.

At present, the most common assessment of a nation’s success is focused on economic factors and GDP growth. In New Zealand, we largely rely on dairy and meat exports. However, if we were to measure and report the true impact of this production, taking into account its negative consequences, the detrimental effects of these products would become much more transparent. By incorporating the genuine costs associated with their production, we can gain a clearer understanding of the environmental and social implications, leading to a more comprehensive evaluation of a nation’s overall well-being.

In the same way that Perpetual Guardian pioneered taking the four-day week seriously, plant-based producers could spearhead a move to different business structures. These new ways of working prioritise inclusion and collaboration, meaning they are more conducive to hearing diverse perspectives and tapping into less traditional business wisdom. They are leaning into their role being embedded within an ecosystem with a vision of changing the food system. These perspectives are exactly what we need to make as much progress as possible towards solving the climate crisis.

Kirsten Taylor worked for several years in the brewing industry and was involved in launching the Fermentist, New Zealand’s first Toitū net carbonzero certified brewery. She now works as a sustainability specialist, based in Christchurch.
Catherine Jeffcoat is a sustainability communications freelancer, based in Wellington.

Predator Free 2050 Limited video

The Story so far reviews five years of Predator Free 2050 Limited operating. It was a complex shoot, across Taranaki, Dunedin, Whakatane and involving many organisations and types of footage.

It rolled out across Predator Free 2050 Limited Linkedin channels in late 2022/early 2023.


What drives us

Predator Free Dunedin


Other videos

Sarah produced a highlights video from the Taurikura Anamata wānanga in September 2022.

Catherine commissioned a video about the Pest Free Banks Peninsula project and wrote the accompanying blog.

Electricity Networks Association

2022 was a big year for the Electricity Networks Association, stepping up their network transformation roadmap to support decarbonisation.

Christian Bonnevie and Dee Warring provided communications support to help them engage more with electricity consumers and stakeholders, including launching their Linkedin page, writing the regular newsletter, and the Energy Wallet campaign looking at the future of the average New Zealand household’s total energy expenditure.

I sing of wheels and the man

In celebration of the time-warping, laws of physics-breaking, booty-shaking universe of The Fast and The Furious. Definitely contains spoilers for FF 1-8.

Recently we’ve been working our way through the Fast & Furious movies, in anticipation of the ninth (core narrative) instalment coming out in May November 2020 May June 2021 (fingers crossed).

After watching the sixth movie, I realised I was in the presence of movie-making greatness, with themes that were only ripening as it headed into double figure entries and spawned two short films and a television series.

A heroic saga in the mold of the Iliad or Lord of the Rings, the franchise makes other buddy action series like Lethal Weapon or Bad Boys seem like rank amateurs. Characters die and are reborn and narrative threads loop back on each other to weave a compelling story of loyalty and honour on a par with the Round Table or a certain Fellowship. The only other comparable multi-movie narratives are either set in a galaxy far far away, or have 60 years of comic book history to draw on. Not bad for a central concept based on pumping pistons.

Flashback to 2001, when I saw a little action movie about car thieves starring the appropriately named Vin Diesel, and some blond blue-eyed chin called Paul Walker. Huh, Point Break with cars, I thought, and forgot about it.

But as the years rolled by and the movies kept coming, there was a nagging doubt in my mind, like fuel knocking. What made this saga so enduring? And then we found a Blu-ray box set of the first six movies on special at The Warehouse, back when they still sold such items. It was fate. Start your engines.

The first movie is dominated by the pan-ethnic non-specific appeal of Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, a man with a code, a growl, and a surprisingly small head. The multi-ethnic cast is a refreshing change from the square-jawed white heroes with Black sidekicks for comic relief. His fiery wahine Letty, played by Michele Rodriguez (Dominican / Puerto Rican), and his feisty sister Mia (Jordana Brewster, part-Brazilian) are at the core of his crew. Stereotypes are busted – in a later instalment, we have Black hackers, a Korean cool guy and a sexy ex-Mossad soldier. Paul Walker as Brian O’Connor seems like the token white guy who has stumbled into this richer, more appealing life. It’s the United Nations of stealing cars.  

It almost ended with a lacklustre sequel, Diesel jumping ship to play Roddick in Pitch Black. In 2 Fast 2 Furious, Brian hooks up with Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce, and a criminally-underused Eva Mendes as Monica Fuentes for a romp through Florida with drug dealers. Hardly the stuff of legends.

But it’s with the third one, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift that things get really interesting. Lucas Black plays Sean Boswell, a cookie-cutter American boy dislocated to Tokyo and befriended by Bow Wow (Twinkie) and Sung Kang as the mysterious, nonchalant Han. Han burns up the screen, pulling our gaze towards him like a black hole sucks gravity.

