Sustainable advertising

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Sustainable advertising addresses the carbon footprint and other negative environmental and social impacts associated with the production and distribution of advertising materials. A growing number of companies are making a commitment to the reduction of their environmental impact associated with advertising production and distribution.


Advertising's environmental impact

Print advertising impacts the environment due to the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere as a result of the production and distribution of print media. Factors include the sourcing and production of paper, petroleum-based ink, solvents, plastics and adhesives used and the fossil fuels burned in the manufacturing and distribution of newspapers and magazines. Digital media has impacts due to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacturing and operation of servers and datacenter devices, networking devices and client computers as well as the e-waste impacts of these devices at the end of their useful lives.

In 2004, over 7 billion metrics tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases associated with print media advertising were emitted into the atmosphere by the United States. [1] In 2005 U.S. advertisers spent over $65 billion on print media advertising and created over 250,000 ad pages. [2] A single ad page run in a popular consumer magazine can represent as much as seven tons of carbon dioxide emissions when supply chain factors associated with papermaking, printing, logistics and landfill disposal or incineration of post-consumer and unsold media are taken into consideration. According to a recent New York Times article quoting David J. Refkin, director of sustainable development for Time Inc., a single copy of Time magazine results in the emission of .29 pounds of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gasses. [2]

In the USA, about 25 million sq.meters or about 10,000 tons of non-biodegradeable PVC is directly attributed to outdoor billboards every single year. To put this into context this would cover the equivalent of 16 square miles or the centre of most major urban cities.[ citation needed ]

Corporate involvement

Corporations such as General Electric, Timberland and Wal-Mart are making substantial commitments to developing and marketing sustainable products and business practices. Victoria's Secret has recently agreed to reduce the impact of its catalogues by using recycled papers and stopping using paper from endangered forests. Moxie Sozo is the first graphic design and advertising agency to be carbon-neutral, zero waste and powered by 100 percent renewable energy. [3] However, many corporations take advantage of the sustainable issue by "greenwashing" their products to build a facade that the products are indeed sustainable, when in reality it is only a marketing strategy to gain better public relations. [4] In the case of SunChips, the sustainability campaign was not able to impress the consumers who viewed the new compostable packaging of SunChips as a noisy bag which interfered with their TV viewing experience. The backlash led to the roll-back of the packaging. Perhaps, it was not able to convince the consumers about the environmental benefits of the corn-based bag. [5]

In 2006, jewelry company John Hardy began a pilot bamboo reforestation project on Nusa Penida, a small island off the coast of Bali where the company's workshops are located. The primary object is to sequester carbon dioxide by planting bamboo, a long-lived, rapidly growing woody perennial grass. In order to offset the company's advertising footprint of 451 metric tons of CO2, an area equivalent to four football fields will be planted.

First Sustainable Advertising's Agency

360 Agency Berlin was the first Sustainable advertising agency to be created Worldwide. Created in 2015 this agency took the decision to promote exclusively Sustainable and ethical brands. For the first time an advertising agency declared that they were entirely responsible for the product and brands they promote acting as a label in the long term. [6]

In 2020, some citizens started the campaign to ban ads that are not sustainable in the EU.

See also

Related Research Articles

Carbon tax Tax on carbon emissions

A carbon tax is a tax levied on the carbon content of fuels and, like carbon emissions trading, is a form of carbon pricing. The term carbon tax is also used to refer to a carbon dioxide equivalent tax, the latter of which is quite similar but can be placed on any type of greenhouse gas or combination of greenhouse gases, emitted by any economic sector.

A carbon credit is a generic term for any tradable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide or the equivalent amount of a different greenhouse gas (tCO2e).

An emission intensity is the emission rate of a given pollutant relative to the intensity of a specific activity, or an industrial production process; for example grams of carbon dioxide released per megajoule of energy produced, or the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions produced to gross domestic product (GDP). Emission intensities are used to derive estimates of air pollutant or greenhouse gas emissions based on the amount of fuel combusted, the number of animals in animal husbandry, on industrial production levels, distances traveled or similar activity data. Emission intensities may also be used to compare the environmental impact of different fuels or activities. In some case the related terms emission factor and carbon intensity are used interchangeably. The jargon used can be different, for different fields/industrial sectors; normally the term "carbon" excludes other pollutants, such as particulate emissions. One commonly used figure is carbon intensity per kilowatt-hour (CIPK), which is used to compare emissions from different sources of electrical power.

Carbon footprint Total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent

A carbon footprint is historically defined as the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. Greenhouse gases, including the carbon-containing gases carbon dioxide and methane, can be emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, land clearance and the production and consumption of food, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, transportation and other services.

Carbon offset reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for or to offset an emission made elsewhere

A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. Offsets are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). One tonne of carbon offset represents the reduction of one tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.

Food miles Distance food is transported from production to consumption

Food miles is the distance food is transported from the time of its making until it reaches the consumer. Food miles are one factor used when testing the environmental impact of food, such as the carbon footprint of the food.

