It must be clear to everyone, especially after COP27, that there is a massive gap between climate science and climate action. Between what humans know and what humans are doing about it.
The truth is that while governments set the framework, it will be business and individual citizens who will deliver the changes required. Or not.
Last year we saw examples across the world, north and south, rich, and poor, of the impact of unexpected climate events. They create homelessness, personal and economic disasters even in stable societies, and can create existential crises in less stable situations leading to famine, loss of the rule of law, economic collapse or mass migration.
This is why we must mobilise our industry to be a force for good and do our bit to ensure we contribute with the eradication of our negative climate and biodiversity impacts as soon as possible. And the good news is we know exactly what to do.
For the economy, for society and for the planet, for the people who work in our industry, we need to reflect the urgency and immediacy in what we do in the next 24 months – landing material changes in both the work we make and the way we work. This is no longer the domain of the sustainability officer, or a “green team”, it is incumbent on everyone working in our industry in any role, anywhere in the advertising ecosystem. The action you take this year matters.
At Ad Net Zero we offer a vision and a plan. The vision is a zero-carbon ad industry by 2030, “all for none”, putting all its special powers of creativity and behaviour change behind better choices, better products, better services; in short, better ways of living. To achieve these two outcomes, we must work hard on both, right now. The five action points in the Ad Net Zero plan are designed to guide everyone with practical focus to the next steps.
I cannot overplay the pivotal role our industry could have in shaping social acceptability for sustainable innovation and new behavioural norms through the power of advertising.
We will need to be generous; recognising that everyone must start somewhere, and perfection is the enemy of change. We need to live with the fact that we will not be totally consistent in our own personal behaviour, addressing changes in our lives in the order we can best manage, and nor will other citizens. But good intent and driving better behaviour change is more important than perfect consistency right now.
Let's capture people's imagination about what they can do, through thought-leading brands. Indeed, there’s also a massive business opportunity as well as the opportunity to make a big difference the like of which we have not seen before.
Ad Net Zero supporters are exchanging best practice in a pre-competitive space as we get on with five actions.
Here is our list (not exhaustive but all immediately actionable) to kick off 2023:
1. Get our company’s own house in order
Job one is ensuring we use renewable energy suppliers as a prerequisite this year. Secondly, get everyone focused on sustainability in their day job and making sure the main business functions are all at the heart of it, and, by no means least, to adopt a carbon-reducing travel policy. All these measures are highlighted in the Ad Net Zero Guide.
2. Use the AdGreen tool to de-carbonise ad production and sign up for the additional training if this is your area of specialism
Analysing the results of filling in the tool drives your improvement plan and will probably generate savings as well. The first AdGreen annual review will be published in March. This is based on more than 500 productions that used the AdGreen tools to measure and manage the emissions from production. It will demonstrate the huge potential for reductions, but we can only manage what we measure – so make sure your production colleagues are as engaged as possible with AdGreen.
As we all know, change is not easy. We need to embrace the need for change and generate the energy to change, and that’s usually a mix of head and heart. The next two actions can help with both:
3. Lead our teams through doing the Ad Net Zero Training together
This includes the latest on rules around greenwashing and how to correctly communicate environmental claims in all advertising.
4. Leverage the content created at the Ad Net Zero Global Summit to kickstart action
Watch a session from the online library and use it to provoke debate and behaviour change with your colleagues – you can find a very useful Book of the Summit on the Ad Net Zero site, which is designed to help anyone pick the most relevant session to their role.
And lastly, but probably most importantly:
5. Ramp up the number of campaigns promoting or even featuring more sustainable products, services, and behaviours
Call time on unthinking use of scenarios and story lines that promote pollution and waste. And prepare your best work to enter this year’s Campaign Ad Net Zero Awards. Entries open in the spring. Why not look at the 2022 winners for inspiration?
Ad Net Zero is a resource, a pre-competitive collaboration, here to help every one of us and every company in our industry accelerate to a net zero future in 2023.
Everything we know and are learning lives on the hub at adnetzero.com. With a mix of inspiration and practical actions, every one of us and every company can make a massive impact in 2023 in by reducing carbon and promoting more sustainable behaviour change, by doing these five things, and by following our action programme.
Let’s get on with it.
Sebastian Munden is chair of Ad Net Zero.