Thought Leadership

What simple practical steps should the marketing industry be taking to address the climate crisis?

ESG is rightly at the top of the business agenda, but should brands be doing more?

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


Just as we once believed that brands could be ‘too big to fail’ perhaps in the past the industry was also guilty of believing the climate crisis was a problem that was ‘too big to solve’. If in the past brands were accused of ‘greenwashing’ at a time when Environmental, Societal and Governance issues are topping the broader business agenda, there is a genuine question as to if brands are treating the climate crisis with the urgency it deserves, 

While the industry wide Ad Net Zero strategy shows the power of the industry to effect change on a collective level, when it comes to connecting with consumers and employees alike it is clear that there is more to do. 

Yet it is equally clear that knowing where to start is not always easy, with this in mind we asked a selection of industry leaders what simple practical steps the industry should be making to address the climate crisis. 

Niki Hunter Ekins

Niki - Splendid Coms.jpg

Managing Director

Splendid Communications

This is a complex topic. As marketeers, our job is to sell more but we all have a responsibility to balance that with supporting the planet. We also know that people are looking for brands to be more sustainable in their approach.

The big goal for brands is to become carbon neutral or negative. In the same way people look for logos such as RSPCA Assured or Fairtrade on food, they will be looking for logos to show good carbon credentials. I expect to see increased use of certification systems, such as the Carbon Trust, which can be attained throughout a brand’s journey, from Reducing CO2 through to Carbon Neutral. 

People increasingly like to know that what they buy is also doing something good; purchase-associated tree planting is a simple mechanic for brands to offer, and it is a really easy concept to communicate and comprehend. However, brands must engage only the most reputable partners. Ones that not only plant the tree but care for it afterwards, while also supporting communities local to the planting site. At Splendid, we are proud supporters of the World Land Trust for all these reasons.

Brands with solid green credentials can easily promote their wares to an eco-aware audience by partnering with Treeapp. Users click through an ad and at the end they get a tree planted. The app shows people how much they have offset over time and also provides content about the planting initiatives.

So yes, offsetting is one simple and effective way to address the climate crisis but there is evidence that offsetting alone will not be enough. As marketeers, we should be advocating it to clients and doing it ourselves, but it must go hand in hand with reducing and recycling waste.

Polly Roberts

Polly Roberts - Media Bounty.jpeg

Head of Strategy and Planning

Media Bounty

Before too long, the marketing industry won’t have a choice but to address the climate crisis.  New climate legislations are affecting every sector, and this will increasingly be the case.  At the same time, the societal issues we’ve faced over the last 15 months are going nowhere, with 54% of consumers now expecting brands to take meaningful action.

The double threat of legislation and consumer demand means that Greenwashing simply won’t cut it. Brands and agencies need to step up when it comes to climate.Mean it, own it, and do it.

CFOs and shareholders can’t put their fingers in their ears anymore.  Now is the time for marketeers to make their voices heard in the boardroom. It’s up to us as an industry to challenge each other and hold each other to account.  In terms of practical steps, there are a few really simple things you can do, or urge your bosses to do.

Any business can switch their company pensions out of schemes that fund harmful industries like fossil fuels.

Any business can identify and work to moderate their carbon hotspots with the help of companies like Small World Consulting.

Agencies who have subscribed to the IPA’s climate charter can run their media plans through their carbon calculator to calculate emissions.

Agencies can get free training from AdGreen on how to make ad production more sustainable.

At Media Bounty we offer all of our clients the option to reduce their carbon impact where possible, then offset the rest through World Land Trust.  We protect biodiversity and mitigate climate change by making a donation to protect threatened forests for every single campaign we work on.

We refuse to work for brands in the worst offending industries, and consistently turn down briefs from the likes of fossil fuel or fast fashion brands.  We order vegetarian/plant-based food for all meetings and shoots.  And we never have, and never will fly a team of people to the other side of the world to shoot a commercial. 

There’s no reason why every agency can’t do the same.

If they’re not, their clients and their staff should demand it.

And if they still don’t listen?  Consider an agency that does.

Lemeece Page-Shepherd

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Business Director

Total Media

There are quick wins all businesses could be doing regardless of industry to help with the fight against climate change; serving solely vegetarian options at meetings, recycling, encouraging employees to select greener modes of transport, but how can we really drive this mission forward? The marketing industry specialises in engaging with consumers, so we are in a prime position to be able to inform, educate and encourage behaviour change.

Be the change you want to see:

If looking after our environment and our planet is something that is important to you (and it should be!),the first thing you should be assessing is how seriously your own company is taking the matter.

Appoint an individual or a team to look at the impact your business is having on the environment, how to minimise it and even reverse it. This doesn’t need to be a new recruit, there will be people within your company who will be passionate about this and eager to be involved.

Once you start digging, you’ll be surprised at how many opportunities there are to make your workplace a greener place. Set goals and work hard to meet them.

Shout about it

Tell your staff what the goals are, the changes being made, put it on your social channels, include it in your credentials. Publicising what you’re doing will make you accountable and more likely to be motivated to uphold your promises.

The more companies that see what their peers are doing, the more will begin to follow suit. Be part of leading the charge!

In doing this, not only will your business be doing their bit to tackle climate change, you’ll also attract like-minded employees, partners and clients, therefore building an industry who together, really can make a difference.  

Rob McFaul

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Purpose Disruptors

The impacts of the climate crisis have become increasingly front of mind for everyone. So, it's natural to seek simple steps and a fix, as we would to any problem we encounter.  Yet this perspective is part of the problem, seeing the climate crisis as something happening to us, as one of many issues to be tackled.

As Albert Einstein said, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."  We must learn to see the world anew.

The climate crisis is a symptom of our economic system, of defining business success solely based on financial growth.

A first step is for the industry to face the uncomfortable truth - 60% of GHG emissions come from household consumption[1]. As architects of desire, we drive much of that consumption.

It's not a simple, practical step, but it's vital to cross that threshold of understanding of our role in the climate crisis and act from that understanding. Meaningful change always comes from a shift in how we feel and think.

The thing is, our industry is uniquely placed to make a difference. Our creativity, our powers in storytelling and behaviour change can all be directed to serve thriving life on Earth. We can create new visions of the good life. We can promote sustainable lifestyles. We can accelerate our clients' business models to be future-fit. We can imagine a new role for our industry in a zero-carbon world.

So that's the first step to take, in this liminal space between an old world of extraction and infinite growth and a new world of stewardship and regeneration: every day, ask yourself and the people you work with, what world do you want to serve?

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