New sustainability framework moves us closer to standardised measurement

New sustainability framework moves us closer to standardised measurement

The GARM and ANZ framework is a major step forward in our quest for better measurement and all parts of our industry will have an important part to play as it develops.

The Cannes Lions festival brought sustainability back to the top of the ad industry agenda with the announcement of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and Ad Net Zero (ANZ) community’s first iteration of its Global Media Sustainability Framework.

This set of voluntary standards followed a 12-month engagement and consultation period involving international stakeholders from across the ecosystem. The framework establishes, for the first time, a consistent and transparent measurement of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions created by the ad industry.

Advertising emissions now outpace those of the global aviation sector, making the issue a serious one that requires immediate action.

However, to date, the hype around “net zero” advertising has not been matched by practical action on the ground. One major reason for this is a lack of universally agreed definitions and metrics around the measurement of emissions.

So how will the new Global Media Sustainability Framework help to move the agenda forward?

First steps forward

It is significant that so many major industry stakeholders have been involved in the creation of the framework. Alongside the world’s largest ad holding companies, leading brand advertisers, media owners, adtech companies and ad industry bodies have made their contribution, giving the framework credibility among the people who will matter most to its success.

This first version provides initial formulas to help advertisers calculate the emissions associated with TV, digital and OOH campaigns, which are estimated to account for more than 80% of the ad industry’s GHG emissions. Formulas relating to audio, print and cinema campaigns are expected to follow later this year.

Another important point to note is that the framework is designed to help advertisers measure emissions not simply at a product or campaign level, but throughout the entire supply chain. Up until now, there has been no consistent, agreed industry-wide standard to help organisations in the media supply chain to efficiently collect and exchange emissions data.

These standards therefore provide a launch pad for better measurement and more data, which can be fed back into the framework to help refine its equations and definitions in the future.

Gathering emissions data has been extremely challenging. For this reason, the framework, in addition to the formulas, also provides the industry with additional tools and resources to help collate data across the full supply chain, including a common enterprise level request form for collection of corporate data. It’s likely that more specific channel-level data will be required over time.

Playing your part

Moving forward, GARM and ANZ will seek to outline and establish an efficient system to transfer emissions data between media buyers and sellers. Another big step forward will be to establish industry-wide voluntary standards regarding the independent validation of media-related GHG data.

All parts of the industry will have an important part to play in the drive to a more sustainable advertising ecosystem.

Advertisers are being asked to investigate their entire supply chain and encourage the partners they are working with to measure their GHG emissions using GARM’s framework.

Agencies, meanwhile, have a voluntary duty to ensure their own tools or partners are using this and to keep the reduction of GHG emissions high on the agenda in relation to their planning and buying activities.

Finally, media owners will need to become more transparent in providing the requested GHG data to advertisers, agencies and other solutions providers in as much detail as possible and to continue to refine the quality of that data over time.

The publication of this framework is unquestionably a significant step forward for the ad industry, providing a strong foundation for future progress on the reduction of emissions. The uptake of these standards will be closely monitored by GARM and ANZ, with initial findings scheduled to be published in Q2 2025.

David Shaw squareDavid Shaw is CEO and co-founder of Cedara

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