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Communications’ climate culpability

For this year’s World Environment Day, the theme is Only One Earth. In the universe are billions of galaxies. In our galaxy are billions of planets. But there is only one Earth.

We’re passionate about tackling climate change at Lynn. This means we must examine our own industry’s responsibility for the climate crises we find ourselves in.

A report conducted by Purpose Disruptors found that the UK advertising industry is responsible for more than 186 million tonnes of CO2e. This means UK advertising is adding an extra +28% to the annual carbon footprint of every single person in the UK.

In 2020, UK spending on advertising reached £23bn. With UK advertising spend so high, it is likely that the industry’s carbon footprint will continue to increase. It is also important to note that in 2021, UK spending on out-of-home (OOH) advertising reached £901m. A typical piece of out-of-home advertising, such as a double-sided bus station LED screen, requires 16,819 kWh for a full year of operation, which is four times the electricity usage of the average British home. 

Furthermore, we must examine how industries, such as oil and gas, which accounted for 42% of global emissions in 2020, use advertising to promote misleading information about its impact on global emissions. A Influence Map report found that oil and gas advertisements on Facebook included misleading content or presented information that was misaligned from the science of climate change according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency.

This has prompted the publishing of a new climate change manifesto from the Conscious Advertising Network. The manifesto lists a number of questions brands and agencies will need to ask themselves if they want to reduce emissions.

Firstly, there are several certifications brands and agencies can obtain to demonstrate a commitment to reducing carbon emissions. Furthermore, does your brand or agency have a plan for Net Zero?

Secondly, if you are a brand or agency, question whether you are working with organisations who further the interests of the fossil fuels industry. Brands and agencies should also be clear on the emissions outcomes that may result from a marketing campaign they undertake. For example, what was the energy requirement for your organisation’s OOH campaign?

Thirdly, when producing creative content, how is your organisation trying to reduce its emissions or energy consumption? For example, is your OOH campaign powered with renewable energy, or do you estimate carbon emissions from proposed production?

Lastly, is your organisation responsible for the spread of mis and disinformation about climate change? Are your campaigns accurately portraying scientific data or do they omit or cherry-pick information to erode trust in climate science?

In order to ensure the advertising and communications industry is doing its bit to reduce its emissions output, organisations will have to ask themselves these questions and act on that information, otherwise the communication industry’s global emissions are likely to increase.

Sustainability is a journey. Here at Lynn, we continue to examine how we can reduce our own carbon footprint and cement sustainability into our processes, as well as help other businesses and organisations do the same. More news on this to come.

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This article was written by Joe Phillips, Digital Marketing Executive.

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