The role of domestic agencies in fighting the climate crisis

Measuring emissions during campaign production is key to reducing them, but internal agencies can make progress now by starting small.

Patrick Burgoyne01/07/2023
We are facing a climate crisis: as an internal agency (IHA) leader, what can you do? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problems we face, but everyone has a role to play.

Many brands and organizations have committed to reducing the planetary impact of their operations, including aiming to reach net zero by a certain date. Marketing departments and internal agencies will look at how their own activities fit into the overall ambition here. That journey can start with the relatively small step of understanding what carbon emissions your work is creating and how it’s happening. Collecting this data is the first step to taking action.

Since 2021, AdGreen has been offering the advertising production industry resources, training and, above all, a tool to do so. His Carbon Calculator derives from the tool developed by Albert for the television industry. The carbon emissions associated with every production, be it stills, film or any other type of creative technique, can now be measured and analysed. This gives IHAs the ability to not only measure their own work, but also compare it to the rest of the industry. It also helps identify quick wins where carbon impacts can be more easily reduced.

Last year, around 500 projects were registered in the AdGreen Carbon Calculator. Its data shows that 62% of emissions from those projects were created by travel and transportation (of crews and equipment). Using AdGreen’s tool, you can compare how, for the same photo shoot, carbon emissions compare if different modes of transport are used: such as, for example, having a team member traveling by car from London in Edinburgh compared to whether that person flew or took the train, or whether four crew members shared a car.


Changing travel policies is a quick win, but having this data may require a broader reevaluation of how work gets done. AdGreen revealed that the second largest contributor to carbon emissions is what it calls “spaces,” the energy needed to run equipment during filming, which accounts for 25% of the total. Then come the materials, including sets, catering and costumes. So if you travel to a location, operate equipment there, build the sets, and feed the people, there are factors that are major contributors to emissions, virtual manufacturing processes come into play, or using companies of production services with staff based in the desired location.

But there is only so much that can be done in recovery. In a recent online discussion for brands, AdGreen’s Jo Fenn referenced research by Albert which found that, in the TV industry, the average production manager is only able to remove 15-20% of the footprint of carbon of each project through the type of choices mentioned above. This is because much of the possible carbon footprint is “cooked” in the writing or creative phase. The same goes for advertising.

Having data on emissions may require a broader reevaluation of how the work is done.

A screenplay can require extensive travel. Time constraints and budgets, as well as procurement processes, may mean that alternative solutions cannot be fully explored or that new partners offering low-carbon alternatives cannot be integrated in time.

It is therefore vital that carbon impact is considered as early as possible in campaign creation – it could even be part of the brief. If not, it should certainly be taken into account when shaping an idea and this is where having real data on hand, rather than relying on assumptions, can be of great help. And it further highlights the strategic role of manufacturing, something IHALC is exploring in our current Making It event series. If reducing your IHA’s carbon footprint is identified as an ambition at the start of the year, this can enable to explore alternatives and identify and integrate new suppliers as part of the overall manufacturing strategy.


Thanks to AdGreen we have the means to make a difference, but the adoption of these tools is not yet widespread, particularly in the IHA community. Almost 80% of the projects uploaded to AdGreen Carbon Calculator last year came from

to advertising agencies or production companies: only 8.4% came from brands.

Among other topics, a recent AdGreen online session examined the barriers to starting to measure your carbon footprint. Time and experience were considered a factor: everyone is busy, there may be little appetite to add to workloads with additional responsibilities. There is a nervousness about making mistakes or not having access to all the necessary data.

The message from participants on the call, including representatives from ISBA, production consultancy APR and David Akeredolu, Diageo’s global leader for creative production, was to not let perfection stand in the way

progress. You can start small, simply measuring, for example, level 1 projects, which probably have the most scope for reduction anyway. Maybe there is a staff member who is passionate about climate issues and would like to address it. Also talk to your manufacturing partners, many of whom will already monitor their carbon footprint and can collect most of the data for you.

But the important thing is to start. Sooner or later, it is very likely that measuring the carbon footprint of advertising production will become mandatory, either through legislation or due to organizations’ net zero commitments. Already on TV, productions for major UK broadcasters are required to use the Albert carbon calculator to measure their carbon footprint. This will certainly happen in advertising too.

IHAs have a great opportunity to take a leadership role here. Organizations are trying to reduce their emissions across all their operations. Adgreen has created the tools that will allow internal agencies to contribute and build their reputation for problem solving and innovation within the company. It’s time to get started.

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