Action 1 aims to reduce emissions from the operations of advertising businesses. All agencies and marketing services companies committed to Ad Net Zero will reduce their operational carbon emissions and set science-based targets. To do this, they will measure carbon footprint data, set science-based targets, reduce emissions as far as possible, and only offset what cannot be reduced, and offset what cannot be reduced through verified carbon removal schemes as a final effort. They will also share Ad Net Zero’s aims through their organisations by encouraging employees to understand and take ownership of their own personal carbon impact, and to adopt sustainable behaviours.
According to the UK’s Ad Net Zero reporting two operational emissions sources usually predominate:
Business travel (especially flying) – typically around 60% of an agency’s emissions
Office energy use – typically some 40% of emissions.
Some advertising agencies, along with businesses in other parts of the advertising ecosystem, have already taken significant steps to reduce operational emissions. Those that have driven new behaviours in their companies, and in some cases achieved ISO 14001, BCorp or equivalent recognised standards, report competitive advantage, higher employee morale and financial savings as a result.
Learning from those who have made the most progress, and to generate a collective drive towards Ad Net Zero requires our supporters to:
Measure the carbon emissions of their business on an annual basis to identify and track progress. Organisations will be encouraged to share this data with Ad Net Zero.
Set a science-based net zero target in year two of the program, including a near term target, and create a robust reduction plan to achieve it.
Work with clients and suppliers to secure their support for your policies.
Agencies and production companies – with client support – will be encouraged to work towards zero waste/zero carbon production. Like other aspects of advertising, motion and stills advertising production can be carbon intensive processes, particularly location shoots with high levels of travel, hospitality, and complex supply chains. As with the operational side of businesses, measurement is key to reducing emissions.
According to the UK’s Ad Green reporting three emission sources usually predominate:
Travel and transport activities averaged 62% of a production’s emissions
Energy and fuels averaged 25% of a production’s emissions
Materials averaged 12% of a production’s emissions.
Some advertisers and producers have already taken significant steps to measure and reduce emissions from the productions of their ads.
Ad Net Zero will be offering tools such as a carbon calculator tool, created in partnership with industry stake holders, to enable Supporters to measure and eliminate the negative environmental impacts of production.
Media agencies will be encouraged to make media planning and buying choices with their carbon emissions impact front-of-mind. Ad Net Zero will work towards the adoption of a streamlined measurement approach that will support advertisers and their media investment advisors in planning their schedules with their carbon footprint in mind, and the ability for media agencies to provide clients with emissions data.
The weight and media mix chosen for a campaign can make a big difference to its carbon footprint. Advertisers and their media investment advisors need to be well informed so they can plan their schedules with their environmental impact in mind.
In March 2023, Ad Net Zero Global joined forces with WFA’s Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) to launch a fast track work stream to identify a standard framework for measuring the carbon emissions from media campaigns. This aims to bring together the best thinking from across the industry into one common framework by benchmarking the current carbon measurement and estimation practices to identify common definitions and measures. Establishing consistent data inputs across all media channels, will facilitate accurate reporting of the carbon emissions from media. This work will be brought forward for comment and adoption in Aotearoa in the media measurement working group.
While this work continues, it’s important to provide information to the industry on how we can all take action now. To do this, Ad Net Zero and GARM published an ‘Immediate Actions Guide’, which can be implemented to help reduce the environmental impact of media plans.
Ad Net Zero will challenge industry awards bodies to ensure that the sustainability credentials and climate impact of campaigns inform judging. It will also encourage organisers of events and conferences to put sustainability at the forefront of planning, seeking in particular to curtail long-distance travel, where possible.
The advertising industry is social and thrives on coming together during industry awards nights. These perform a valued role in a healthy community of like-minded professionals, promoting excellence and stimulating competition, for creativity and effectiveness. But they can generate substantial carbon emissions, often unnecessarily or wastefully, and could be conducted in more climate-friendly ways.
According to the Comm’s Council, the industry body who puts on AXIS, beacon awards, Effie, Pressies and Young Lions Awards, the audit of the AXIS 2023 award show reported that two emission sources predominate:
Travel and transport of attendees accounted for 59% of the award show’s emissions
Catering choices accounted for 14% of the award show’s emissions
In support of Ad Net Zero, the Comms Council has made a commitment to measure and reduce their events moving forward. In the future, they will be working towards incorporating new categories of awards that can be rigorously defended for their positive impact on environmental sustainability.
Harness advertising’s power to support consumer behaviour change
Advertising’s influence on the wider world is an important pillar of Ad Net Zero. Our ambition is that agencies and their clients increasingly work together to measure the carbon impact of campaigns, use advertising to promote more sustainable choices between competing products and services, to back innovations that deliver greener solutions to people’s needs and desires, and to persuade society to adopt behaviours that reduce carbon emissions.
Our industry produces work that connects with millions of people every single day, providing useful information on all aspects of the way we live our lives. Everybody working in advertising can make a genuine contribution to this effort. We believe this is a powerful reason for people to work in advertising, to grasp the opportunity to make a real difference. We need a determined effort across the board to influence the policies and decisions of advertisers toward more sustainable marketing approaches.
Agencies and other marketing service companies can go further: they can decline to work for clients whose businesses or policies they feel conflict with their own principles. Some do. But constructive engagement, using their influence and relationships to create strategies, campaigns and media plans that not only can reduce the carbon impact of the advertising itself, but also inspire consumers to make more sustainable purchasing and lifestyle decisions, is something all agencies can do.
In addition, we recommend anyone thinking about how their advertising campaigns can include sustainability messaging to first complete our self-diagnostic tool and identify where they are as a business in terms of sustainability maturity. With permission from Meta and Accenture, Ad Net Zero has reproduced their sustainability communications diagnostic tool in this short guide.
As brands increasingly promote more sustainable produces and services, it’s important our industry understands the regulations surrounding this. Updating and adopting new greenwashing standards will be a working group priority.
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Ad Net Zero is the advertising industry’s drive to decarbonise the development, production and running of advertising. It is crucial that we work together to continue the momentum. We need your support.