A trio of trade bodies has teamed up to launch Ad Net Zero, an industry initiative calling for “immediate, collective” action that will get the UK advertising industry to net zero carbon emissions within the next decade.
According to a report from the Advertising Association’s Climate Action Working Group, published with UK advertising think tank Credos, the whole UK ad industry – including agencies, production companies and the relevant departments of brands and media owners – has a carbon footprint approaching a million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) annually.
That is based on a figure of 84,000 tonnes for agencies alone – of which more than half (58%) comes from business travel, with the rest from energy usage.
Despite the scale of the task at hand, there is a significant will to solve the problem, with 71% of people working in the industry worried about its negative impact on the environment and wanting their employers to take action.
Working with the IPA and ISBA, the AA has created a five-point plan to get to net zero by 2030:
Advertising businesses’ own operations: all companies commit to curtail their carbon emissions, principally by reducing travel, fossil-energy use and waste
Advertising production: advertisers, agencies and production companies commit to measuring and reducing their impacts with support from AdGreen (a scheme for this purpose launched in September)
Media choice: media agencies commit to the IPA Media Futures Group Climate Charter, working with their clients to develop lower-carbon media plans
Awards and events: organisers build sustainability criteria into awards and plan events to minimise their carbon footprints, especially from travel
Using advertising’s positive influence: agencies and clients harness the power of their advertising to promote more sustainable consumer choices and behaviours.
The final point links to a new metric, return on CO2e, which was launched in October by Purpose Disrupters as a way to help brands to make decisions about their advertising strategy that will maximise financial return while minimising greenhouse gas emissions.
Keith Weed, president of the Advertising Association, said: “The Climate Emergency is the biggest challenge we will face in our lifetimes, dwarfing the current Covid-19 crisis. Action is needed now, and for the long term, to change the impact we are all having on the planet we live on.
“We need every company and individual in our industry to join us and become an active supporter of Ad Net Zero. Every single one of us has a role to play in ensuring our industry fulfils its responsibilities to future generations and help deliver a sustainable way of life for the 21st century and beyond. It really is a case of all for none.”
The Ad Net Zero brand was developed pro bono by Adam & Eve/DDB and design studio King Henry, while businesses including Sky, Unilever, Iris and Wieden & Kennedy have worked on its development.