Reflections on a year with RSK: Strategy, culture, instinct and empathy make strong partnerships

There are fewer more important decisions to make at work than choosing to partner with another organisation to help take a business to the next phase of its life. Our partnership with RSK has proven to be the right one for Copper. Its worked culturally, strategically and created exciting opportunities.

Its a year since Copper joined RSK Group and Martin McCrink, Managing Partner, reflects on the first 12 months and what we have learned.


What we saw is what we got

When we first met RSK to talk about partnering, we had an instinctive positive gut feeling which was continually backed up by the decent, smart and entrepreneurial people we met. And that feeling has not gone away. We continually looked for clues and RSK did not disappoint.

Alan Ryder’s interview in the FT in January 2023 captures the sentiment and approach behind the business and what you read here rings true internally.

Every commitment and opportunity we discussed in those early meetings has been delivered or is underway. Firstly, Copper’s strategy, culture and identity has only been supported and enhanced by RSK – critical for a people led business. RSK’s approach has been to understand what makes Copper successful and help us build on it.

Secondly, RSK’s strategic idea for Copper matched our own business plan and that commitment remains. We’ve been able to break into new sectors, geographies and accelerated the service offering our clients demand. On our own, this pace of positive change would have been slower, more challenging and involved greater risk.

One example is our newly formed team in Copper. Copper’s pre acquisition brand and creative team has merged with RSK’s creative team to form a new Content & Creative practice at Copper – an expert team of copywriters, editors, branding specialists, designers, animators. This team has its own clients and improves the offer to all Copper clients to help our sector tell a better story to inform, engage and influence audiences.

Copper makes strategic sense for RSK Group too. Bringing communications strategy, stakeholder engagement and consultation expertise into RSK strengthens the group’s best in class in house team. RSK’s approach of bringing together successful businesses creates a client demand orientated offer to the market, a compelling pitch for talent and a thriving culture based on improvement, progress and support.


Net zero won’t happen on its own, we need take people with us

RSK’s breadth stretches across continents, languages, cultures and sectors including energy, transport, sport, economic development and food & drink. One common thread is the commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the net zero transition. We’ve seen from the recent political reaction in the UK about the reality of what the net zero transition means. Ultra low emissions zones dominated a by-election, new renewable projects require changes to the landscape and people will be increasingly be asked to change their habits and behaviours.

Just because reducing emissions needs to happen to safeguard a liveable planet does not mean it will. Nor does it mean it is easy. Without buy in, the transition becomes riskier for clients to deliver. Copper purpose is to change the political, social, media and public context to address this challenge. Being part of RSK means we can take on the most interesting challenges with the support of a Group with heritage and expertise in climate science, energy generation, consenting, water consumption and carbon management, to name just a few specialisms.


An open door for talent and a platform for opportunity

Since joining RSK, we’ve created opportunities to progress people’s careers by making the most of being part of the group. We’ve been able to unlock careers for people and retain talent within RSK Group.

Around 12 months ago, opportunities to work in different specialisms or geographies including the Europe, Middle East, Australia, Africa and South America would not have been serious or tangible. Today, they are part of every day conversation and career planning.


What have we learned?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but pre mortems are useful to share.


1. Instinct:

Gut instinct is usually right when making partnership decisions, but do not underestimate the intellectual and emotional commitment required to make it a success.

2. Decency:

Working with decent people is critical. There is no manual for how to make an acquisition work as they are all bespoke, but honesty and trust is essential – all of which requires smart, empathetic people.

3. Strategy:

Alignment on strategy has made working with RSK straight forward. Clarity, understanding and agreement reduces day to day wasted time and long term issues. We contribute to RSK where the entire Group is greater than the sum of the parts.

4. Culture:

RSK’s respect for Copper’s culture and vice versa has meant that the two organisations have seamlessly got the best out of each other. A clash of cultures would have been time consuming and distracting.

5. Mutuality:

We’ve been able to add a new dimension to RSK and RSK has helped Copper expand our horizons. This creates a partnership ethos. Without this, the relationship would feel one-sided and Copper would have felt like a guest, not a housemate. Our approach at Copper has, and always will be, to throw ourselves into scenarios and maximise their potential and by doing so we’re able to get the most support from a global, expert partner.