COP26 was all “blah blah blah”, said activist Greta Thunberg, but even if governments aren’t acting with the urgency needed to limit global temperature rise, sustainability and climate change are very much on the agenda of consumers, brands and marketers. 

The Ad Net Zero Global Summit, organised by the Advertising Association to coincide with COP26, discussed the climate emergency and advertising’s response to it (you can read reports on some of the sessions here), exploring practical matters such as measuring the emissions associated with ad production and media buying, being conscious of the language used – and the claims made – when talking about sustainability, the dangers of greenwashing. 

The industry is reacting in part to the very real need for change in some of its practices, but also to the stated claims of consumers. And the latter are, of course, often at odds with what those same consumers are actually doing.  There is a sizeable core of  ‘eco-actives’ who will always marry intent and action, but for the majority of consumers, who like the idea of sustainablity but don’t necessarily follow through on it, a green promise has to be set against the more usual concerns when making a purchase deicison – convenience, efficacy, comfort, luxury etc. 

The challenge for brands is to bake sustainablity into their offer, to ‘gift’ it to consumers so they don’t have to change their behaviours or pay a premium. 

Look out for a WARC Guide to Sustainability coming in March.