LONDON — Ketchum London has hired its first director of ESG and sustainability to help clients with communications and business consultancy around the climate crisis and other environmental, social and governance issues.

Aleksandra Barnes joins the agency after six years at communications agency MullenLowe Salt, where she was latterly strategy and sustainability director, and had been based in London and Singapore. She has also worked at Bite in Singapore, and was group corporate responsibility manager at Tesco.

Barnes started at Ketchum two weeks ago and has already been instrumental in the agency winning a major new client for sustainability work. She reports to MD of corporate reputation Jamie Robertson, working across the corporate and brand teams.

Ketchum’s UK CEO, global client solutions Jo-ann Robertson told PRovoke Media: “I’ve spent a long time searching for someone to lead our sustainability work for clients, who has depth of technical expertise with a passion for communications, and who could build out our ESG offer in parallel. And then I found Aleks, who told me at interview that 'we just need to make sustainability sexy,' because people are fed up of being lectured and it doesn’t have to be worthy.

“We want to really build something meaningful, with that balance between storytelling and technical expertise, so we can be real consultants to our partners and clients. We also needed someone with global experience, because while a lot of our work in London is hubbed here, it is global in reach and we're expected to know how things will play out everywhere."

After starting her career in management consultancy at Accenture in Paris, London and the Hague, Barnes told PRovoke Media her “lightbulb moment” had been joining the Clinton Foundation in Jakarta in 2008.

“I already had a love for all things corporate and driving behavioural change within organisations, but there was always something missing,” she said. “When I started working in Indonesia, I realised it was sustainability. I’m passionate about helping companies express sustainability in meaningful, engaging, desirable terms rather than corporate jargon around ‘commitments’ and ‘journeys’.

"When I saw the job description for Ketchum I knew I ticked all the boxes, but I wanted to make sure I would be working for a company that was genuine and not just creating a greenwashing sustainability practice."

Barnes added: “When you’re helping clients turn good intentions into impactful actions, sometimes on the communications agency side the consultancy is missing. At Ketchum, I’m starting with three priorities: understanding the work we’re already doing with clients like P&G, Velux and Signify; really elevating our offer and staying one step ahead in flagging emerging issues and opportunities; and new business.

“We’re also working with our strong purpose team in the US, so there’s the possibility of creating an integrated global offer.”