Panellists from the Guardian, Essence and advertisers discussed practical ways the media industry can collaborate to overcome obstacles to cutting down carbon emissions
Taking place on Wednesday, the session hosted by The Media Leader in partnership with the Guardian featured panels on the current state of international climate agreements and how the industry can collaborate to overcome common obstacles to cutting carbon across their supply chains.
Sharing lessons so everyone can make progress
A recurring theme of the morning’s panels was the need for the industry to come together to create standard frameworks and priorities, whether that is coming up with common measurements to accurately account for carbon emissions everywhere advertising has an effect or ensuring both physical and digital supply chains show equal commitment to confronting the climate crisis.
Essence VP head of sustainability Laura Wade outlined the agency’s approach to ensuring stakeholders engage with carbon-cutting measures, particularly outlining Essence’s ‘sustainable marketplace’ initiative rewarding partners and publishers that show meaningful progress.
However, she added that a key part of the initiative is its transparency, extending findings from its data to the whole industry. Wade said: “If we want to drive meaningful reduction, it has to be applicable to the whole industry… All those lessons learnt [from the sustainable marketplace] can be shared with the industry, because we need the whole industry to decarbonise and reduce.”
Common solutions to common obstacles
Meanwhile, Julie Richards, the Guardian’s director of sustainability and operational transformation, stressed the importance of standardisation across measurement to ensure all stakeholders understand exactly how to measure their emissions and what needs to be addressed to reduce them.
“[Setting] common standards across the industry that everybody meets…could really help accelerate progress”, she said.
Supply chains were also a vital pillar for Richards in reducing emissions across all advertising activity — including with digital partners. She said: “Reducing the number of intermediaries involved, simplifying that supply path will lighten the impact of each impression.
“If done in a thoughtful way…it can actually increase the financial return for publishers and for brands by stripping out a lot of those intermediary things that happen along the way.”
Heineken’s director of data driven media Olya Diachuk agreed, saying: “It’s the responsibility of everyone involved in the supply chain because…technology is driving the market.”
Keeping marketers and readers accurately informed
Combating misinformation and lack of awareness featured heavily in the second panel’s discussions. Harriet Kingaby, insight director at Media Bounty and co-chair of the Conscious Advertising Network, spoke about how standard definitions of what constituted myths and disinformation can make cases of greenwashing clearer to spot.
This included misinformation countering scientific consensus, cherrypicking and misrepresentation, and presenting solutions that are not yet credible.
Going on to discuss how brands can move past accusations of greenwashing, Kingaby said: “Treat it as an opportunity to really reflect and to listen to what your customers are saying…use it as a moment to really think about how you can become more credible.”
Co-founder of Purpose Disruptors Jonathan Wise called on marketing teams to be aware of their company’s activities on climate, including where improvement is required to become more sustainable.
To ensure brands approach carbon reduction in a honest, constructive way, he asked marketers to consider: “What actions is your company actually taking? Are they taking actions that are heading in the right direction, so you’re actively helping reduce the carbon footprint you have influence over?”
Protecting trusted sources of climate information
Later in the panel, the Guardian’s head of client sales James Fleetham urged advertisers and agencies to check their keyword blocklists to ensure they avoided demonetising brand-safe climate coverage.
He said: “Think about what you’re funding. If you’re going to define corporate values, there is not much point in defining them and then spending your money in ways that contradict that.”
Rounding off the panel, he championed the need for quality news brands as misinformation persists online: “Peter Field has done lots of work proving the link between trust as one of the main contributors to brands… think about what you’re funding, support trusted, quality journalism, because it’s more important now than ever.”