CANNES – Curtailing greenhouse gas emissions isn’t just a concern for traditional sources of air pollution such as factories, power plants and transportation. The advertising industry is becoming more aware of its carbon footprint from activities such as automated media-buying that gets electricity mostly from burning fossil fuels.

“The ad sector seemed to have been asleep and had missed the waves of awareness around climate,” Bill Wescott, managing director at sustainability consulting firm BrainOxygen, said in this interview with Beet.TV contributor Mike Schields at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. “And so, I was amazed that they had not gotten the memo, but when they did get the memo, I think they’ve taken action very quickly.”

The advertising industry can learn from well established practices adopted by other organizations, instead of trying to start from scratch, Wescott said. His experience includes work with international groups and policymakers on environmental issues.

“Somehow they [advertising agencies] thought they had to do it within their own bubble,” he said. “There was a lot of reinventing the wheel, not realizing that the rest of the world had already been through this process sector by sector, and had come up with solutions that are very much applicable to any company in the world, including the ad sector.”

Part of the ad industry’s recognition of its contribution to climate change was realizing that digital activities create emissions, even if they’re not as visible as those of a diesel truck or a coal-burning power plant.

“As an outsider, I thought, ‘digital, they’re going to have traceability, they’re going to know exactly what happens within that whole value chain,” Wescott said. “I was a bit surprised that was not exactly the case, and this is where we do need to have a standard that is specific to programmatic.”

Wescott is part of the Climate Expert Advisory for the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, a cross-industry initiative established four years ago by the World Federation of Advertisers. One of its goals in conjunction with industry group Ad Net Zero is to dispel some misconceptions about what’s needed to reduce carbon emissions.

“The message has been received as, ‘we don’t have a common standard yet, and so therefore, we’re just going to wring our hands,’” Wescott said, “And it’s like: ‘no, every single organization on the planet can already do their enterprise-level greenhouse gas inventory. There are international standards for that. There are verification bodies that will verify your inventory just as you would your financials, so that those numbers are dependable not just for your decision making, but for your stakeholders.”

You’re watching coverage of the Sustainability & Responsible Marketing Summit at Cannes Lions 2023, presented by Adlook & Sharethrough. For more videos from Beet.TV’s Cannes Lions 2023 coverage, please visit this page.