Tokyo Drift’s director Justin Lin, got the gig on the strength of his previous and much smaller film Better Luck Tomorrow, about aspects of the Asian-American experience, also starring Sung Kang. If you get on well with an actor, why wouldn’t you cast him in your next film? But giving the character the same name paved the way for a fan theory where Better Luck Tomorrow was Han’s origin story, which has now become widely recognised.

The popularity of Han’s character may explain why after dying in a tragic crash towards the end of the third movie, Han appears alive and well in Fast Five. With some fancy dialogue footwork we are led to understand that this movie occurs *before* Tokyo Drift, as does the sixth. Meanwhile in Fast & Furious (IV), Letty tragically dies while trying to redeem Dominic – or does she?

The movies are full of epic gestures. A romance blossoms between Gisele and Han, but at the end of Fast & Furious 6, Gisele heroically sacrifices herself to save her lover – helpfully freeing up Gal Gadot to become Wonder Woman.

A heart-broken Han is last seen heading in the direction of Tokyo. Don’t do it Han! Our knowledge of everything that has passed hangs heavy on us. And then in a breathtaking piece of retconning, Jason Statham appears as Deckard Shaw in a mid-credits sequence, sealing Han’s fate in a fiery car crash, as revenge for putting his brother Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in a coma, and I realised the balls-out audacity of it all. This was a franchise that would pull every trick in the book to link everything together. 

The only other place where such narrative sleight of hand is common is comic books, where enduring characters also switch from bad to good. In the Fast and the Furious universe, very few people are irredeemable. Dwayne Johnson goes from persecutor in FF5 to enabler in FF6, and even super-villain Jason Statham morphs into a hero by cuddling a baby in FF8 and teams up with Johnson to star in the spin-off movie Hobbs and Shaw.

I was the most apprehensive about Furious 7 due to the narrative sleight of hand and technical trickery needed to give Brian a graceful exit after Paul Walker’s tragic death as a passenger in a car crash. But the team manages it with the help of Walker’s brothers. The storyline revolves around Brian’s need to put his young family first, pointing a clear path to retirement, and ends with a touching farewell, Dominic and Brian driving side by side and then turning down different roads. Yeah, yeah, call me a softie, but I had a lump in my throat.

Things come a little unstuck with The Fate of the Furious, putting Elsa Pataky along with Dominic’s hitherto unsuspected son, in over-the-top jeopardy from a cyberterrorist played by Charlize Theron, clearly having a ball. But then Helen Mirren turns up for a juicy turn as the matriarch of the wayward Shaw brothers, and by the time Dominic is in vehicular, and occasionally airborne, pursuit of a nuclear submarine, we’re hooting and hollering. We’ve come a long way from drag races and stealing cars. What on earth will they come up with for FF9?  

One reason for their enduring appeal is the strong moral code at the heart of these movies. In FF1, the bromance between Paul Walker and Vin Diesel has grown so strong that Brian gives him the keys to his car to escape the law. It’s there when Tyrese Gibson steps up to help Paul in FF2, and is the reason that Lucas races Brian Tee as Takashi, at the end of Tokyo Drift.

It becomes the overwhelming theme of the franchise in FF6, when Dominic risks everything in a breath-taking chase scene to rescue a back-from-the-dead Letty, even though she doesn’t remember who he is or the decade of their lives together. Owen Shaw sneers at the primacy of Family, but this stance is undercut by his brother turning up in FF7 to exact revenge in his own version of the moral code. Each movie ends with a meal and the family saying grace together.

But we’ve got to talk about that booty. When I first mentioned the epic saga parallels with Lord of the Rings to my partner, he said “ yes, but with more booty shaking”.

It seems to be a condition of release that all these movies must include a slow-mo pan at crotch level through a crowd of women wearing token clothing signifiers. Tight, shiny, and skimpy describe both the fabric involved and how the director sees the audience gaze. Luckily they become shorter and shorter in each movie, to the point of tokenistic self-parody.

How can I call myself a feminist and celebrate these movies? But all of this is just so much bling, like the fancy cars and clothes and pounding music. The real value of women in this universe is expressed by Letty, Mia, Gisele, Elena, and Riley, played by Gina Carano. These chicks are all compassionate, strong, and highly capable of kicking butt and driving just as hard as the men.

Most of the male characters in the movies seem flummoxed by these women. I reckon the role of the booty-shaking babes is to provide superficial visual comfort to cushion the hard fact that they are ultimately unattainable. True partnership is to be found in a shared love of getting your hands dirty under the hood, slinging bullets at the bad guys and driving fast – or as we have found, by going along for the ride. 

Sustainable Business Council portfolio

Future of Work video case study – February 2021

Articles for Business Plus magazine (drafting/editing with named authors)

Sustainability Radio podcast
Conducted interviews and produced sixteen episodes between July 2009 and January 2021.

Pānui newsletter
Over 100 editions of a weekly newsletter to a subscriber base of 1,500 between July 2018 – February 2021.

Also see material for Sustainable Business Council 20th anniversary celebrations, 2019