Consumers ‘will want to know environmental impact of ads’, research claims

Detail from the cover of The Rise of Sustainable Media report
Detail from the cover of The Rise of Sustainable Media report

Dentsu and Microsoft Advertising urge brands to communicate sustainability measures.

Brands should prepare for greater consumer concern about the impact of advertising on the environment, according to a report based on public polling conducted across 19 countries this summer and entitled The Rise of Sustainable Media.

For example, more than three-quarters of respondents said that in five years’ time, they want to be spending money only on brands that practise green and sustainable advertising.

The report, by marketing services group Dentsu and media owner Microsoft Advertising, recommends that brands begin to “collect and communicate credible, verifiable data on the true environmental impact of their media buys and ads to their consumers”. 

The authors based this on the research finding that 42% of respondents thought brands should provide clear, comparable information on the footprint of their products and advertising to make the brand greener.

They also argued that while only a minority of consumers associate advertising delivery with carbon emissions at the present time, that picture is likely to change over time, with younger generations more likely than older ones to believe that consuming ads is negative for the environment.

“The ‘free pass’ for the CMO on the sustainability footprint of media may be coming to an end. With consumer and societal engagement on environmental issues and climate action at an all-time high, it won’t be long before attention shifts to the downstream impact of advertising and media,” the report said.

The report highlights a need for a measure of the environmental impact of advertising campaigns that is consistent across the industry, and calls on agencies, brands, media companies, tech providers, industry bodies and governments to work together.

Dentsu and Microsoft Advertising commissioned the report to explore the issue of climate change within the media and advertising industry in light of heightened global interest in emissions reduction around the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report in August and the COP26 Summit in November. 

The UK ad industry has responded to climate change by setting up the Ad Net Zero initiative last year, through the Advertising Association, the IPA and ISBA. This commits the industry to reducing the carbon impact of developing, producing and running advertising to real net zero by the end of 2030.

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