Starting the Ad Net Zero journey

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.

Made up of a five-point strategy, Ad Net Zero is aimed at facilitating the $3.4 billion advertising industry’s journey toward achieving net zero emissions, encompassing various stakeholders including advertisers, media owners, production companies, and ad agencies.

Originating in the UK in late 2020, this framework has now been embraced by New Zealand as the fourth region to adopt it, with the goal being to support the sector in mitigating its greenhouse gas emissions.

Every agency and marketing services firm that signs up to Ad Net Zero will actively work to diminish its operational carbon emissions until reaching a state of net zero. This process involves the measurement of carbon footprint data, a concerted effort to reduce emissions to the greatest extent possible over time, and as a final step, only compensating  for emissions that cannot be further reduced through certified carbon removal initiatives.

This mission is broken down into five Action Plans, with Action One to reduce emissions from advertising business operations. This might mean carbon emissions created by the physical office space, business travel, employee travel etc.

The first step towards reduction, however, is measurement says Strahan Wallis, Chief Executive of Clemenger Group NZ.

Strahan Wallis.

Clemenger has been working on reducing its carbon emissions for almost nine years now. Recognising this work was somewhat outside their field of expertise at the beginning, the team collaborated with carbon certification company Toitū to ensure the businesses measurements were up to a high standard.

“There’s a lot of terminology around sustainability and the planet that can be a little off-putting and a little scary,” Wallis says. “But ultimately it’s just about measuring what you’re doing and taking really simple steps to reduce carbon emissions.”

With the help of Toitū’s scientific framework, the company was able to measure its outputs and in turn, year by year, work to reduce them. “It’s a matter of getting all that data, putting it into one language and then getting a result,” Wallis says.

In 2019, Clemenger BBDO was emitting about 400 tonnes of carbon across the business. Now that number is down to 133, with Wallis hoping to see it drop another 20 by the next report.

“The amount you can reduce over time gets smaller and smaller because you’ve already done the easy things. The point of sharing that is not to boast, it’s just to say the biggest gains can be early in the journey.”

With that, businesses that previously might not have been very conscious of carbon emissions will have the most to gain, he says.

“To see a collective of multiple businesses in our industry take those first steps would be incredible and will most definitely make a significant impact.”

These changes also have financial benefits. “If you’re saying to the Chief Financial Officer, ‘I’m choosing to fly economy class’, they are happy aren’t they? And same for your building footprint. Consolidating into one building has a financial benefit as much as it has a cultural benefit. There are multiple benefits, but most of the time what you do in this area results in financial benefit as well. Sometimes it doesn’t, but a lot of the time it does.”

Tobias Tripp, of Toitū Envirocare, says Toitū has developed a partnership with Ad Net Zero to provide licenses to its e-manage platform, which helps businesses map and measure their carbon emissions.

Tobias Tripp.

This platform then lodges this data and breaks it down into what Toitū calls categories or scopes.

“[This] allows any business to map their emissions, and break down silos in their business,” Tripp says.

“They can then see how much emissions they are responsible for generating or emitting. You apply that across different categories within the business, and that enables you to begin to build out a carbon footprint of your company.”

Toitū is also contributing to Ad Net Zero by facilitating the upskilling of Comms Council staff with the goal of sharing knowledge, allowing it to filter into the industry whenever new businesses join the initiative. A comprehensive Software Tutorial Series on YouTube for Toitū’s e-manage platform will also be available and plans are underway to host online webinars once people are proficient in navigating the carbon accounting software.

Tripp encourages businesses to get on board now with Ad Net Zero because while there aren’t any direct implications for not joining, those that join now will stand to benefit.

“Those that get on board and start now are on the journey. They’ll gain advantages in the sense that they’re taking action as a business, and taking accountability, which is great. 

“Most businesses in New Zealand are unsure of what that first step looks like and how to take it. I think this [initiative]is really great in giving people who sign up Ad Net Zero that platform [e-manage], and that chance to take a step and be on the right side of history.”

Check back next week for the second article in this series covering Action 2.

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