The recent introduction of Ad Net Zero in Aotearoa, spearheaded by the Commercial Communications Council, represents a significant step towards the ad industry committing to collaborative climate action. But how does this translate into tangible actions? In this series, the Comms Council and StopPress have joined forces to present five articles, each delving into the details of Ad Net Zero’s Action Plans.
As part of Ad Net Zero’s five-part action plan, Action 4 focuses on reducing emissions from events, while using industry awards to promote sustainability. We spoke to the Commercial Communications Council’s CEO, Simon Lendrum, and Head of Events and Communications, James Wotton, about progress on measuring and reducing emissions from events.
Lendrum says the focus and intent of Action 4 is twofold. “Events and award shows are quite an integral part of the advertising sector. We have lots of events that are created for clients in terms of experiential events and the like, and we have award shows across the industry,” he says.
“The first intent is to acknowledge that these events come with emissions and therefore to apply the principles of Ad Net Zero to those as well, which is to begin the process of measurement and by doing so, then build future reduction plans to lower the impact of those events and awards. The second component is to start the conversation around how and at what stage and to what extent we might start integrating sustainability concerns and criteria into the judging of award shows themselves.”
The Comms Council is responsible for delivering a number of awards shows throughout the year, so the first step to making them more sustainable is to measure their carbon output. They kicked this off by auditing this year’s AXIS Awards, which were held in March at Shed 10 on Auckland’s waterfront.
The audit found that total emissions were 27.09 tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent), or about 47kg of carbon dioxide per attendee. A breakdown of the emissions shows that more than three quarters of the carbon (83 percent) was generated from travel to the event itself, including attendees (59 percent), speakers (18 percent), event organisers (four percent) and performers (two percent).
Lendrum says measuring the emissions from the event has allowed the council to understand its “carbon budget” for speaker events in future. “We held a speaker event in the morning of AXIS and we had speakers from the United States and from Australia, so obviously that created a significant body of emissions in terms of their travel to New Zealand. If we do a speaker event of similar scale in the future, we know for example, that we can’t afford two Northern Hemisphere speakers.”
The choice of venue is another factor affecting emissions – Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, which manages Shed 10, has installed solar panels on the roof to reduce its energy usage. Another factor to consider is catering, which accounted for x percent of emissions at this year’s AXIS Awards. Wotton says advertising is not the only industry facing these kinds of challenges and looking for ways to reduce emissions.
“All of our suppliers are saying that it’s coming from lots of big clients. They’re all looking to understand deeper the carbon impact, and so I think starting that conversation and getting them thinking about the impact that they can be having from a carbon perspective is the key. We’ve seen our suppliers, even in the last six months, start to ask different questions of us in terms of how we can kind of better support them in measuring and making decisions that have a lower carbon impact for our events.”
As for using the awards themselves to drive change, Lendrum says there needs to be debate and discussion about how to best integrate sustainability into the judging critera.
“In the UK, Ad Net Zero has created an Ad Net Zero specific award show that is rewarding work that furthers the goals of sustainability and behaviour change. Another approach at a local level might be to begin to introduce categories specific to areas of sustainability, or we could start considering sustainability as a broader criteria that everyone has to be held account to.”
Supporters of Ad Net Zero have been asked to nominate people within their organisations for working groups, one of which will tackle the issue of judging sustainability. “We don’t have any pre-conceptions in terms of what the outcomes will be,” Lendrum says. “It will be for the working group to reach some recommendations and then us to figure out how to implement them.”