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Opinion: 5 ways to decarbonise your advertising production

Opinion: 5 ways to decarbonise your advertising production

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The latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report offers a glimmer of hope that if we took drastic action on carbon footprint reduction, global warming can be kept to 1.5°C. To achieve this, however, everyone must start walking the talk on sustainability. Governments, businesses, and communities everywhere have unique roles to play in leaving this world habitable for future generations.

Sustainability through the advertising production lens

In comparison to carbon-emission heavyweight industries such as energy, manufacturing, and transportation, the content creation ecosystem including advertising agencies, marketing firms, and production houses are hardly mentioned in the global conversation on climate change. However, they still have a role to play in this issue, not just in their messaging but in the entire production process – from storyboard to airing. In fact, an advertising tracker by ad firm Good-Loop recently found that a typical online campaign emits 5.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to CO2 emissions from an estimated 1,051 homes' electricity use for a year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

From weaving sustainable messaging into brand stories and creative concepts, to how content is produced, the advertising industry can create lasting solutions in the battle against climate change. This also builds brand trust and loyalty among consumers.

However, advertising production itself generates a significant carbon footprint, especially on set. As such, it only takes one keyboard warrior such as a blogger with an unsavoury blog post, an irate crew member, or a consumer rights advocate to inflict irreversible damage on a brand. On that note, here are five simple measures to decarbonize content production:

1. Eliminate “baked-in” carbon emissions in creative development

Creative work often has carbon emissions “baked-in” that pass scrutiny; travel for example accounts for nearly 40% of the carbon emissions in the production industry. However, now with virtual production technologies, shooting a scene could be reimagined without sacrificing the quality of creative work. There are also alternative solutions centred on sustainability that can be considered during the creative conceptualisation and production planning processes.

2. Energy choices: Renewable energy sources

  • Choosing 100% renewable energy sources to reduce carbon footprint and costs.
  • Using electric or hybrid vehicles for transport and sourcing hybrid generators.

3. Bring partners along the journey

A thorough evaluation of the entire production supply chain (including partners and suppliers) must be done; this pertains to Scope 3 Emissions, which according to Deloitte can account for up to 70% of a production’s carbon footprint. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Scope 3 Emissions are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organisation, but that the organisation indirectly impacts in its value chain.

4. Take recycling seriously

Consider how set pieces could be recycled for other campaigns or repurposed by local organizations for other uses. Using recycled materials can also help with disposal and diversion from landfills, creating a circle of re-use.

5. Offset carbon emissions as a last resort

After exhausting all means to achieve carbon neutrality, the next step would be to invest in carbon offsetting, such as rehabilitating a forest or funding wind farms. The cost of offsetting is usually much lower than expected.

With all the chatter on climate change, it’s time to look at your brand story holistically from product development through to your entire marketing supply chain and ensure cohesion and alignment for the better good.

The writer is Jonathan Parker, MD, EMEA and APAC at content creation optimisation consultancy Advertising Production Resources.

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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