Jonathan Wise, Co-Founder of Purpose Disruptors
Lisa Merrick-Lawless, Co-Founder of Purpose Disruptors
With contribution, on behalf of the Purpose Disruptors community:
Caroline Davison, Managing Partner, Elvis
Ben Essen, Chief Strategy Officer, Iris
Can the advertising industry have a frank and honest conversation about its role in accelerating climate change?
This seems a vital question and we are grateful to be given the opportunity to ask it in this important report.
Whilst transparency around the carbon emissions we generate through the production of ads and the running of our agencies are important, we all know that this figure is not representative of our overall carbon impact. 60% of all greenhouse gas emissions are due to household consumption and a primary goal of advertising is to drive consumption.
Such a truth poses an existential crisis for the industry. What if a primary goal of advertising is a primary driver of climate change?
How do we move forward?
Historically our industry has adopted a policy of combative defence when the negative consequences of advertising are called out – our industry bodies choose to defend ‘the right to advertise’ above all else.
But we need to be honest and realistic about the scale of the problem.
In running events involving hundreds of people over 18 months, we, as the Purpose Disruptors, are vividly aware that people across the industry are grappling with tensions around the climate emergency.
Employees, particularly young people and parents, have a desperate need to openly discuss the topic and a pent-up desire to use their creativity to support necessary action.
Can the industry accept the truth that it drives climate change? This will require entering a different realm, a shift from combative defence to progressive openness. From defending the right to advertise at any cost to being open to questioning, what is the right thing to advertise and what is the real cost of this?
We are advocating two practical things: One, that the industry publicly accepts the truth: advertising contributes to climate change by driving consumerism, and hosts frank conversations for conflicted employees. Two, it takes full responsibility for its actions: it measures and publishes the GHG uplift associated with the products and services that we help sell, and sets ambitious net zero targets. This progressive openness will enable both the industry and humanity to thrive into the future.
Do industry leaders have the capacity to make this happen? Your answer will help decide which side of history we choose to be on.