How Media Agencies Can Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

Media agencies are service providers. While they are not the first industry that comes to mind when talking about carbon-intensive business operations, they are indeed responsible for a considerable amount of carbon emissions.

Let’s take a closer look at advertising agencies: The Advertising Association in the UK reported an average of 3.4 tonnes CO2e (CO2e stands for carbon dioxide equivalents) each year per person working in an IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) agency, from operational emissions alone. Annually, they found the total average of operational CO2e emissions to be over 84,000 tonnes. 

These are not insignificant numbers. Fortunately, you can clearly see the change of mind taking place in the advertising industry: The Advertising Association launched the Ad Net Zero Initiative, including a five-step Action Plan for media agencies to tackle their emissions. The IPA  introduced a carbon calculator for media plans. AdGreen focuses on reducing advertising production carbon footprints. 

All of this can seem a bit overwhelming, especially for smaller agencies. Let’s have a look at some reasons and benefits for agencies to go net-zero - and how your agency can get there.

Why Should Agencies Go Net-Zero?

A focus on sustainability future-proofs your employer branding

Millennials play a huge part in the workforce nowadays. How important is sustainability to them? The 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study showed some eye-opening results: 76 percent of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work (vs. 58 percent U.S. average). 64 percent won’t take a job from a company that doesn’t have strong CSR practices.

It’s not just Millennials though: A study by EY shows that the majority (55%) of Gen Z said they are very or extremely interested in environmental issues, up from 40% in 2019. These are important facts to consider because Millennials and Gen Z will soon make up the majority of the workforce. 

Sustainability as a value becomes more and more important for companies, especially now during the “Great Resignation”. It’s not just important to hire new talent, it’s also about retaining employees in the media and advertising industry: 91% of advertising professionals in the UK agree knowing their organisation was taking climate action would improve their job satisfaction.

Clients pay attention to the environmental and social performance of their business partners

More and more commercial contracts include a so-called “sustainability clause”, asking suppliers or business partners to disclose carbon emissions and report their sustainability efforts. Ecovadis found that a large proportion of businesses (73%) already include such a clause in their contracts.

Indeed, companies like Microsoft, Unilever or Commerzbank make an effort to stretch their ESG efforts across the whole value chain. Our prediction is that this topic will grow in importance for media agencies working with all different kinds of clients. On top of that, your own media agency’s sustainability efforts can also serve as an inspiration for clients to work on their own climate strategy.

Competitive advantage

The agency landscape is already adapting: WPP, the owner of GroupM, Ogilvy and Hill+Knowlton agencies, announced plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2025

Did you know that corporations who manage and plan for climate change achieve an 18% higher return on investment (ROI) than companies that don’t? ESG efforts create value through cost reductions, top-line growth, employee productivity outlift and more, as stated in this report by McKinsey.

How to Reduce Your Agency’s Carbon Footprint

A change of mind is taking place in the advertising industry and agencies are examining how to set up actionable climate strategies. Here are 5 tips on how to reduce your agency’s carbon footprint:

First things first: Calculate your agency’s carbon footprint

To reduce carbon emissions, you first have to know your agency’s carbon footprint to identify emission hotspots and potentials for carbon reduction. What used to be a complex process, is now made easy with tools such as our Climate Impact Manager which helps companies effectively measure and track their carbon footprint. Learn more about how to calculate the carbon footprint of your business here.

Typical emission hotspots media agencies

Agencies of all sizes, including Remazing, Serviceplan or Strichpunkt, are already leading by example here and bring carbon transparency into their operations. Are you next?

Cut down on business travel

Employees at media agencies travel to media productions, client meetings or pitches. Cutting down on business travel will help reduce carbon emissions significantly: The first step is to prioritise virtual meetings whenever possible. You don’t have to go all in, simply reducing the frequency of in-person client meetings is a first step towards reducing your carbon footprint. If business travel can’t be avoided, encourage travel by train and staying in certified green hotels. 

Collaborate with green service providers

At least 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions originate from the internet. The media and advertising industry plays a part in that: Digital advertising is based on IT infrastructure such as data centres, core networks or content delivery networks. Switching to providers with better green credentials for IT infrastructure can help to reduce an agency’s carbon footprint.

Outside of the digital world, photo and video productions can be realised with the environment in mind. For example, there are green production companies who achieve this by reducing waste, getting around sets by bike, using regenerative energy, buying second-hand and more.

Become a remote-first company

Have you ever thought about becoming a remote-first company? Remote and hybrid work is likely here to stay: Predictions say that 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote before the start of 2023. In the 2021 State of Remote Work Report by Owl Labs, 84% of respondents said that working remotely after the pandemic would make them happier. 

Being a remote-first company not only gives employees more flexibility, but also cuts down on mass commuting and minimises emissions in the office. For media agencies, office space makes up a significant portion of total CO2 emissions. Still, working from home causes emissions as well, so here’s another suggestion:

Offer incentives for employees to cut down their personal footprints

It does not stop with your agency’s carbon footprint: A holistic climate strategy supports your employees in reducing their personal footprints. But what could you do? For example, sponsoring a public transportation ticket for employees can be an option. You could also offer incentives for environmentally-friendly behaviour: Support your employees financially when switching to a green energy provider, match contributions to environmentally-conscious charities or offer bonuses for eco-friendly holidays. The possibilities here are endless!

There are so many possibilities to build a successful climate strategy at your agency. If you want to deep dive into the topic of reducing emissions at your company, have a look at this article. If you need help on your way to becoming a net-zero agency, contact us!

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