Stay ahead – join The Drum+

How do you solve a problem like... making your agency greener?

How can your agency be more mindful of its impact on the environment?

Each week, we ask agency experts for their advice on real problems facing today’s marketing practitioners. This week, we asked our readers what practical steps they‘ve taken to make their agencies more ecologically sustainable.

Last week, AdGreen’s free carbon calculator was picked up by Unilever, Adam&Eve and Havas as part of a wider effort to imbue the advertising industry with sustainable practices. But the push to make marketing greener isn’t just in the big campaigns – it’s in the small stuff too. We asked agency experts about the practical ways their businesses had become more sustainable.

How do you solve a problem like... making your agency greener?

Ben Bilboul, chief executive, Karmarama and managing director, Accenture Interactive

It’s not the most obvious place to start, but reviewing your pension policy and those of your staff can have a surprisingly big impact. Make My Money Matter suggests it can be 27 times more effective than any other measure.

Then sign up to Ad Net Zero and monitor your carbon footprint. If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. Finally, think about how you can give more than you take. Going beyond zero and becoming nature positive should be our ultimate aim. Check out Get Nature Positive for inspiration.

Jemima Monies, deputy managing director, Adam&Eve DDB

In addition to our long-standing work toward sustainable production, we are driving industry-wide change by being at the forefront of the Ad Net Zero action plan. We are also very focused on identifying those little improvements that can have a quick impact in every corner of our office. We reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible, with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. But maybe our highest achievement, at least in a literal sense, are our rooftop beehives, which have just started producing honey.

Su Millar, building services director, Havas UK

We like to make sure that our place of work is inspiring future-conscious behavior – our HKX building is one of the most energy efficient developments in the country and we‘ve even grown a living sedum forest on the roof to support wildlife.

We’ve reduced single-use plastic in our cafe by 90% and we turn our used coffee beans into fuel briquettes, we supply only 100% recycled paper and our toilets flush using recycled rainwater. We send zero waste to landfill. But Havas is not done yet! We are very proud of our ISO and B-Corp certifications and will keep searching out new technologies and programs to limit our environmental impact.

Tom Denari, president and chief strategy officer, Young & Laramore

‘Making a difference to the world‘ is part of our agency’s mission. A few years back we created a multi-stream recycling program to reduce trash entering landfill, decreasing waste from three dumpsters a week to one. We’ve developed programs for e-waste recycling, as well as light bulb and battery disposal that we also make available to employees. We upgraded our 25-year-old HVAC system, reducing our electrical consumption by nearly 40%, which also reduces our carbon footprint. We’ve even added motion sensors in our restrooms to make sure we’re not lighting them when they’re empty.

Trudy Waldron, director of integrated production, MullenLowe Group UK

We‘ve taken steps such as remote shooting and reducing shoot attendance, encouraging the use of sustainable materials and looking at CGI rather than set builds. We want to work with more conscious studios (renewable energy, food waste from catering). We‘re reusing items, for instance donating flowers to care homes. As founding partners of AdGreen, we’ve made improvements to our office space: motion-sensor lighting, decreasing water consumption and reducing single-use plastics. Our travel system includes an emissions calculator at the point of booking, which allows us to monitor our footprint and provides us with real-time data.

Dan Coleman, strategy director, Starcom

As marketers we know there are always new or simple ways brands can be sustainable – and we all need to be accountable and brave in our actions. For our clients, we’re holding one-to-one workshops and immersive events (for example, Starcom on Sustainability in October) that focus on what they can do immediately and other changes they can make in the longer term.

Provide council to brand clients, helping them to build sustainability into their business and marketing strategies. Have conversations with media owners. Open up debate with them encouraging brave behavior. Get your own house in order. Source sustainably. Achieve carbon neutrality. Recycle. Introduce the carbon calculator.

Dimi Albers, chief executive officer, Dept

As part of Dept’s commitment to becoming B-Corp certified in 2021, we achieved carbon neutral status in March 2021 by offsetting our carbon footprint via partner Terra Neutra, and will be carbon negative by 2023. By year-end, 95% of Dept’s systems and 70% of our clients’ will run on green hosting infrastructure via Microsoft Azure. We are also lobbying landlords to get 50% of our global offices Green Building accredited, and we‘ve introduced a new travel policy that includes subsidies to incentivize public transport, a flexible work-from-home policy and use of carbon neutral-committed travel firms regardless of cost.

