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Meet dentsu’s Scott Sallée: a leading advocate for social impact and LGBTQI+ representation

The Diversity Hero on bringing through the next generation and why dancing wildly is his go-to stress-buster



Scott Sallée (he/they) is the leader of Social Impact and Sustainability at media giant dentsu. We sat down with Scott to discuss inspiring the next generation of changemakers, how companies should focus on creating an open and collectively conscious society, and how dentsu is paving the way by actively supporting their workforce.

What inspired you to take your chosen career path?
Injustice, inequality, biodiversity loss, and the climate crisis. A desire to do good, my conviction that hope + action will create meaningful progress, and that business has a huge role to play in creating a fair and sustainable world. 

What are your memories of your first job and how did you get it?
I started delivering papers working in restaurants and hospitality in my teens. Most of the opportunities in Hawaii (where Scott grew up) are in tourism, so my first proper job was as a concierge, combining local knowledge with a curiosity for people and an interest in their stories. I got it through direct application - no shenanigans, just persistence and going in person to drop off my CV!

What things do you know now that you wish you knew in the early stages of your career?
The people you work with matter. Seek good people to collaborate with and create with, not fancy titles or big salaries. 

Can you tell us about dentsu and what you do there?
I lead Social Impact and Sustainability in the UK&I, which looks at areas where we can have the most significant impact as an organisation. To create a sustainable world, we’ve developed a science-based net zero strategy for our business and committed to help 1 billion people to make more sustainable choices by 2030. (We aim to) inspire a fair and open society, through building a diverse and inclusive workforce for our business and by creating work that challenges bias, shifts perceptions, and promotes equality. By using digital for good, through programmes like The Code, we’re committed to equipping 100,000 young people globally with the skills they need to become empowered digital citizens by 2030. Social Impact is a strategy, not a function, which means that our success depends on the collective action of all of our people making it part of their roles and their behaviours - with clients, in ways of working, and in their everyday lives. 

Do you have any routines to get through the day?
I do breathwork in the morning to get my mind and body in flow. My beautifully neurodivergent brain can sometimes go off on one and breathwork helps me get back in touch with myself when I’m feeling anxious or burning out. During the day, headphones help keep focused - getting up and dancing wildly for 60 seconds is essential to shake the stress away and remind myself to not take things too seriously all the time. 

Developing diverse talent is something dentsu and hundo share as a common goal - how do you currently find and then support your early career hires and prepare them for future success?
For the past five years, our flagship Social Impact programme, The Code (an acronym for Creativity, Opportunity, Diversity, and Empowerment, has opened the doors of our industry to students in Year 9 - Year 13 through workshops, insight days, mentoring, nationwide competitions, and work experience. With over 13,000 young people having participated in The Code so far, we hope that they’ve gained the craft skills, the digital skills, the confidence, and the industry contacts to get their careers started.

Are there any success stories you’d like to share? 
The winners of our 2020 Creative Competition - the Rise Up Challenge. They worked on a brief for Cadbury and developed campaigns that addressed plastic pollution, biodiversity loss, and ways of creating a kinder, more generous society. Young people’s ideas and energy are effervescent and they inspire our teams and clients to do work rooted in social purpose. The winners went on to speak to our Global CEO and the entire Global leadership team! I’m so proud of their achievements. 

What advice would you give to young people who want to work at dentsu?
We are eager to have you. The challenges we are facing as a society require your innovation, your creativity, and your solutions. At a more practical level: get curious, get connected, and keep learning. dentsu has a very entrepreneurial culture. We don’t need you to have a specific degree, what we do need you to be is responsible, ethical, and client-focused; we are a 100% client-servicing business!  

Please can you tell us a bit about your work with &Proud within dentsu and what that means to you?
&Proud is our LGBTQ+ and Allies network, and it’s one of the employee networks that ensures dentsu is a place where everyone can bring their full self to work and do the best work of their career. We recently launched ‘Coming out at dentsu’ to make our commitment public. My role is to push forward LGBTQ+ inclusion with an intersectional and collaborative approach, working with our multicultural network, our gender equality network, and our parents and carers network. I was honoured to be named as a ‘Top 10 Diversity Hero’ at the British LGBT Awards which is a recognition I will strive to live up to each day. My face was on a building!

Scott on a billboard campaign above H&M

What does wellbeing mean in practice at dentsu?
Wellbeing in practice is having policies and procedures that are backed up by leadership behaviour and company culture. That means hosting monthly experts and providing resources such as Monday Mindfulness, to events that challenge the stigma of male mental health, intersectional events with our other employee networks looking at what wellbeing needs our Black colleagues, Asian colleagues, younger colleagues, older colleagues, neurodivergent colleagues, LGBTQ+ colleagues or parents and carers colleagues require, for example. We are also fortunate to have NABS, our industry’s wellbeing charity, to provide advice and support.

What are your plans for 2021 and beyond?
2021 is a huge year for climate action with the UK hosting COP26: the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. As the world opens up again, I ask more people to join us in calling for a green recovery: one that prioritises equity, net zero carbon emissions, and collective wellbeing. We have learned during Covid that what happens to any of us happens to all of us. Now is the time for action.

Words: Grace Goslin

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