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New Framework Enables Advertisers to Measure Media Carbon Emissions

Ad Net Zero has launched the first standardized, industry-wide measurement framework to help advertisers and their partners understand and act effectively to reduce the carbon impact of their media plans.

Ad Net Zero (ANZ) has published the first iteration of its Global Media Sustainability Framework — a series of voluntary industry standards to improve consistent, comparable measurement of greenhouse gas emissions from digital, television, print, audio, outdoor and cinema channels. The new framework has been supported by a collection of the world’s largest advertisers — as well as the world’s 6 largest advertising holding companies, major media owners, tech companies and trade bodies — many of whom have contributed to its development.

The framework is the outcome of a 12-month, global engagement effort led by the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) to build a series of common measurement processes and includes the first versions of formulas, as well as tools to help efficiently collect emissions data from companies throughout the media supply chain. Until now, there has been no standardized, industry-wide measurement framework.

Long overdue

The climate impacts of digital media have long been a missing component of brands’ successful carbon-reduction strategies and have only recently become a priority for the industry. Recent research from ethical ad agency Good-Loop found that over 66 percent of brand marketers feel there is insufficient education and training on sustainable media; many marketers say they want to address this but are unsure how. And while companies such as Mars have begun working to both reduce the impact of their advertising and increase awareness around the topic, the industry tanker continues to turn very slowly. ANZ and GARM’s new framework represents a much-needed step forward.

“The GARM framework represents a significant step towards making digital marketing more sustainable,” says Arthur Millet, General Manager at Alliance Digitale. “We embarked on this journey two years ago with the SRI, aiming to create a unified measurement framework for digital carbon emissions. We are excited to see that the SRI x Alliance Digitale framework has served as a crucial foundation for a worldwide solution. A lot has been accomplished, and there’s still work to do.”

Creating the framework

Six cross-industry working groups — supported by the Responsible Marketing Agency —produced the comprehensive set of voluntary standards to help reduce varying approaches to measurement, data and reporting. This approach ensured widespread support and action across the industry — with 70 percent of responding organizations saying they plan to implement voluntary standards in ways that are relevant to their media operations.

The goal is to help every advertiser and their partners understand and take effective action to reduce the carbon impact of their media plans — in line with Action 3 of the Ad Net Zero Action Plan.

“Today’s release of standard calculations for the carbon footprint of major media channels is a significant milestone for Ad Net Zero and the global ad industry,” says ANZ Chair Sebastian Munden. “They are the starting point for creating a common currency for global voluntary adoption: a base for calculating reduction and accelerating progress. Concerted efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of media should go hand in hand with the efforts to support more sustainable choices to change the way we work and change the work we make. The ad industry has the business opportunity of a generation to be part of the solution.”

The framework has been supervised and assessed for consistency with best carbon-accounting practices by a climate-science expert group that includes representatives from BL Evolution, Brain Oxygen, Climate Impact Partners, PwC and climate experts from Diageo, Reckitt and Unilever. A key foundation for the development of the formulas used in the framework has been provided by the Oneframe Initiative — with specific components provided by the Syndicat des Régies Internet (SRI), Alliance Digitale, SNPTV and UPE.

Version 1

The first iteration of the Framework contains formulas for TV, digital and OOH (representing 81 percent of global 2023 ad spend, according to Magna), with formulas for the remaining three media types — audio, print and cinema — to follow. It is expected that the formulas will continue to be refined.

“We are proud to have worked closely with the GARM and ANZ community to arrive at this important milestone,” says Michael Todd, Global Director of Industry Relations at Google. “Standardization is a vital component in driving the industry towards making more sustainable media choices and bringing more clarity to this area is an important achievement. This has been a true team effort; and we are excited to continue to work with GARM, Ad Net Zero and our partners to contribute to the next stage in this process to further refine the framework.”

In addition to the formulas for six media channels, the new framework provides the industry with:
  1. A common, enterprise-level data request form for more efficient collection of company data from media sellers, with more specific channel-level data being required in the framework over time.

  2. A disclosure form for the industry to understand the scope, data rigor and scientific validation of media-sustainability solutions providers.

  3. A voluntary monitoring template to help GARM and ANZ learn about the adoption and effectiveness of the frameworks.

“The publication of the Garm/Ad Net Zero framework is an essential step to take concrete action on the carbon emissions of communication campaigns,” says Hervé Navellou, President of L’Oréal France and the Union des Marques. “I am happy to have been one of the initiators of the Oneframe initiative with L’Oréal France, which is one of the foundations of this approach. I encourage all actors to seize this opportunity to implement global and local decarbonization management of their media campaigns on all identified levers — whether from the point of view of asset size, media mix and/or planning, in particular.”

How the global advertising industry can play a key role in driving this framework forward
  1. Advertisers are asked to check that the partners who measure GHG emissions from their media activities are using the Global Media Sustainability Framework.

  2. Agencies can ensure their own tools or partners are using the Global Media Sustainability Framework and make GHG emissions a consideration for all media plans.

  3. Media owners can supply the requested data to advertisers, agencies and other solutions providers in as much granularity as possible, continually improving the quality of this data over time.

Stephanie Betrand-Tassilly, Global Chief CSR Officer at Havas Group, says: “Working with our peers to define a common carbon metric makes perfect sense. At Havas, we’re already measuring the carbon impact of our creative, events and media campaigns; but we want to go further, to work towards a set of industry standards. Collaboration is key and will enable us to accelerate the decarbonization of the advertising sector.”

What’s next?

GARM and Ad Net Zero’s next goal will be to establish an efficient system to transfer emissions data between buyers and sellers, followed by validation of media GHG data using agreed industry voluntary standards. Uptake and adoption will be tracked, with the first results published in Q2 of 2025.

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