WPP has committed itself to cut carbon emissions to net-zero across its entire supply chain before the decade is out, in what it hails as the most ambitious sustainability approach in the ad industry.
To mark Earth Day, WPP announced that it will hit net-zero in-house emissions by 2025.
Across all media outlets in its supply chain, which includes $60bn (£43bn) spend each year, a slightly later target date of 2030 has been set.
‘Raising the bar for the whole sector’
WPP has adopted a leadership stance on the climate crisis, setting a goal of net-zero on emissions of its own making, as well as emissions generated within the media supply chain.
To mark Earth Day, WPP confirmed that it would reach net-zero carbon emissions in its operations by 2025 and across its entire supply chain by 2030.
By far the biggest impact will come from cleaning up WPP’s supply chain which accounts for the vast majority of emissions, derived primarily from the production of advertising content and the placement of that content in media channels.
Chief executive Mark Read said: “WPP is the world’s largest buyer of advertising space, managing more than $60 billion in media spend on behalf of our clients, and the world’s largest producer of advertising content. So we have the opportunity to make a real difference.
“By including emissions from the placement of advertising in our net zero commitment — a first for net-zerostry [sic] — we aim to raise the bar for the whole sector.“
Working with media owners
WPP’s announcement comes as media owners take stock of their carbon footprint for the first time.
GroupM, WPP’s media investment operation, is in process of unifying its carbon calculators to establish a pan-industry measuring tool for clients which can then be integrated with future procurement requests.
The pandemic has enabled greener working practices in the industry to become the default, including a migration toward virtual production technology and a move away from location-based filming.
WPP’s creative production business Hogarth has already pioneered its ’Sustainably Made’ approach, which pairs virtual production with custom measurement tools and in-built carbon offset.
The multinational communications conglomerate is also a founding member of AdGreen, which seeks to eliminate the negative environmental impacts of production.
Impact across the advertising sector
To ensure that the chosen metrics carry weight and respect WPP will submit its emissions reduction targets to the UN-backed Science Based Targets for third-party review.
WPP’s announcement is the latest in a line of green commitments and milestones; including sourcing 65% of its electricity needs from renewable sources in 2020 while pledging to raise this proportion to 100% by 2025.
In 2019, WPP was the first among its peers to commit to phasing out single-use plastics within its campuses.
WPP was also one of several major brands to commit to the ’Planet Pledge’ initiative to ensure sustainability issues are treated with the seriousness they deserve in respect of the climate emergency.
Marketers are now realizing the role they can play in coordinating and promoting broader efforts under the direction of the Advertising Association’s Climate Action Group, which coordinates responses in the UK.
Similarly, S4, IBM and Iceland have signed up to Amazon’s ’Climate Pledge’ program to bring about net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.