Clare Munn brings an unusually global environmental and humanitarian perspective to the advertising and branding industry, which she credits in part to her childhood in Africa.
As owner of The Communication Group, a leading creative consulting agency, she helps clients reach “green” certification standards — at no extra charge.
Growing up in Zimbabwe helped impart an environmental sensibility, according to Munn.
“I lived in a city [Harare] the size of San Francisco, but 10 minutes down the road, there are elephants,” Munn said. “Wilderness and the environment were an integral part of your upbringing or living day to day.”
“We had to be resourceful,” she said. “[After independence from Britain in 1980,] we grew up with sanctions. We didn’t have candles. Maybe your neighbors had candles and we had a bag of sugar, so you shared things.”
That resourcefulness has carried over into her current work on many levels. TCG recently refurnished its office, but instead of purchasing desks, it made them from old doors laid on scaffolding. This reduced waste, saved money and became a source of office pride.
The mind-set also spills over into TCG’s client services. Munn said the company, which provides consulting for branding, strategy, advertising and interactive services, does its best to streamline operations, both internally and for clients, by eliminating redundancies.
Munn said TCG aims to help its clients make a difference, but doesn’t want the company to be misunderstood as a group of “do-gooders” or “radicals.”
“Sustainability has two meanings,” Munn said. “One is anchored in longevity and your strategy, and the other in the green meaning.”
Munn also pursues humanitarian missions outside her businesses. She has founded nongovernment organizations including Environment Africa and Cool the World, helped manage Eco-Tech and Fresh Start Farms and worked with selfhelp.org, which has trained tens of thousands of Kenyan farmers in sustainable farming.
In Zimbabwe, Munn advised AIDS programs and supported a film project on sustainable farming in villages outside Harare. But measuring her words due to concern for family still living there, Munn said she must do more for her home country, which she has not visited since before Sept. 11, 2001.
Recent Zimbabwean elections turned to chaos when, after early signals an opposition party may have won the vote, the country’s leader, Robert Mugabe, stalled in releasing election numbers. The largely agricultural country has struggled for years now with political violence, runaway inflation and a failing economy.
“I do so many pro bono, nonprofit things and none of them have been loudly enough about Zimbabwe,” Munn said. “I need to change that, I really do. It’s just I must be careful not to put my name in it.”