Pearson on the importance of ‘shared values’ as it partners with over 40 brands for ‘Project Literacy’


Pearson has partnered with more than 40 brands for its ‘Project Literacy’ initiative in a bid to “rethink social responsibility” and battle the illiteracy crisis, currently impacting 1 in 10 people worldwide.

The publisher hopes that by doing so the United Nations and governments will be forced to push illiteracy up the agenda and make it one of the targets of the UN’s sustainable development goals. 

So far, UNESCO, Microsoft, Save the Children, Daily Mail Group, War Child and the National Literary Trust are among the partners involved.

The global creative campaign for Project Literacy, which was created by FCB Inferno, launched at the Houses of Parliament this week and is expected to run until September. It will be supported by film, social, print, digital and OOH.

The campaign is targeted at millennials, as they are “most likely to take action and engage in these types of issues”, Emilie Colker, VP brand and social impact at Pearson, told Marketing Week. As part of the campaign, the publisher hopes to gather one million signatures for its petition that aims to get the UN to put literacy at the heart of its Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

So far personalities including Sir Richard Branson and Lily Cole have signed the petition.

The ‘Alphabet of Illiteracy’

The activity is centred around the ‘Alphabet of Illiteracy’, with Project Literacy using the letters of the alphabet to demonstrate that illiteracy is the root cause of many of the world’s problems.

Colker explained: “We knew we had to do something different for people to pay attention. Illiteracy tends to be one of those issues where people think you’re unable to read a good book, but it’s so much more than that. Being able to read and write helps prevent diseases, increase gender equality and lift people out of poverty.

“By using the alphabet, which is playfully based around the foundation of reading and writing, we can clearly identify this link and specifically demonstrate the social and political impact.”

Different brands are sponsoring different letters. For example, A stands for Aids, as Colker suggested that those who can’t read or write are five times more likely to not know how to protect themselves against Aids and HIV.

Rethinking corporate social responsibility

Colker believes that the extensive range of partnerships is an important way for brands to “rethink corporate social responsibility” as well as effectively share resources.

“I’m a big believer in shared value, and this provides a real opportunity for brands to get involved in a coalition and a movement, which can consequently provide learnings that they can take back to their business,” she explained.

“Some business are sharing their resources or making their platforms available for free. It’s not only a great way of rethinking corporate social responsibility, [brands] can also provide value without offering cash.”

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