New carbon calculation framework launched for global advertising industry

The first  ‘Global Media Sustainability Framework’ provides emissions calculation guidance for TV, digital and out-of-home advertising.

These media types accounted for more than 80% of global advertising spend last year, hence why they have been prioritised. Emissions formulae will be provided for audio, print and cinema advertising in the coming months.

Emissions accounting formulae have been provided for operations and the value chain for TV, digital and out-of-home advertising this month.

Additionally, the Framework provides users with a common data request form that should enable for more efficient data collection across the value chain and a shared disclosure form that can help businesses select which sustainability solutions providers to work with.

It also provides a route for businesses to disclose data in a streamlined format to the organisations behind the Framework – Ad Net Zero and the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM).

The hope is to establish an efficient, centralized system to validate emissions data and share figures between buyers and sellers. An update on this work will be provided in early 2025.

Ad Net Zero is an industry-wide initiative led by the Advertising Association. It has a UK focus and an overarching vision of driving deep decarbonisation in advertising by the end of 2030. GARM, meanwhile, was established by the World Federation of Advertisers and is global in scope. It also covers sustainability issues beyond climate, including content that can contribute to social harms.

The two organisations have worked collaboratively for 12 months to develop the new Framework. Member businesses, including some of the world’s largest media brands, took part in the process – as did climate scientists and sustainability professionals from big businesses including Diageo, Reckitt, Unilever and PwC.

Ad Net Zero chair Sebastian Munden said: “Today’s release of standard calculations for the carbon footprint of major media channels is a significant milestone for Ad Net Zero and the global ad industry. They are the starting point for creating a common currency for global voluntary adoption: a base for calculating reduction and accelerating progress.”

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s (IPA) director of media affairs Nigel Gwilliam added: “Having agreed standards for calculating media supply chain emissions is the cornerstone of decarbonising commercial media.”

Munden also noted that the industry will need to more deeply interrogate the climate impact of the purchasing and lifestyle decisions it influences with its messaging, as well as getting to grips with its own emissions. He said: “Concerted efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of media should go hand in hand with the efforts to support more sustainable choices to change the way we work and change the work we make. The ad industry has the business opportunity of a generation to be part of the solution.”

Purpose Disruptors estimates that ‘advertised emissions’ rose by more than 10% between 2019 and 2022. It uses this term to refer to products and services which people would not buy had they not been advertised.

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