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Sustainable media: why you need to incorporate it into your business strategy

From our partners at Microsoft Advertising


The last decade has seen increasingly urgent reports on the climate change emergency. COP26, the global climate summit in November 2021 in Glasgow, further underlined the dire situation with the summit receiving a level of engagement from businesses and the public like never seen before.

Microsoft Advertising in partnership with Dentsu International carried out a global research project to understand consumer attitudes and behaviours around climate change, and how sustainable media advertising can help advance climate action and help brands grow. The study surveyed 24,000 people from 19 countries resulting in insightful findings:

  • 86% of people in the study say they are concerned by climate change.

  • 42% of respondents think brands should provide clear, comparable information on the footprint of their products and advertising in order to make the brand greener.

  • 84% of those surveyed say they would be more likely to buy from a company that practices sustainable advertising.

  • Respondents put governments (51%), businesses/brands (43%) and the advertising industry (41%) ahead of themselves (36%) for accountability on decarbonising the way they experience advertising.

Adrian Cutler, Microsoft Advertising’s Director of Global Agency and contributor to the global research project commented “The research was astounding, we knew consumers would have concerns about climate change (86%) but what surprised me is they care more than their family’s health (79%), the ability to have food and a home (76%), even more than the Covid-19 Pandemic (85%).

It is clear that brands need to act now – not only in offering greener products and services, but also through advertising via sustainable media sources. This endeavour may be daunting for many businesses; but it offers a huge opportunity. They can get started by assessing the platform they advertise on and how green those platforms are today.”

What is Sustainable Media Advertising

Media advertising comes under scope 3 of the GHG (Greenhouse Gas) Protocol, This refers to all indirect emissions (not included in scope 2) that occur in the value chain, including upstream and downstream emissions. ‘Sustainable media’ is media designed and delivered to limit its environmental footprint.

Why we need to act now

By doing nothing brands risk potential consequences for their reputation and the bottom line. 45% of those surveyed would consider more environmentally friendly brands than their current choices. Businesses are advised to lean into the positive choices they are making for climate action to mitigate these risks.

Brands are in a unique position to change consumer behaviour and they are increasingly being called upon to do more to address the climate emergency. 91% of respondents agree companies can positively impact the environment through their business operations. The same number (91%) say they want businesses to better demonstrate the positive environmental choices they are making. This awareness and desire for brands to change extends to media advertising.

How businesses can seize the opportunity

The research shows links between brands’ good environmental practices and increased consumer intention to buy - 77% of those surveyed say in five years’ time, they only want to be spending money with brands who practice green and sustainable advertising.

Reviewing your business’ marketing and advertising for environmental impact, can be difficult because of the indirect nature of the carbon emissions. It requires a joined-up approach across the whole industry, however there are steps individual businesses can take to ensure they are not left behind.

What business owners can do now

Lead not follow - Take leadership on these issues now. Establishing a ‘carbon conscious’ advertising approach is crucial and should become the norm. This is the new frontline for engendering growth, reputation and loyalty.

Get Candid on Climate – Be clear and honest about your environmental impact. Collect data from your business and supply chain. Develop a plan to minimise the impact and share this with stakeholders and consumers.

Ask about sustainable media options - Share to your intentions with your marketing partners. Ask about available options or consider changing suppliers. Ask the questions: can we pivot our digital spend to low/no carbon providers? Can our marketing materials and OOH displays be produced on recycled paper or using carbon-eating ink? Can we incorporate elements of search spend in platforms offering carbon off-setting?

Secure your green credentials – Research the industry’s standard green credentials that your business can claim or work towards. 87% of study respondents from the EMEA region said they will have more trust in brands who’s green credentials are verified independently.

Shape the conversation – Use the influence you have to shape conversations around sustainability and greener living through creative campaigns. This green reframing narrative must be more than just words and messaging, it must be grounded in positive brand action and media choices.

For many this move to a more sustainable business and media advertising is about rethinking everything. The key is to seek advice, do your research and put a plan in place.


If you would like to know more about sustainable advertising or marketing trends, follow Microsoft Advertising on LinkedIn.


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