This week on Changemakers From Within, Rachel was joined by Bayyina Black, the Global Sustainability & Impact Manager at R/GA.
R/GA is an advertising agency that focuses on designing “businesses and brands for a more human future.” The company has some of the biggest clients in the world, including Google, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, and Slack.
Making Her Own Path
When Bayyina was let go from her job at Showtime Networks back in 2011, it didn’t take her long to bounce back. She set out to travel to 30 countries before she turned 30, and she started a YouTube channel to document her adventures and share travel tips.
In 2015, Bayyina won a competition to become the first-ever Global Giver for TOMS shoes. She traveled to L.A. to learn more about the company’s giving operation and then to Peru to help distribute over 1,500 pairs of shoes to children who needed them.
While she was on her “30 before 30” mission, Bayyina alternated between working temp jobs and traveling. Eventually, she landed a position at R/GA in the company’s Ventures studio. She had only planned for it to be a temp assignment, but almost four years later, she’s still there.
Back when Bayyina first started at R/GA, there was no Global Sustainability & Impact Manager position at the company. That job exists because Bayinna had an idea and worked to make it a reality.
Back in 2017, Bayyina realized that R/GA didn’t have a corporate social responsibility plan in place, so she created her own. She made a Google Slides presentation outlining a CSR model for the company, and she showed it to anyone who would listen and give her feedback. In 2018, she pitched the model to the CEO, and he loved it. Bayyina’s plan was a go.
But not everything was smooth-sailing from then on out. A year later, Bayyina sent the CEO an update expressing concerns that R/GA wasn’t taking her impact efforts seriously. To her surprise, the CEO responded by asking her if she wanted to turn her impact efforts into a full-time role.
“Long story short, through a very long process, I was able to create my own title, write the job description, and be able to walk in my purpose and do this great work.”
Democratizing Social Impact
Bayyina’s goal is to democratize the ability for R/GA employees to make an impact. She says that giving everyone the chance to work on social impact projects is giving them the opportunity to learn, develop, and grow.
“Everyone can make a difference — I don’t care if you’re the office manager or the cleaning person or the account person. It doesn’t matter.”
Creating a Sense of Urgency
One of the biggest lessons that Bayyina has learned in her new role is the importance of creating a sense of urgency, especially when it comes to talking about sustainability. She says that when people hear the word “sustainability,” they often don’t relate it to themselves.
“You have to make it very relatable to current times and your audience.”
Bayyina solves this problem by talking about climate change in terms of the weather changes and disasters that are happening right now, as well as the negative impacts that farmers and businesses are already experiencing.
“That sense of urgency really helps people to feel like this is something we need to act on right now and not in the future. Because even though climate change is here and now, and we need to be doing things about it right now, I think that people still have this false belief that we have all this time to fix it, and we don’t.”