Action 4: Curb Advertising Emissions Through Awards and From Events
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, for example,. around 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. There are some awards for ‘green’ campaigns although these are few and far between. In most instances, awards for environmentally positive advertising are rolled into a broader ‘social good’ or ‘social purpose’ category, separated as niche and lower down in the hierarchy of importance.
As part of Ad Net Zero, we would like to see more — and more informed and rigorous – awards for advertising work that has a proven impact on environmental sustainability.
When it comes to the coveted ‘grand prix’ awards, juries are seldom invited to consider the likely carbon impact of the advertising they are evaluating. We challenge the UK’s awarding bodies to introduce that thinking into their judging criteria. Campaigns that clearly encourage wasteful, extravagant and irresponsible behaviour in the context of the emissions that accompany it should not be celebrated as examples of excellence in advertising.
Purpose Disruptors recognised the need to develop a new methodology for calculating ‘Ecoeffectiveness’, that is to measure advertising’s impact on the environment, and answer the urgent question of how to increase profitability while reducing emissions to net zero. At the heart of the framework, which has been led by Purpose Disruptors members from Iris and Elvis, is an invitation for agencies to calculate and report the incremental uplift in greenhouse gas emissions associated with all sales that are attributable to their advertising, and to measure and report their ‘return on carbon’ – the amount of revenue generated per tonne of carbon created through those sales.
For many organisations, events are important profit-makers or sales opportunities. But they can generate substantial carbon emissions, often unnecessarily or wastefully, and could be conducted in more climate-friendly ways. In order to meet the ambitions of Ad Net Zero, it is important that we take into account the climate impact of our industry events.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of industry events have been conducted entirely virtually to great success. For example, Ascential, the owners of Cannes Lions, the world’s biggest festival of creativity, organised a free-to-attend online version of its festival in June 2020 – Lions Live – which was so popular that it is now planning further versions of this to connect advertising professionals around the world in the future. While the festival will no doubt continue in future years, great creativity can be celebrated and shared online with an even larger audience. This rapid shift to online has also been demonstrated by the likes of Stillwell Partners with its Advertising Week series of events and by many of the industry’s leading media titles including Campaign, Marketing Week and The Drum.
The future of events will, similarly to the way we return to work post-pandemic, most likely be a combination of online and real-world activities. With that in mind, there are ways event organisers can help our industry minimise emissions. As evidenced by the operational carbon footprint of agencies in Action 1, international travel is a big contributor to carbon emissions. Reducing the need for delegates to fly to industry events through utilising a hub-and-spoke approach, with events taking place at regional, local levels could significantly reduce emissions. Utilising facilities and contractors that exercise high sustainability standards can also make a big difference.