Advertising Adds 28% to Each Person’s Carbon Footprint in the UK – Report

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A new report on the role of advertising in driving climate change finds that the industry adds an extra 28% to each individual’s carbon footprint in the UK. 

New research finds that the advertising industry in the UK could be adding as much as 28% more to the annual carbon footprint of every person. The report, published by Purpose Disruptors, an organisation of industry insiders advocating for sustainable change, was aimed at highlighting the role of advertising in influencing spending decisions and its impact on the environment. 

Describing the advertising sector as “arguably the biggest engine of societal change”, the report said the $600 billion global industry must “play a vital role” in the transition towards a low-carbon economy.

Read: Climate-damaging outdoor ads could soon be banned in Helsinki

Advertised Emissions

Image: Visualland / Texas Corral / DesignCrowd

The report, titled Advertised Emissions, established the term as the GHG emissions as a “result from the uplift in sales generated by advertising”. In other words, it considers the full extent of the extra economic activity, spending and emissions that is associated with the demand that advertising fuels. 

Collecting data with econometrics agency Magic Numbers, the analysis showed that these advertised emissions accounted for over 186 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the UK alone in 2019. This figure roughly equates to the GHG emissions from 47 coal-fired power plants running for an entire year, and is around 186 larger than the UK advertising industry’s operational emissions. 

“Advertising is adding an extra 28% to the annual carbon footprint of every single person in the UK,” wrote the researchers. 

Image: Purpose Disruptors

Related: Advertising industry fuels high-carbon consumerism, from meat to cars

Reduce advertising spend for high-carbon brands

Highlighting the “vital role” that the advertising industry plays in “determining whether the world will successfully transition towards a low-carbon, sustainable society,” the report’s authors offered a framework for the sector to move forward. 

While advertising spend on high-carbon brands and industries should be reduced, spending should increase for green brands whose businesses are “geared to serving a 1.5℃ world”. 

Image: Heura

Related: Spanish meat industry attempt to sue Heura’s plant-based adverts rejected by court

Other recommendations the report offered include the industry’s widespread recognition of advertised emissions, and integrating this into companies’ reporting. It also called for an independent scientific expert body to be set up to standardise the monitoring and regulation of advertised emissions. 

“A reduction in environmentally harmful advertising does not necessarily lead to a reduction in income,” says the report. “In purposefully reducing consumption-related emissions, the advertising industry has the opportunity to reinvent itself and increase its relevance and profitability.” 


Lead image courtesy of Unsplash.


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