Rise of sustainable media: New climate change action demands on brands and advertisers

by | Jan 5, 2022 | Public Relations

Climate change has risen above COVID and other concerns as the top issue for consumers when it comes to dealing with brands and businesses. New global research from dentsu international and Microsoft Advertising shows that in the next 12 months, 59 percent of consumers worldwide intend to start boycotting brands who don’t take action on climate change. There is also almost unanimous support for companies to not only do the right thing for the planet, but also to ‘show by example’: 91 percent of people want brands to demonstrate they are making positive choices about the planet and environment more explicitly—in everything they do.

The new summary report, The Rise of Sustainable Media, examines consumer awareness and engagement with issues linked to sustainable consumption and media use. More than 24,000 people from 19 countries around the world participated in the research.

The willingness and desire to actively embrace more sustainable lifestyles has crossed over to the mainstream with 87 percent of those surveyed saying they want to do more to combat climate change. In fact, climate change is the most commonly identified concern by consumers, ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic (85 percent), the health of their friends and family (79 percent), or the cost of living (76 percent).

With climate change topping their concerns, almost half (45 percent) of people say they would consider alternative brands, companies or services which are greener or more environmentally friendly than their current choices. Moreover, 30 percent of respondents say they are willing to pay more for brands which offer those greener alternatives.

Rise of sustainable media: New climate change action demands on brands and advertisers

However, many consumers don’t know where to start, and feel overwhelmed by options and conflicting information: 84 percent said it is difficult to know whether brands and companies are truly good green citizens. To help tackle this potential disinformation dilemma, 42 percent of people now think companies should provide clear, comparable information on the footprint of their products and advertising in order to make them greener.

“The customer actions and potential boycotts we unearthed in our research are squarely down to the consumer’s perception of a company and its behavior, not necessarily the reality.  We know many organizations are already taking positive action on climate change. As marketing experts, it’s our responsibility to guide businesses and help educate and inform their customers, in order make them think, feel and act differently,” said Peter Huijboom, Global CEO, Media & Global Clients, at dentsu international, in a news release.

“As such, the marketing and advertising industry also has a critical role to play and, we need to work collaboratively to do this authentically; by walking the walk in how we deliver these messages through sustainable media.”

Rise of sustainable media: New climate change action demands on brands and advertisers

To date, media delivery and consumption of advertising has yet to become fully associated with carbon emissions in the public eye:

  • Only around one in seven (15 percent) people think browsing the web contributes negatively to climate change
  • Whilst just 17 percent perceive watching TV as contributing to carbon emissions, 14 percent say the same about gaming and 11 percent in regard to streaming music

Rise of sustainable media: New climate change action demands on brands and advertisers

One in seven (14 percent) of those who consider the delivery and consumption of advertising having a negative environmental impact, claim to have already taken action with regard to how they engage with those brands. More than three quarters (77 percent) of people globally say that, within five years, they only want to be spending money with brands who are practicing green and sustainable advertising.

Indeed, consumers put governments (51 percent), businesses/brands (43 percent) and the advertising industry (41 percent) ahead of themselves (36 percent) for accountability on who should be held most accountable for decarbonizing the way they experience advertising. Yet, this can’t be achieved in isolation, everyone has a part to play.

The study suggests governments, businesses and marketers are running out of time to re-frame the conversation around this topic—as it is the younger consumers and a generational divide driving this perception shift: 45 percent of boomers believe consuming ads to be negative for the environment, compared with 71 percent of Gen Z and 73 percent of Millennials. This younger deep-awareness and concern around the wider environmental issues, coupled with the increased public attention on climate change through global events like the UN climate change conference (COP26), suggest awareness will likely increase—and rapidly.

Rise of sustainable media: New climate change action demands on brands and advertisers

“As marketers, we’ve seen how values can create business value, but with this research we wanted to demonstrate more quantitatively why it’s significant,” said John Cosley, Senior Director of Brand, Microsoft Advertising, in the release. “This joint research helps us understand and inform businesses across the globe on the awareness and attitudes surrounding carbon in the media supply chain and its corresponding effect on; the planet, customer behaviors and purchasing intent. With rapidly changing attitudes and increased pressure to help combat the climate emergency, every marketer has the opportunity to help enable industry wide change at pace.”

The international advertising and media industry is already making strides in decarbonizing traditional media and continues to explore how to expedite this reduction in the way digital media is produced, stored, transmitted, and consumed.  For example, pivoting digital spend to low/no carbon providers and shortening the journey from data center to audience, creating OOH posters with recycled paper, using ‘carbon eating’ paint for murals or incorporating elements of search spend in platforms offering carbon off-setting.

The key to ensuring meaningful progress is however, bringing the entire media ecosystem together to ensure accurate and transparent measurement and reporting of the real carbon impact of media content throughout the lifecycle of a campaign. Thereby providing businesses a clear carbon positive choice for media advertising within their supply chain.

Rise of sustainable media: New climate change action demands on brands and advertisers

Download the full report here.

The Rise of Sustainable Media is a global study into consumer attitudes and behaviors linked to sustainable consumption and advertising, and how this could redefine business strategy for corporate growth. Dentsu International and Microsoft Advertising commissioned independent research with Opinium for The Rise of Sustainable Media: survey of 24,068 adults across 19 countries, August 2021. All figures cited in this document are excerpted from this research, if not specified otherwise.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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