How to be a responsible business in 2024 – with Cameron Gunn, CEO of Emperor

Tijana Popov Categories: Business Insights Date 27-Mar-2024 4 minutes to read
How To Be A Responsible Business In 2024 – With Cameron Gunn, CEO Of Emperor BLOG NEWS

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    Thinkers. Creators. Doers. Emperor is a Certified B Corporation® and one of the UK's leading employee-owned creative communications agencies.

    Emperor helps clients such as WeTransfer, BT Group, The Elton John Foundation, Channel 4, BBC, Lloyds Banking Group, and others connect with their stakeholders to achieve great things.

    As responsible business underpins and overarches everything Emperor does, we spoke to their Co-CEO, Cameron Gunn, about trends in sustainability and web accessibility for 2024. 

    Hi Cam, first of all, congratulations on winning the prestigious Agency of the Year accolade at the Corporate and Financial Awards 2023! This is a true testament to Emperor's strategy of being “client-obsessed,” a strategy that has not only won you this award but also significantly impacted your clients. Could you share what this award means to both you and Emperor?  

    Thank you so much! Awards are not the reason we get out of bed in the morning, but it’s nice to get recognition for all the hard work of our partners and clients.

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    It was a great feeling to stand on stage and accept with our Co-CEO Victoria Sugg on behalf of everyone at Emperor. It’s a highlight that I was immensely proud to share with Vix and the team.

    This year marks your fourth year as an employee-owned company. What motivated Emperor to become employee-owned, and what has the journey been like so far? 

    The journey to employee ownership was driven by our founders as a way to ensure the continued long-term success of Emperor. This bold move secured our independence and fortified our vibrant and sustainable organisational culture.

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    Over the past four years, we’ve seen partners gain a greater understanding of how business works and are, in turn, more knowledgeable about the challenges and opportunities faced by our clients

    Cameron Gunn, CEO of Emperor

    Our partner board is a huge part of our journey. They engage with the business about the issues most important to our partners and regularly share advice and feedback with our leadership team. Every partner now has a voice in decision-making, fostering pride, accountability, and transparency.

    Employee ownership, coupled with our B Corp certification and pledges to each other and society, makes Emperor an exceptional space for our best work.

    We continue to see that digital remains a catalyst that helps brands and businesses to evolve, utilise emerging technology, and stay ahead of the competition. What do you recognize as the biggest trends in the digital ecosystem? 

    How do you answer this question without addressing AI? Trends can be trendy, but the tectonic impact of AI on our business and our clients cannot be understated. We’re having fun experimenting with what’s possible for us and our clients. It’s an exciting time! 

    We’ve talked in the past about the rise of AI requiring greater authenticity and transparency from brands. We see a need to humanise communications by demonstrating approachability, understanding, empathy, and humour to create better outcomes. 

    You can read more in our 2024 predictions piece.

    Transparency and ethical usage of AI have been the subject of many discussions in the digital realm. Now, we even have the first legal framework on AI, which addresses the risks of AI and positions Europe to play a leading role globally in setting clear requirements for AI. How do you see it being further regulated in the future? 

    I’m not going to pretend to be an expert here. But AI regulation is going to have to be a team sport. Governments must lead; but the wider industry, businesses and individuals all have a role to play. 

    I think we’ll see a race between governments to become standard bearers for innovation-supportive AI regulation before a period of alignment and consolidation. The question is – can governments set the guardrails we need to protect and advance society while still encouraging innovation – we’ll have to see.

    Cameron Gunn, CEO of Emperor

    What I do know is that clients are crying out for some clarity. The role of AI has become a massive conversation already and you only need to browse an annual report to see how much AI now features as both an opportunity and a risk for most large businesses.

    With the arrival of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) and Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), global sustainability reporting regulations have significantly advanced. As a leader in the corporate agency space, where do you see the role of agencies in this journey? 

    This is something that we advise our clients on, from strategy to compliance and disclosure through to messaging, channel, and content. To do that, we have to be all over this changing regulatory landscape to do that well. 

    From a transparency point of view, the regulations that are now coming into play (ISSB in the UK and CSRD in Europe), aimed at consolidating existing frameworks and developing better quality sustainability disclosures, are driving us towards a data-driven, machine-readable, assured, and integrated approach to reporting. 

    The future will undoubtedly be one of compliance and comparability in disclosures. 

    In preparation for this, we are helping our clients to disclose decision-useful information that meets the needs of their investors, while simultaneously using storytelling, formats, and digital to build trust and connect with broader audiences – from customers, and clients, to employees and potential talent.

    How do you approach sustainability in Emperor? 

    Responsible business is a golden thread through our business. It’s our commitment to business as a force for good and creating value for all our stakeholders. It supports and drives growth and helps us attract and retain clients and talented partners.

    It’s brought to life by employee ownership, our pledges, and our commitment to continuous improvement. As a certified B Corp, we align with their five impact areas: governance, employees, environment, community, and clients.

    In the upcoming years, we will have a reality check for accessibility due to the European Accessibility Act, which requires most digital products to embrace accessibility, conforming to WCAG 2.1 level AA. As an agency that works with global powerhouses, how do you think brands will adapt to this changing digital landscape? 

    Over 15 years, I’ve seen the accessibility conversation shift from being ignored or seen as burdensome to a space of acceptance and understanding of the value that better accessibility practices can create for users and brands. 

    I have no doubt brands will adapt to changing regulations, but I think the leaders in this space will gain an advantage by embracing this at pace. The reality is so many people have some sort of digital accessibility requirement that AA should be a standard that any brand should want to meet. Agencies must keep pushing for the business and user benefits of doing so.

    Cameron Gunn, CEO of Emperor

    At Emperor, we push our clients to seriously consider higher accessibility standards in their platforms, channels and content. We want to create things that are useful and inclusive for everyone. 

    We witness that technology is now more than just a business tool; it's a competitive advantage across all industries. This drives companies to create innovative solutions to improve their offerings. How do you view the role of digital partners in this landscape in 2024?

    Not that long ago, there was a big skills gap between digital agencies and their clients. But now you’ll find some of the best digital talent in-house. The conversations are way more advanced than they used to be – it’s inspiring to see and to be a part of. 

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    For digital partners, it means you now need to be crystal clear on where you create value and you have to be thinking about how to best collaborate with your clients. And, there will always be space for interested, insightful and creative partners to inspire clients in the art of the possible. 

    Thank you Cam, it was a pleasure to talk to you, and thank you for more than a decade of great collaboration! We are looking forward to unfolding what the future has in store for us and how we can continue to push boundaries, together.  

    Tijana Popov Lead marketing manager

    Tijana loves writing, meeting new people, and all the things that involve creativity. Like a true Hufflepuff, she’s approachable and polite. Once a year, Tijana embarks on a journey to the middle of the Middle-earth where she used to live.

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