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Ad Net Zero: International Impact for UK Advertising’s Climate Action Plan

Ad Net Zero, a UK initiative, is now being rolled out in the US with UK Government support.

Matt Bourn, Director of Communications

Matt Bourn, Director of Communications | Advertising Association

5 min read Partner content

“Ad Net Zero plays beautifully into the story of the UK’s creativity, innovation and leadership. These characteristics manifest themselves in multiple ways, and often with global impact.” These were the words of Emma Wade Smith OBE (pictured above), His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America about the international expansion of Ad Net Zero at a special reception at the British Consulate during Advertising Week New York.

Ad Net Zero, the UK advertising industry’s response to the climate emergency, is an ambitious plan for our industry to decarbonise ad operations and support every industry to accurately and successfully promote sustainable products, services and behaviours.

This British-born initiative first formed by the Advertising Association, IPA and ISBA two years ago has seen an explosion of support since its inception, with over 100 UK supporters and now a global supporter base of the world’s major agency holding companies, global advertisers and advertising trade bodies. Recently, with the support of UK Government, we took Ad Net Zero to the US market, as part of the initiative’s international roll-out.

Why is it so important the UK exports its creativity in tackling the climate crisis?

Firstly, the UK possesses a £11.7bn advertising export industry, uniquely placed with its strategic, creative and technical attributes to become global leaders in tackling the climate emergency. It is vital to come together to address this existential issue, and do everything in the industry’s power to help support the creation of a net zero economy.

Secondly, we know the Government can harness the power of advertising to inform mass behaviour change. Most recently, it became the UK’s biggest advertiser during the pandemic with life-saving ‘stay at home’ messaging. A recent House of Lords Environment Committee Report recognised the importance of such campaigns when it comes to the climate emergency, calling for Government communications (alongside business) to help people change behaviours to cut emissions and meet climate targets.

Combine these two facts – our export power and our industry’s expertise in communications – and we have an industry ready to produce a world-leading response to an existential issue, and it is a response that can be championed by Government.

Advertising is a key engine of the UK economy, and beyond the money, the industry’s aim is to embed social contribution at the heart of the work it makes – to play a critical role in helping the UK achieve its goal of a net zero economy.

Hot on the heels of COP27, the Advertising Association recently hosted the second Ad Net Zero Global Summit – featuring 28 sessions and 66 speakers from across the advertising landscape. It brought together the latest thinking, insights, practical advice and challenges an advertising and marketing professional faces in their day-to-day working life.

The Ad Net Zero Global Summit featured speakers from the CMA and ASA
The Ad Net Zero Global Summit featured speakers from the CMA and ASA

Looking forward, ads will be carrying an increasing number of environmental claims as brands develop more sustainable products and services. Regulatory bodies, the ASA and CMA, brought their presence to the Summit outlining how they are keeping pace through strict regulation of environmental claims. Meanwhile, our Ad Net Zero training has been refreshed and now includes new international information to cover rules and regulations globally. The industry must do everything it can to avoid greenwashing.

Advertising is uniquely positioned to be a force for good. This has recently been demonstrated at the inaugural Campaign Ad Net Zero Awards, with the winners announced on November 23.

The Campaign of the Year went to Unilever’s Hellmann’s and agency Mindshare for ‘Cook Clever, Waste Less’ – an advertiser-funded TV series showcasing how to turn leftover food into appetising dishes that use the mayonnaise brand. With 3.4 million people tuning in to see practical tips to help reduce food waste and crucially save money, 32% of those watched the show said they would start using leftovers to make meals. That adds up to 3.1 million kg of food saved from landfill, equivalent to 5.9 million kg of CO2 emissions.

Hellmann’s and Mindshare won Campaign of the Year at the recent Campaign Ad Net Zero Awards
Hellmann’s and Mindshare won Campaign of the Year at the recent Campaign Ad Net Zero Awards

The awards aimed to spotlight work for sectors that our industry provides services to – from fashion, with ‘Buy Better, Wear Longer’ from Levi’s and OMD EMEA, to a political category – online pollution tracker taking an award for the Central Office for Public Interest and AMV BBDO.

Judges were drawn from a panel of advertising and sustainability experts, and assisting the judging was Alex Sobel MP, Shadow Environment Minister and Chair of the Net Zero APPG.

These are the first year of the awards and just the beginning of a critical few years ahead. They will show the way for more campaigns to support a net zero economy, with the winning case studies used to encourage more advertisers, agencies, production companies and media owners to demonstrate their commitment to Ad Net Zero. To change the way our industry works, and to change the work we make.

The winning campaigns demonstrate how advertising is helping fellow industries across the UK economy make the shift to net zero solutions, promoting new innovations, sustainable alternatives and behaviour changes.

Ad Net Zero’s goal is every ad will be a green ad by 2030, created using sustainable productions, distributed through decarbonised media channels and promoting a sustainable product or service. UK advertising is ready to help build a net zero future.

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Read the most recent article written by Matt Bourn, Director of Communications - How advertising can accelerate a sustainable economy

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