We also measure impact indicators in our client work including the reduction of CO2 emissions as a result of our projects, the reduction of used resources, and the number of people reached in awareness campaigns.

Chris Woodward, UK group managing director, Oliver

We’re aware of the tussle that many businesses face – wanting to do good for the environment and actually doing good. We’re committed to the latter. We joined the Ad Net Zero pledge and have activated an immediate six-month plan to reduce emissions, plus we’re committed to reaching carbon neutrality as a business in the UK by 2030. Our Oliver model naturally reduces the need for travel because agility is in-built. We’ve got rid of single-use plastics, have switched to low-energy bulbs and a sustainable energy supplier, sourced suppliers who don’t use plastic, have electric car charging points, and there’s plans for a food compost area.

Jon Howard, planning partner, Quiet Storm

Our big lesson? Don’t make sustainability (just) a management task. The danger is it may become a box-ticking exercise or be sidelined by other, apparently more immediate challenges. As with diversity, the easiest way to make a significant difference on the sustainability front is to empower the people in the business who really care to do something about it. As we’ve found ourselves, all it takes is a small group of passionate advocates to push things forward more quickly and more meaningfully than an agenda point in a board meeting ever will.

Al Berry, strategy and innovation director, Green Rock

Choose sustainability. Choose getting rid of your office. Choose virtual production. Choose to not fly everyone, anywhere, ever. Choose not to get cabs, even when the client’s paying. Choose to work somewhere more inspirational than your wanky Soho office. Choose a smaller fucking television in your meeting room. Choose remote working so people can actually see their loved ones. Choose an organization to help you change your culture, your habits, your carbon emissions (and not just tick boxes). Choose to turn off the lights in your awards cabinet that will mean nothing to the selfish, fucked-up brats you spawned to replace yourselves when the planet is toast. Choose your future.

Rob McFaul, sustainability lead, Mindshare UK

As the climate crisis is a ‘bigger than self’ problem, this is a unique opportunity for the industry to act as one.

‘#ChangeTheBrief‘ originated with Mindshare, who asked ‘purpose disruptors‘ to help move it from a single agency initiative to the collective power of the entire industry working together via ‘#ChangeTheBrief‘ alliance. ‘#ChangeTheBrief‘ Alliance enables agencies to respond to client briefs in a way that promotes sustainable lifestyles in clients’ audiences. We were one of the founding agencies to work with the IPA to create the industry’s IPA Media Climate Charter and were a founding member of the Advertising Association working group that created the Ad Net Zero initiative. We established GroupM’s Mission Zero, which embeds sustainability across the group. Our ‘Good Growth‘ positioning launched this summer puts sustainability at the heart of our planning approach.

Jose Sel de Felipe, executive producer, Cult

Sustainability makes both ethical and business sense, and we embrace this at every turn. At Cult we’re making production greener without compromising on our creative services. We offer vegan catering as a first option for all our shoots, use green generators and work with green suppliers to reduce emissions further.

What do we do with the rest? We offset. We include a donation toward a carbon neutral production and work with non-profit organizations to ensure best practice. We’ve worked closely with AdGreen since the beginning, and with its new Carbon Calculator there is no excuse to not raise awareness with clients and the industry.

Caroline Davison, managing director and sustainability lead, Elvis

The biggest challenge that we face – the one that we all need to lean into – concerns the carbon impact of the work we put out into the world. This far outweighs our collective office footprints. We need to take responsibility for what we are promoting. That’s why, alongside working toward B-Corp certification, Elvis (in partnership with Purpose Disruptors and Iris Worldwide) has pioneered the open source ‘Ecoffectiveness’ measurement framework, which helps agencies to quantify the real carbon impact of their campaigns.

Want to join in the conversation? Email me at sam.bradley[at]thedrum.com to be included.

By continuing to use The Drum, I accept the use of cookies as per The Drum's privacy policy