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How can adland address the climate crisis
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How can adland address the climate crisis


In 2015, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, an international agreement on climate change. Responding to science that showed global temperatures were increasing – as measured against average temperatures before the Industrial Revolution and the wholesale burning of fossil fuels that powered it – these nations committed their efforts to limit the temperature increase to well below 2C.

These same nations are gathering in Glasgow at the beginning of November for the United Nations Conference of Parties – known in shorthand as Cop26. At this event they will review the progress they’ve made toward cutting their greenhouse gas emissions and helping their citizens adapt to climate change.

You might be wondering, what does this have do with the advertising industry?

According to research by the Advertising Association and the industry think tank Credos, 71% of those working in the advertising industry are concerned about the negative effects our jobs have on the environment. 60% of greenhouse gases are generated by household consumption. We in the industry play an active role in driving desire and consumption. 91% of the people in the industry believe that knowing that their organization is taking climate action will improve job satisfaction.

This year I’ve been fortunate enough to have a front-row seat to how our industry is responding to the climate crisis. I’ve been Hallam’srepresentative on the steering panel for the Advertising Association’s Ad Net Zero movement, with almost 100 organizations committing to reduce the carbon output of the industry’s operations and achieve real net zero by 2030.

And I’ve been a communications volunteer with the Purpose DisruptorsA network of advertising professionals working to change the way the industry addresses climate change. This group was behind The Great Reset, which was a cultural movement to preserve the positive environmental behaviors that were developed during lockdown. It won the award for Collaboration: Best Environment Cause Campaign at the Purpose Award EMEA hosted in Campaign, PR Week, and Third Sector.

Both of these groups will be active at Cop26 and beyond – and they offer a framework and the tools needed for industry professionals who want to play an active part in tackling climate change for their agencies and their clients.

Here are some ideas to help you get started.

Get your house in order

Change starts at home, as the old saying goes. Agencies need to take an accurate reading of their carbon footprint and then set out a plan to reduce emissions as much as possible – with carbon offsets used as a last resort. Business travel (typically 60%) is a major source of agency emissions. Office energy use (typically 40%) is another. Two wins are possible here: Reduce unnecessary travel and switch to a renewable power provider.

You can also encourage your employees to make some changes at home – one way we did this at Hallam is by partnering with Big Clean SwitchTo encourage employees to switch to green energy in their homes.

Advertising should be curtailed

One of the discussions the AA hosted this year called for every ad to be a green ad – if not in the product it was promoting, at least in the way it was created. If you produce advertising, you can measure and reduce the carbon emissions from the production process with support from Bafta’s Albert initiative and AdGreen’s carbon calculator and consultancy.

Media planning and purchasing has a carbon footprint of its own. IPA Media Climate CharterA carbon calculator is now available for media plans. Agencies can calculate the campaign’s carbon footprint by entering the budget and media mix they are considering. This can be used as a starting point for a conversation about ways to reduce it.

Industry awards can play a part in creating a net zero future. Both in where they are hosted – to curtail long-distance travel where possible – and in looking at the overall carbon impact of the advertising campaign.

Iris and Elvis, two members of Purpose Dissentors, developed a new method called EcoeffectivenessIt can calculate and report the incremental increase in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from sales of the advertising campaign. By reporting the ‘return on carbon,’ clients, agencies and award bodies will begin to see the full picture of the industry’s impact on the world around us.

Use our influence to influence behavior change

Advertising does have an impact on consumer behavior – Purpose Disruptors talks about our industry as being ‘architects of desire’ and ‘meaning makers.’ We use human psychology, creativity, culture and the latest advances in technology to move consumers to action.

It is possible to have a net positive effect on the clients we work with and the advertising that we make with them. The #ChangetheBriefAgency can start conversations with clients about how creativity can be used to promote sustainable values, attitudes, and behaviors through Mindshare and Purpose Disruptors’ initiative.

Cop26 and beyond

Ad Net Zero hosts a free two-day Global SummitThe event is open to all advertising and marketing professionals and will take place on November 3-4 alongside Cop26. The digital event will offer thought leadership sessions and practical workshops on how marketers can work more sustainably within their own organizations as well as the work they do for clients.

Ad Net Zero has created a training qualification as well as an industry best practice guide to assist businesses in tracking, measuring and reducing their carbon emissions. The initiative has big plans as it enters its second year in 2022, and so it‘s worth having a look at how you can get involved.

Purpose Disruptors is aware that both the general public as well as industry insiders are often left with bleak visions of a future ravaged by climate change and the paralysis it can cause. They have decided to change that narrative.

They worked directly with a cross-section from the UK’s mainstream public to clarify what a good life could look in 2030. They hosted a series of immersive workshops with over 100 advertising leaders to identify the shifts needed within the industry to be compatible with the country’s vision of a good life.

And they are the only official UK advertising event at Cop26 – with an hour on the Imax Cinema in the Green Zone and livestreamed globally at 10am on Friday November 12. The event will premiere three new ‘adverts for 2030’ based on a creative brief written by Ally Kingston, planning director at Futerra: “It’s not your everyday client, your client is 2030.”

The event will also show ‘Advertising a Good Life in 2030’ – a documentary film by The Big Sky showing both the making of the adverts and the reflections of those involved in the project on what the future holds for them and what the future might look like for the industry in response to both their visions and the visions of UK citizens.

Using this as a launch event, Purpose Disruptors will continue the initiative into 2022 and hold space for the industry to help create ‘a future worth looking forward to.’ You can learn more and get involved at

With all eyes turned toward Glasgow this autumn, we can’t forget this is merely a step along a journey that requires all of us to play a part. That includes the passion, creativity, innovation and creativity of the advertising industry.

Julie Reid, Head of Strategy at Hallam.

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