Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production
Earth Day 2022: Working Towards a Carbon Neutral Industry
London, UK
Experts from Starcom, the Advertising Association, M&C Saatchi Life, FCB Global, dentsu international, Iris and AdGreen speak to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about implementing sustainable initiatives

As April 22nd celebrates Earth Day, the threat of climate change and need for sustainable, carbon-neutral commitment is more pressing than ever. Within the advertising industry, production often holds the majority of the focus when it comes to reducing emissions and supporting greener ways of creating campaigns, but at LBB, we wanted to know the other sustainable ventures which companies are using to support the planet.

We asked how sustainability is changing the industry and the specific ways in which each company is tangibly working towards being carbon neutral. From dedicated teams to using carbon calculators, committing to Ad Net Zero and working towards zero-carbon campaigns, companies have taken the initiative to create a more sustainable future for their offices and the planet as a whole.

Starcom’s Heather Danise, the Advertising Association’s Matt Bourn, M&C Saatchi Life’s Tom Firth, FCB Global’s Susan Credle, dentsu international’s Anna Lungley, Iris’ Amy Bryson and AdGreen's Jo Fenn speak to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about the ways in which they have implemented sustainability initiatives.

Heather Dansie, insight director, Starcom

At Starcom, we have our own internal team of eco-advocates committed to helping drive awareness of the climate crisis and reduce our environmental impact – the ‘Forces of Nature’ team. We hosted an internal sustainability week at the end of last year, with a theme encouraging people to reconsider, reduce, recycle, repurpose and restore, providing inspiring content, case studies, and activities to change how we think about sustainability – both at work and at home. Activities included a suggestion board allowing staff to share sustainable initiatives and companies (because all of us have great sustainability ideas to share), a swap shop for people to exchange preloved items and sustainable pledges from all members of staff to change our behaviours.

As part of the wider Publicis Media team, we have been assessing our office space to reduce waste and lower carbon footprint, from our kitchen utensils to our stationery cupboard. We have also co-hosted showcase talks with media owners and continue to champion the amazing innovation they are investing in. We are also proud to be supporting the launch of A.L.I.C.E. - Publicis Media’s carbon tracking tool which planning teams will use alongside the industry’s IPA Carbon Calculator, helping us measure, reduce and offset our campaign emissions.

And, of course, we are also part of the wider advertising community, promoting and pushing the sustainability agenda. We are part of the IPA Media Climate Charter, which supports our transition to a zero-carbon future, as well as supporters of Ad Net Zero, an industry-wide drive to reduce the carbon impact of developing, producing and running advertising to the real net zero by the end of 2030.

There is much to do, and time is ticking, but our agency focus is on being smarter, faster and braver, which means we believe sustainable changes in our industry are imminent and achievable.

Matt Bourn, director of communications, Advertising Association

Earth Day is a great opportunity to reflect on how we, as an industry, can help tackle the climate crisis, build a more sustainable future and take responsibility for our own carbon footprints in day-to-day ad operations.  

The first work by Credos, UK advertising’s think tank, on the topic showed the average annual operational carbon footprint of someone in a UK advertising agency is 3.4 tonnes of CO2. We are working fast to help our industry measure, report and reduce the carbon involved in the way we work and think about how the work we make can promote more sustainable ways of living.  

Ad Net Zero, our industry-wide initiative for ad operations to achieve net zero by the end of 2030, has now enlisted 100 supporting organisations from across our industry since its launch 18 months ago. This success has enabled the AA, IPA, and ISBA to explore how the initiative can grow beyond UK borders - we’ve just been awarded a WFA President’s Award at Global Marketer Week in Athens, showing the industry’s sustainability efforts are being recognised internationally.  

If you want to take positive action now, here are three things you can do: 

  1. Download the Ad Net Zero guide – it's free and is full of practical advice for you to implement in your own business 
  2. Take the Ad Net Zero Essentials Training – it's a short online course and will help you fully understand how people working in our industry can take positive actions to change the way they work and the work they make 
  3. Encourage your company to become an Ad Net Zero supporter and join the growing collective effort to see real change across our industry 
Find out more at our Ad Net Zero hub.  

Tom Firth, founder, M&C Saatchi Life

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the issues the world is facing at the moment – be they environmental or social - but as Joanne Baez once famously said, “the best antidote to despair is action”. And in that spirit we’re moving fast at M&C Saatchi. 2022 is a big year for us as we roll out a new global strategy called ACTION. The 12 commitments we’ve made cover both the way we work in our own operations and the work we do for our clients. For example, we’ve set out to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50%, and our Scope 3 by 50% by 2030. Both will be verified by the Science-Based Targets Initiative. 

We are also building climate literate teams by training our staff to understand the latest climate science and the levers we can use to create impact within existing briefs – working with both Purpose Disruptors and the AA’s AdNetZero programme to help us do that. We’ve committed to growing the % of revenue from Planet Positive campaigns year on year, and we’re continuing to offer our creative skills to charities and other organisations that support the agenda on a pro bono basis.

On the ground in London, we’ve set up a task force from across the M&C Saatchi Group so we can tackle the issues together. We’re introducing planet checklists for all productions and, of course, using AdGreen to help us calculate the impact of our campaigns. In fact, we aim to have at least one zero-carbon campaign produced by the end of this year. The enthusiasm of our people to get involved and make change happen has been extraordinary, so there’s a mountain of change coming down the track.

