For six years, Jo Coombes has been a lonely voice in the advertising world, advocating for zero-carbon and zero-waste production, researching, and working with the APA to share best practice, all the while doing her day job as a producer with LS Productions.
Now, though, the Advertising Association has partnered with Jo to relaunch AdGreen as a cross-industry initiative, under the AA’s Climate Action Working Group. Businesses like Unilever, Sky, WPP, IPG Group, ISBA, Havas and more have lent their support to the initiative. There’s also a partnership with BAFTA’s sustainability platform Albert – meaning the worlds of film and TV will be able to exchange notes and insights.
With brands, agencies, and production companies lifting their heads from the Covid-19 lockdown, industry bodies like the AA, IPA and ISBA are turning their attention to new and better ways of working. And they’ve realised that addressing waste and pollution generated by production will be a whole-industry effort.
LBB’s Laura Swinton spoke to Jo Coombes to find out more
LBB> Lockdown saw advertising production adopt remote directing / production in a big way and cut down on travel - how do you think this experience will change how we approach production going forward as travel restrictions loosen up?
Jo> I hope that these experiences will give people food for thought as they approach working with teams spread across the globe in future. We've definitely shifted culturally and video calls are now the norm. Whole productions are being shot remotely with technology that is trusted in a way that it just wasn't before. Although this isn't always ideal for various reasons, it's very possible. I hope we don't lose that.
LBB> Why is now the time to relaunch AdGreen and how does this new incarnation differ from what you've been doing before?
Jo> This is AdGreen 2.0 for sure! Whilst I've had a lot of support over the past six years (and shout out to every single person who's helped me along the way!), it's wonderful that AdGreen has now found a home at the Advertising Association. Their position means we can bring all of the industry bodies together, and use their collective voice when we need it. The funding we now have in place thanks to our founding partners means that we can create tools to measure our impact, and to bring training and other resources to a much wider audience. The partnership we have between the AA and BAFTA's Albert platform
means we can save reinventing the wheel as we create these tools and resources, as we can build on what they've already created - including their brand new carbon calculator which they are launching in 2021. It seems that all the stars have aligned at the right time and I couldn't be more excited.
LBB> What habits would you like the industry to put into place now as we move into this transitionary 'new normal' period?
Jo> Every single person involved in the making of advertising has a role to play - from the account team to the caterer - and everyone in between. We know from data that travel (and associated accommodation) and energy use for offices, studios etc. are the biggest pieces of the TV production carbon footprint 'pie', and I would suspect that our breakdown will be similar (although we won't know until we have data from our own carbon calculator). Therefore retaining the remote working model if you are working with teams abroad will mean a big reduction in the flights and accommodation that would've been needed to all be together in one location. Switching to renewable energy is also a big game changer - if we all switched, our productions would be a lot less carbon intensive as a result. The Creative Energy team at Albert can help any business in the creative industries with this - just fill out this form on the AdGreen website and someone will get back to you.
LBB> What role can brand clients / marketers play in encouraging their agency and production partners to produce more sustainable and less polluting content?
Jo> I would say that it's really for brands and agencies / production partners to collaborate. If the two biggest carbon factors are likely to be transport and energy use, then it's thinking about this in line with brand strategies and campaigns that are being worked on. If you're a UK-based team working on creative that will require a sunny beach location and you're scheduled to shoot in December, then it's likely you'll need to travel abroad - maybe even to the southern hemisphere. The flights - and accommodation - will have a significant impact on the campaign's carbon footprint, and the more people that attend (and their class of flight), the worse it'll be. The average production manager can only remove up to around 15% of carbon impact from any shoot once it's in production (and that's on a really, really good day) - we need to be thinking about this much earlier in the process, and not rely on production teams to do the heavy lifting down the line as there's only so much they can do, and it will likely be focussed around waste reduction, which though important, usually has a much smaller impact on a production impact than travel and energy.
LBB> It feels like now is a really good time, psychologically and organisationally to commit to and build around new, environmentally positive habits - what are your thoughts?
Jo> It definitely is. Not only are we emerging into a new normal, but September definitely feels like a fresh clean page! We're actively looking for further founding partners to join our initial seven, so if there are agencies or brands out there looking to get involved in a bigger way, please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org).