UK advertising launches Ad Net Zero

Ad Net Zero

The Advertising Association (AA), in partnership with ISBA and the IPA, has launched Ad Net Zero, an industry-wide initiative to help UK advertising respond to the climate crisis caused by CO2 emissions.

Ad Net Zero’s mission is for immediate, collective industry action to help achieve real net zero carbon emissions from the development, production and media placement of advertising by the end of 2030. Individuals and companies seeking to support Ad Net Zero and make a real change to address the climate emergency should sign-up at the Ad Net Zero hub.

To mark the Ad Net Zero launch, the AA has published a report by its Climate Action Working Group with Credos, UK advertising’s think tank, in which it estimates total UK agency operational CO2e emissions to exceed 84,000 tonnes a year*. Credos estimates 42% of that comes from energy usage and 58% from business travel, with the biggest single contribution come from flights and, on the same basis, the industry as a whole could have a carbon footprint of nearer a million tons.

The report sets out Ad Net Zero’s call-to-action through a 5-point plan:

  • Advertising businesses’ own operations: all companies commit to curtail their carbon emissions, principally by reducing travel, fossil energy use and
  • Advertising Production: advertisers, agencies and production companies commit to measuring and reducing their impacts with support from
  • Media Choice: media agencies commit to the IPA Media Futures Group Climate Charter, working with their clients to develop lower carbon media
  • Awards and Events: organisers build sustainability criteria into awards, and plan events to minimise their carbon footprints, especially from
  • Using Advertising’s Positive Influence: agencies and clients harness the power of their advertising to promote more sustainable consumer choices and behaviours.

James Barge, Director of Public Policy, ISBA, said:

“Despite the immediacy of the situation we are all living through, the climate emergency remains the most significant and complex challenge facing humanity. I’m incredibly proud, on behalf of ISBA, to have had the opportunity to work as part of the Climate Action Working Group in seeking to reduce the impact advertising has on our planet and, in doing so, deliver a framework for meaningful and lasting change. Ad Net Zero is just that. It quantifies the challenge and charts the course for us all in reaching a target of ‘real net zero’ by the end of 2030. Now it’s time for us all – advertiser, agency, media owner – to accept the challenge, begin the journey and lead the world.”​

The new report also recognises that concern over the climate emergency is shared across the advertising sector by individuals and companies alike. Some 71% of people working across the industry are worried about the negative impacts of the industry on the environment; more want their agencies to take climate action.

James Best, Chair, Climate Action Working Group and Credos, said:

“People across our sector want advertising to be part of the solution to the climate crisis, through the role it can play in influencing corporate policy and consumer behaviour, helping people make more sustainable choices in what they buy, use and do. Our research has shown that for nine out of ten advertising professionals, knowing their organisation is taking climate action would improve their job satisfaction.”

Ad Net Zero is the result of work by leaders in companies including Unilever, Sky, The Guardian, adam&eveDDB, APA, W&K, Credos, PPA, Iris, Adjust Your Set, PRCA, The Marketing Society, The Marketing Academy and Mindshare. The Ad Net Zero brand was developed for the industry pro-bono by design studio, King Henry, and adam&eveDDB. Ad Net Zero has the ambition for the UK advertising industry to work together to drive carbon-curbing policies throughout the advertising eco-system that will strengthen and extend the sector’s response to a shared challenge. Practical steps to take and tools to adopt are outlined in the report’s Resources section and online at its special Ad Net Zero hub. Looking forward, Ad Net Zero will be tasked with co-ordinating, monitoring, reporting on and pushing forward these five action areas.

The Advertising Association is inviting all stakeholders to support and join Ad Net Zero. Ad Net Zero’s action plan includes establishing a zero carbon / zero waste approach to ad production, building on the launch in September of AdGreen, which is backed by adam&eveDDB, APR (Advertising Production Resources), Havas, MullenLowe Group as part of IPG, Sky, Unilever and WPP, along with the support of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), the Advertising Producers Association (APA), the Association of Photographers (AOP) and Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) who will be coordinating member participation. It is led by industry specialist, Jo Coombes with support from strategy advisor Tricia Duffy, and is a strategic partnership with albert, the BAFTA led sustainability project for the TV and Film Industry. Following the learnings of albert, AdGreen will provide tools, services and expertise to the entire UK advertising production community from 2021, enabling all advertising professionals to improve the way campaign assets are produced for a better climate future.

The Climate Action workstream is a key part of the Advertising Association Council’s responsibility agenda, following the launch of the association’s new mission: to promote the role and rights of responsible advertising and its value to people, society, businesses and the economy.

Anybody interested in the industry’s work around Climate Action should contact the Advertising Association at and can keep up to date on progress at the Climate Action policy page on the Advertising Association’s website.


(* Average annual emissions per agency employee were calculated by Green Element to be 3.4 tonnes CO2e, using 3 years’ worth of data from 167 agencies. The number of people working in UK advertising agencies was estimated from IPA 2019 census data (24,866). The IPA estimates that they represent 90% of the people working in agencies in the UK.

** An individuals’ emissions was scaled up based on LinkedIn data which estimates that there are 328,000 people working in advertising & marketing in the UK. (As published by Credos in Advertising Pays 6: World Class Talent, World Class Advertising, 2017). This estimate will include those working in agencies, and within advertising and marketing departments of media owners and brands.)