Whether it’s the fresh food aisle in your nearest departmental store or a Zara outlet, you’ll see words like “sustainably sourced” and “eco-friendly” plastered pretty much everywhere today. But how many of these claims are actually true to their word?

In most cases, these vast claims and fancy words are merely a form of greenwashing. Unfortunately, the advertisement industry is one of the most significant contributors to it.

Greenwashing refers to the use of marketing moves to make claims of sustainability while not living up to those claims. It’s an attempt to cater to the market segment consisting of environment-conscious consumers by painting a positive image of the organization.

However, greenwashing only goes so far because advocates and environmental activists quickly notice how authentic a brand is to its words about sustainability. That’s why there’s a heightened need for Adland sustainability to come into action in 2022.

But how can Adland accomplish this? Here’s an overview.

As we know it, the planet Earth is heating up, and climate change is definitely as real as it gets. The advertisement industry has decided to play its part in reducing the impact of its former actions.

In November 2020, the Advertising Association started the Ad Net Zero Initiative ranked environmental sustainability at the top of its agenda.

ad net zero environmental rankings 2022

Over 80 agencies, media owners, brands, trade bodies, and tech platforms signed up for the initiative to reduce their net carbon emissions to zero by 2030.

But how exactly are they planning to do this? By now, many brands and other players in the advertisement industry have started cutting back on single-use plastics in the workplace. They’re also pushing to reduce business travel, fund tree planting, and change how they shoot ads to make the process more sustainable.

Despite these efforts, the advertisement industry always seems to be under fire, facing public criticism for contributing to already rampant greenwashing. Environmental activists want advertisement companies to boycott fossil fuels and cut ties with large brands that refuse to follow sustainable practices.

Another concern in this regard is that not all brands and media houses can keep up with the pace of adopting sustainable practices. Due to this, many key players risk being behind their competitors and fellow advertisers.

How Can Adland Get Serious About Sustainability

Adland sustainability goals for 2022 will help determine to what extent the advertisement sector will play a role in saving the environment this year. Whatever the industry does, it needs to realize the overall impact of its actions on society and the world as a whole.

Here are some essential things Adland can do to take the road towards sustainability.

  • Make it work-oriented
  • Get Your Data Straight
  • Boycott High-Carbon Clients
  • Be Radically Creative
ways adland can sustain in 2022

1. Make It Work-Oriented

In the advertising space, everything you do is for your client. Indeed, you want to create something that is aligned with what the brand is trying to market.

But in 2022, the advertisement industry also needs to ensure its work is aligned with sustainability. The #ChangeTheBrief Alliance is a part of the Ad Net Zero initiative. It’s a learning platform that helps promote sustainable behaviors for your client’s brands.

It poses the following questions to people:

  • How will this ad campaign impact the consumers’ carbon footprint? Will it increase or decrease it?
  • Will this campaign shift society towards a sustainable lifestyle?
  • Or is this campaign doing quite the opposite by greenwashing the whole concept without addressing the actual crisis at hand? 

Any advertisement agency or company that’s committed to being more sustainable in 2022 should ask itself these questions. At the end of the day, the impact of the advertisement industry is primarily measured by the cultural and social changes it brings among people. 

When you incorporate sustainability in your efforts, its impact will seep into the audience too. 

2. Get Your Data Straight 

Data is an integral part of every business operation today. It also proves to be instrumental in measuring a brand’s climate impact. With data analysis, the industry can determine if certain products are harming the climate and where there’s room for transformation.

Agencies that want to calculate – and ultimately reduce – their environmental impact should focus on lowering their advertised emissions. These are greenhouse gas emissions resulting from an increase in sales due to advertising. 

In 2019, advertised emissions accounted for more than 186 million tonnes of carbon dioxide production in the UK. That’s equal to the emissions produced by 47 coal-fired power plants that are operational year-round. The researchers further concluded that advertising adds 28% extra to every person’s annual carbon footprint.

To implement Adland sustainability, the advertisement industry needs to lower these emissions. How is that? It starts with understanding the data and identifying the problem areas. After that, the key players in the industry can work on transforming or resolving those pain points. Once a certain standard has been established, it can be used across the industry, no matter how big or small the agency is.

3. Boycott High-Carbon Clients 

At the moment, there’s an ongoing debate in the advertisement industry as to whether the sector should cut ties with high-carbon and fossil fuel clients altogether. 

The Clean Creatives initiative and similar networks are calling on the industry to not work with fossil fuel producers or the trade representatives of the petrochemical industry in the future. 

The keywords in this regard are “accountability” and “transparency.” If advertisers don’t want to be accused of greenwashing and are actually serious about being sustainable, they should scrutinize their clients’ roadmaps and climate targets before accepting any future work. 

While this is bound to have some unfavorable consequences, it’s one of the more challenging ways in which Adland sustainability can be accomplished. 

4. Be Radically Creative 

Data can indeed give the industry an insight into where it’s falling short in terms of sustainability. But it takes keen creativity to develop solutions to the identified problems. 

Creativity, in this respect, also needs to be coupled with cultural reinvigoration and transformation of operations in the advertisement industry. 

Most importantly, the industry needs to understand its consumer pool. What are their anxieties and concerns about the environment? Which sustainability needs do they feel are not being met by the industry? GoodLife2030 is a helpful initiative that understands the change in people’s concerns towards the climate and high-carbon lifestyles due to the Covid-19 pandemic. By understanding the people’s sustainability needs, the advertisement industry can become truly sustainable.