Doing Sustainability the Right Way: Becoming Ad Net Zero

According to Sir David Attenborough; “Saving our planet is now a communications challenge.” And as far as I’m concerned, Sir David’s say is final.

We’re all well aware of the climate emergency – it’s arguably the most significant challenge we’ll face in our lifetimes. In fact, 96% of people working across the UK advertising industry are worried about the impact we as a species are having on the planet.[1] But if you’re anything like me, the enormity of the situation is so daunting you wonder what, if anything, you can do about it.

I’ll preface this article now by saying that I’m no eco-warrior. Besides following a vegetarian diet and doing my household recycling, I’m in no position to preach about tackling climate changeHowever, I am making a conscious effort to educate myself and I’d like to take you with me on this journey to becoming net-zero, one step at a time.

Along with my colleague Kim Bennett, I recently became certified in Ad Net Zero Essentials; a new Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) qualification ‘to help people in the advertising and marketing services industries understand the actions to achieve net-zero emissions from the development, production and media placement of advertising by 2030.’

And while I could use this opportunity to take you through each step of the Advertising Association’s plan to get our industry’s climate impact down to net-zero within the next eight years, I’m choosing instead to provide you with my own two pennies’ worth…

Simply doing ‘our bit’ is no longer enough. We all need to be making proactive decisions to drive change, and use our influence as an industry to help people live more environmentally sustainable lives. No biggie.

At Punch!, Kim and I are working closely across our departments to begin implementing some of our learning. These aren’t giant leaps, but they are small steps in the right direction that are easy to action, quickly.

Our commitments:

  1. We will use imagery that promotes sustainable choices for our campaigns – such as electric vehicles, reusable containers, and packaging
  2. We will highlight and focus on sustainable solutions and initiatives offered by our clients within the work we do – such as this project for Iron Mountain
  3. We will challenge briefs from clients to make them more environmentally friendly – such as replacing higher footprint marketing tactics with more sustainable ones

Will these three commitments change the world? No. But we have to start somewhere. And it’s better to start with something than nothing, right? Well… not necessarily… it depends on what the ‘something’ is.

Greenwashing is a major part of the problem within our industry: ‘the act of overstating the importance or impact of environmental initiatives, misusing buzzwords or jargon, using vague language or misleading pictures.’ Essentially, it’s covering up a lack of sustainable credentials with ‘green’ brand and marketing strategies. To avoid jumping on the bandwagon, make sure that your copy isn’t exaggerating or implying environmental benefits. Be a good marketer.

Take a leaf (metaphorically of course – otherwise leave leaves alone) out of IKEA’s book. Working with its agency partner, Mother London, it adopted a clever set of OOH ads across London to promote the opening of its sustainable Greenwich store in 2019. The message was simple: travel to our most sustainable store in the most sustainable way.

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While in comparison our B2B marketing budgets seem fairly humble, this type of concept is easy to replicate. You could say it’s like walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

And yes – I did just credit another marketing agency for their fine work. Because it is our collective responsibility to begin the essential journey our industry needs to take. So whether you start today or tomorrow, please just make sure you start.

The time is now. All for none.

Punch! is committed to defining a roadmap in order to become a net-zero agency by 2030. If you would like to be involved in our focus group for sustainability, please contact Deanne Crocker, Marketing Manager, for more information.

[1]  Results from online quantitative research conducted by Credos between April and June 2020, with a sample of 285 people working across the UK advertising industry, cited in The Ad Net Zero Report

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