In addition to embedding people and planet principles into our existing business, this spring we launched a specialist function called ‘Life’, concerned exclusively with the mainstreaming of healthy and sustainable living – bringing together commercial sustainability expertise with data-driven communications planning and creativity – which Joanna Yarrow, previously global head of sustainable and healthy living at IKEA joined us to lead. Here’s to meaningful change.

Susan Credle, global chair and global chief creative officer, FCB Global

At FCB, we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint across our global network.

This month, we are launching FCB’s first Global Sustainability Council (GSC). The primary goal will be to align on and support IPG’s Climate Goals with specific initiatives. Our GSC will also be sharing local and regional efforts to create greater impact around the world, as well as creating thought leadership for our clients, our network and our industry at large. Through the council, we will also roll out FCB Echo, a local office initiative to change our daily environmental impact, on a global scale. FCB Echo serves to remind everyone at FCB that how we treat our environment comes back to us — good and bad — like an echo.

Additionally, our offices around the world continue to strengthen their own sustainability efforts. For example, FCB NZ maintains the Toitū Envirocare gold certification rating, while FCB South Africa’s carbon offset program, The ReSpek Nature Initiative, has engaged the community and strategic partners such as Nelson Mandela University. FCB Inferno has introduced some interesting longer-term initiatives that will impact our clients’ businesses, such as creating a traffic light system for campaign ideas that signify their environmental footprint.

And when it comes to our work, we pride ourselves on partnerships and campaigns that promote sustainability, like FCB India’s ‘Two Bins. Life Wins’ that urges citizens to separate their biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste; FCB’s ‘Protect the Planet’ with Global Citizen and Google that shows the disaster caused by wildfire; and Ocean Harmony by FCB Malaysia which saw RHB Bank collaborating with the World Wildlife Fund to introduce the first recycled plastic debit card, allowing users to donate points earned toward the sea turtles research unit.

We are an industry that thrives on solving problems through creativity. If we all take the problem of sustainability seriously, every day will be an Earth Day.

Anna Lungley, chief sustainability officer, dentsu international

Earth Day needs to be every day – it’s certainly how we are thinking about it and acting on it, whether it’s how we work in our offices and homes, how we travel, how we create campaigns and solutions and the work we do for our clients every day.
We’re committed to creating a more sustainable world and are proud to have set the bar in our industry high. We’ve set a new science-based, deep decarbonisation target to reduce absolute emissions by 90% by 2040 across our entire value chain. We have made great strides in ensuring our buildings and business are as sustainable as possible, making changes to the way we work and travel, including a new programme to reduce flight emissions by 65% by 2030. Alongside 100% renewable energy globally, we are implementing real-time monitoring against our Net Zero targets and have hardwired dentsu’s executive incentive plan to ESG targets including carbon reduction and gender equality. It’s creating greater accountability and transparency against our strategy.
Earth is our planet, our home. Our people care deeply about climate, nature and building a more equitable society. We understand the power we have to influence the way people think, feel and act so our focus extends far beyond our operational footprint to the work we do every day – working with our clients we can inspire people everywhere to be better, more sustainable and make inclusive choices. That’s a critical part of how we can make a difference and make every day Earth Day. Because business as usual is no longer enough.

Amy Bryson, managing partner and CMO, Iris 

Towards the end of 2020, Iris did a deep dive into our carbon footprint to help us build an achievable roadmap to Net-Zero. The report also looked at each of our 14 offices individually and identified what they needed to focus on. Our aim following that was two-fold; to achieve Net Zero by 2025 and to have a climate action plan in place for every major client by 2021 which considered five major areas including travel, production, creative, eco-effectiveness and participation.

We realised that simply identifying and fixing issues within our own business wasn’t enough, and we needed to make sure that our clients were also set up to come on the journey with us. We know as an agency we have the opportunity to use our relationships and our influence to normalise and promote green behaviours, and we want to do this wherever possible.  

But internally, we knew there were many areas of the business that we needed to change. Our industry has relied on business travel for too long, and at Iris, we identified that over 70% of our footprint was travel (business travel & commuting) so if we were going to make a significant impact, we needed to start there. It’s now easier than ever to utilise technology to communicate and shoot, so as a business we are avoiding carbon-intensive travel wherever possible. We’re also working with our clients to actively reduce the footprint of the production process through green recommendations and measuring the carbon impact of work. We’ve done this by launching the Client Climate Charter, which incentivises clients with our ‘Carbon Kickback’, giving them back any time that we save by digital-first working and access to our sustainability specialists.

Jo Fenn, project director, Ad Green

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s the key advice that we at AdGreen give to companies who want to embark on reducing emissions from their advertising production activities. From the online training we provide, we know that carbon data can really bring opportunities to life and enable production teams to make conscious decisions about how they approach projects. 
As an organisation, we are here to support an industry shift towards net-zero, and while our focus is on production, our resources contain practical information which could also be applied to day-to-day operations for the advertising community at large. Our calculator tool allows the industry to measure the footprint of each production and instigate change as a result - ideally before the production gets underway. We believe a similar approach can apply to workplace-based emissions. By using appropriate tools to measure your company’s operational emissions across transport, spaces, materials, and disposal, you will be able to implement changes which have long term benefits to your workforce, your company, and the planet.

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