The advertising industry plays an important role in contributing to the climate crisis, and this starts from the very messaging within the advertisements to how an actual piece of content is being produced, says Jonathan Parker, Managing Director for APAC, APR Consulting.
“This industry plays a big role in what may be the biggest threat to our society. Beyond the industry’s influence on consumer behaviour, the ad production process itself produces tons of carbon emissions and waste.
“According to an excerpt released by a prominent movement in the UK, advertising has helped promote high-carbon lifestyles and hyper-consumption, and this should be changed rapidly if we want to survive. This concerted call to action urges the advertising industry to own its involvement and pivot to use its power for good,” says Parker.
On Saturday night, the world reached an agreement on the COP26 accord. The climate crisis has never been given such importance as the accord brokered by the United Nations.
The accord aims to mitigate the worst effects of climate change and the agreement was accepted by nearly 200 countries, despite stumbling obstacles such as the phase-out of coal, fossil fuel subsidies, and financial assistance to low-income countries.
India and China, two of the world’s largest coal consumers, insisted on a last-minute adjustment in the pact’s fossil fuel terminology, switching from a “phase out” to a “phase down” of coal.
For Parker, the climate crisis is usually connected with people’s unsustainable habits, and the advertising industry can connect products to consumers, thus, influencing consumer behaviour.
As mediators between the public and brands, it could help inform and demonstrate a new direction in how people consume in terms of what they value and what they consider a good life.
Sustainability is a growing issue and a brand’s sustainable practices and commitments are important factors that consumers are now considering before making a purchase decision, he says.
He believes promoting climate action is no longer simply a question of due diligence, “it is our responsibility to do what we can in our own corner of the world and in our industry in order to avoid catastrophic repercussions.”
Responding to the crisis, the industry has adopted various initiatives like Ad Net Zero in the UK.
“APAC may seem to be lagging compared to other regions like Europe, but we have seen like-minded agencies that are actively demonstrating their own commitment and action.
“APR believes that rethinking our approach to ad production and the processes that sit around it so that sustainability sits at the core of all practices is a good place to start,” he says.
When asked about the real effect of advertising agencies on climate change, he says sustainability requires transparency, as it sets the proper baselines to work from and carbon emission data and reporting is the foundation.
A recent exciting development in 2021 was the launch of the AdGreen Calculator, a tool created specifically for the production industry to capture all elements of a production that contribute to a carbon footprint.
The tool allows the user to see the impact of amendments such as reduction in travel and switching to renewables has on the carbon footprint of that production in real-time; this, in turn, educates and drives behaviour change as the agency and production company staff learn as they go about the impact various choices and decisions have on the emissions.
“We encourage marketers, advertisers, and brands to understand the importance of measuring carbon footprint to develop a carbon reduction strategy for production. This real-time data capture promotes complete transparency by all involved and supports the early adoption of initiatives in support of sustainable practices,” he says.