Can public relations change a company's values? Yes, say Tim Lewis and Greg Moore, founders of ethically minded PR agency Synapse. The pair left agency Charles Barker in 1998 and set up Synapse to teach big companies about the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR). These concepts have now gained ground, but they were the preserve of a saintly few when Lewis, 32, and Moore, 31, set up shop. 'People today are split between middle-aged hippies and younger people who understand the importance of both the business return and of ethical issues,' says Lewis. 'The younger group are now starting to run businesses.'
Synapse is well placed to profit from the renewed interest in CSR, but is more concerned with long-term changes than catchphrases. 'There is increasing pressure on firms to show they're doing everything possible to live up to certain values,' says Moore. 'Yet there must also be a strong business argument.' Clients include Shell's LiveWire programme for young entrepreneurs, environmental business Future Forests, and Kia Motors, a car retailer that encourages drivers to leave their cars at home.
Synapse started life with pounds 12,000, but with more staff and an annual turnover of pounds 400,000, it's outgrowing its London offices. Would the pair consider entering Shell's LiveWire entrepreneur awards themselves? 'No,' says Moore. 'We're too old!'