Host Universal

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Host Universal is an ethical brand strategy and communications network[1] founded in 1997 by Robin Smith. Host is mission-driven[clarification needed] and it works with clients on projects with social or environmental impact.[2] Host has a core team in London, UK, and creates specialist teams for digital, print, video, film and identity tasks as well as live events, worldwide.


Host was set up in 1997 to work with Anita Roddick at The Body Shop International. The partnership created a global Self-Esteem strategy and creative campaign featuring Ruby, a size16 doll, who was presented as a role model real women. The campaign aimed to bring attention to the issue of the media waif and skeletal supermodels, associated eating disorders and extreme diets, Anita Roddick argued, that fashion stereotypes did nothing for a woman’s self-esteem and, in the long term, are seriously damaging for society. “Once upon a time we cut a suit to fit a body, now we cut bodies to fit suits”. The global Self Esteem strategy was later picked up and utilized by Dove.

In the world of Fair Trade, Host is widely associated with its work with Cafédirect[3] with which it was involved from the company’s conception through to 2006. In 2006, Millward Brown identified Cafédirect as the UK’s No1 brand. Cafédirect was created by Oxfam, Twin Trading, Equal Exchange and Traidcraft to sell coffee growers’ coffee directly to consumers and became a model Fair Trade business. Host Universal worked with Cafédirect till 2006 developing brand strategy and implementing design and communication work that included the creation of instant coffee product 5065 and the cult 5065 Lift Theatre group. The 5065 Lift earned a cult reputation among new writers and fringe theatre groups. The Lift performed to audiences in the UK but was best known for its Brighton Beach and Edinburgh Festival appearances.[4] Host developed the communications strategy behind the Cafédirect Share Issue in 2004 which was targeted at Cafédirect consumers, many of whom became share holders. “We would not be where we are today without Host” Penny Newman, CEO, Cafédirect.

Host works with British Entrepreneur Dale Vince, the founder and CEO of Ecotricity. who was voted UK’s No1 entrepreneur in a New Statesman poll. Dale Vince builds wind turbines in the UK and matches each pound spent with Ecotricity by a customer with a pound invested in the build of new green energy resources. Dale Vince experiments with renewable energy technology and is currently investing in a 140 mph electric powered sports car based on a standard Lotus. Dale Vince’s Green Britain campaign is supported with an iconic Green Union Flag. Ecotricity is the UK’s 7th largest energy provider.

Recent projects[edit]

A major project for Host in 2008 was starting a company called the United Bank of Carbon (UBoC) in partnership with Jonathan Wild, the Chairman of UK company Betty’s& Taylors. UBoC aims to develop sustainable investment opportunities for businesses and brands within the World’s remaining Rainforest. UBoC hopes to cause a reduction in logging and deforestation of the Brazilian rainforest by realising the commercial value of the carbon that it stores. Value gained from the storage of the carbon will be used to generate income for indigenous communities, protect Rainforest ecology and reduce global carbon emissions. Some studies have shown that 20% of global carbon emissions can be attributed to deforestation. UBoC aims to encourage collaboration between Indigenous people’s, NGOs, brands, businesses, environmentalists and scientists to help preserve the Rainforest.

In 2009 Host has worked on a rebranding project with Paul Myers[disambiguation needed] and his team at IFAT. IFAT changes its name to the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) in February 2009. The WFTO aims to create a sustainable global trading system. In 2009, Host created the World Fair Trade Day website that on 8 May 09 became the hub for 1000 events in 70 countries. The event was themed Big Bang!!

In 2010 Host is developing strategy and communications for social finance.

Ethical business[edit]

An ethical business can be defined as one that utilizes profit to deliver socially or environmentally motivated goals. Ethical businesses can be described as values-driven or mission-driven organisations. In the UK they are also known as social enterprises.


  1. ^ An article on Host Universal in Fastcompany magazine
  2. ^ An article on Host Universal in Campaign magazine "Jonathan Rosenthal is the chief executive of Oke, an ethical brand in the US that is attempting to sell Fairtrade bananas across the country, while also highlighting the horrors of the banana trade. He says that his specialist agency - the UK-based Host - helps his brand "punch above its weight". "Host understands that business as usual is not sustainable for companies like ourselves. It takes the whole communications strategy and turns it upside down to create a new business model and deliver a massive amount of return for a small amount of investment," he says."
  3. ^ An article on Host Universal in The Independent
  4. ^ An article on Host Universal in The Independent "The concept for Flight 5065 grew out of an earlier cafédirect project - also devised by Host - called The Lift, in which "audiences" were invited to step into a steel box, the size of a standard elevator, and be entertained by performance artists. The project, initially staged on Brighton beach, was transferred to the Edinburgh festival, where it was critically acclaimed. The idea of both these projects, according to Smith, was to mirror the close relationship between cafédirect and its tea and coffee growers in the developing world through the intimacy between the performers and the audience in a confined space."

External links[edit]