On Earth Day, WPP announces a new commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions in its operations by 2025 and across its entire supply chain by 2030.
To deliver net zero emissions from WPP’s operations, electricity will be 100% renewably sourced by 2025.
Within WPP’s supply chain, which accounts for the overwhelming majority of the company’s emissions, the two largest sources are the production of advertising content and, most significantly, the placement of that content in media channels from television and press to radio and online.
WPP is the first in its industry to include media in its net zero commitment.
Mark Read, CEO of WPP, said: “WPP is the world’s largest buyer of advertising space, managing more than $60 billion in media spend on behalf of our clients, and the world’s largest producer of advertising content. So we have the opportunity to make a real difference.
“By including emissions from the placement of advertising in our net zero commitment – a first for our industry – we aim to raise the bar for the whole sector.
“Two-thirds of our top clients have committed to set their own science-based reduction targets and we can play an important role in helping them to meet those targets in their operations and across their supply chains.
“We look forward to working with all our partners – many of whom have already made great strides in this area – to develop standards that will benefit the industry, our clients and our wider communities.”
Working with media owners
Many media owners are already investing heavily in measuring and reducing their carbon emissions. Through GroupM, WPP’s media investment operation, WPP aims to work with its media partners to develop industry-wide standards for measuring and eliminating the carbon emitted from the placement of advertising in the media.
GroupM is consolidating its existing carbon calculators to allow a single view of emissions across channels in key markets, and make them available to clients at scale. Carbon data will increasingly be integrated into media partner procurement requests, and all media plans provided to clients will be net zero by the end of the decade.
Net zero production
The pandemic has accelerated innovation in virtual production technology and highlighted its ability to reduce the need for expensive and carbon-intensive location shoots. Taking the lessons from this experience, WPP will increase the use of virtual technology, accelerating the shift towards net zero production.
Hogarth, WPP’s creative production business, has pioneered “Sustainably Made”, a unique approach that combines innovative virtual production techniques with industry-leading measurement tools and in-built carbon offset, to allow clients to produce work with a net-zero impact. WPP is also a founding member of AdGreen, a new initiative to remove the negative environmental impacts of production.
Impact across the advertising sector
The Paris Agreement calls for net zero by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5°C, but in recognition of the scale of the challenge, WPP’s commitment will see its emissions fall faster. With an independently assessed annual carbon footprint of 5.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), WPP’s net zero commitment will have a significant impact in reducing the emissions associated with the advertising sector.
Businesses increasingly recognise the need to set science-based targets for reaching net zero emissions. Given that WPP and its supply chain represent a significant portion of its clients’ own carbon footprints, its commitment to reach net zero by 2030 will help ensure clients can meet their own targets. In line with best practice, WPP will submit its emissions reduction targets to the UN-backed Science Based Targets initiative for independent validation.
The net zero commitment follows other industry-leading sustainability initiatives from WPP. In 2020 WPP purchased 65% of its electricity from renewable sources, including 100% of electricity bought in the United States and, for the first time, in the UK, Canada and most European markets. In 2019, WPP was the first among its peers to commit to phasing out single-use plastics within its campuses.