Sustainability advertising is communications geared towards promoting social, economic and environmental benefits (sustainability) of products, services or actions through paid advertising in media in order to encourage responsible behavior of consumers.

A low-carbon economy (LCE), low-fossil-fuel economy (LFFE), or decarbonised economy is an economy based on low carbon power sources that therefore has a minimal output of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere, but specifically refers to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. GHG emissions due to anthropogenic (human) activity are the dominant cause of observed global warming since the mid-20th century. Continued emission of greenhouse gases may cause long-lasting changes around the world, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.

Low-carbon power

Low-carbon power comes from processes or technologies that produce power with substantially lower amounts of carbon dioxide emissions than is emitted from conventional fossil fuel power generation. It includes low carbon power generation sources such as wind power, solar power, hydropower and nuclear power. The term largely excludes conventional fossil fuel plant sources, and is only used to describe a particular subset of operating fossil fuel power systems, specifically, those that are successfully coupled with a flue gas carbon capture and storage (CCS) system. Globally, 35% of electricity generation comes from low-carbon sources.

A low-carbon diet refers to making lifestyle choices related to food consumption to reduce resulting greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe). Choosing a low carbon diet is one facet of developing sustainable diets which increase the long-term sustainability of humanity.

Carbon emissions reporting is a form of reporting for the emissions created from commercial activity, usually as a strategy for identifying contributions to Global warming and to influence subsequent policies to mitigate human caused climate change. Reporting usually captures outputs from processes like burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, agricultural practices, industrial processes, refrigeration, and the use of several consumer products.

Greenhouse gas Gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range

A greenhouse gas (sometimes abbreviated GHG) is a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range. Greenhouse gases cause the greenhouse effect on planets. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere are water vapor (H
), carbon dioxide (CO
), methane (CH
), nitrous oxide (N
), and ozone (O3). Without greenhouse gases, the average temperature of Earth's surface would be about −18 °C (0 °F), rather than the present average of 15 °C (59 °F). The atmospheres of Venus, Mars and Titan also contain greenhouse gases.

Low-carbon fuel standard

A low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) is a rule enacted to reduce carbon intensity in transportation fuels as compared to conventional petroleum fuels, such as gasoline and diesel. The most common low-carbon fuels are alternative fuels and cleaner fossil fuels, such as natural gas. The main purpose of a low-carbon fuel standard is to decrease carbon dioxide emissions associated with vehicles powered by various types of internal combustion engines while also considering the entire life cycle, in order to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation.

Environmental impact of paper overview about the environmental impact of paper

The environmental impact of paper is significant, which has led to changes in industry and behaviour at both business and personal levels. With the use of modern technology such as the printing press and the highly mechanized harvesting of wood, disposable paper became a relatively cheap commodity, which led to a high level of consumption and waste. The rise in global environmental issues such as air and water pollution, climate change, overflowing landfills and clearcutting have all lead to increased government regulations. There is now a trend towards sustainability in the pulp and paper industry as it moves to reduce clear cutting, water use, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption and clean up its impacts on local water supplies and air pollution.

Environmental impact of the petroleum industry

Petroleum has many uses, and the environmental impact of the petroleum industry is correspondingly extensive and expansive. Crude oil and natural gas are primary energy and raw material sources that enable numerous aspects of modern daily life and the world economy. Their supply has grown quickly over the last 150 years to meet the demands of rapidly increasing human population, creativity, and consumerism.

Environmental impact of transport

The environmental impact of transport is significant because transport is a major user of energy, and burns most of the world's petroleum. This creates air pollution, including nitrous oxides and particulates, and is a significant contributor to global warming through emission of carbon dioxide. Within the transport sector, road transport is the largest contributor to global warming.

The Energy Conservation Program for Consumer Products Other Than Automobiles is a regulatory program that enforces minimum energy conservation standards for appliances and equipment in the United States. The program was established under Part B of Title III of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 and gives the Department of Energy (DOE) the authority to develop and implement test procedures and minimum standards for more than 50 products covering residential, commercial and industrial, lighting, and plumbing applications. The Department of Energy is required to set standards that are "technologically feasible and economically justified."

Global methane emissions are major part of global greenhouse gas emissions. Methane in the atmosphere has an estimated 100-year global warming potential of 34, meaning that a ton of methane emitted into the atmosphere creates approximately 34 times the atmospheric warming as a ton of carbon dioxide over a period of 100 years. Atmospheric methane concentrations have reached almost two-and-a-half times pre-industrial levels or 3.2 billion tons. Though methane traps far more heat than the same mass of carbon dioxide, it remains in the atmosphere only about a decade, while carbon dioxide potentially warms for a much longer time period assuming no change in rates of carbon sequestration. On a 20-year timescale, a mass of methane is about 85 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth, but on a 100-year timescale, it is projected to be only about 28-34 times more powerful, on the assumption the carbon dioxide will not be sequestered and will continue to warm the earth for decades after the methane is gone.

Gas venting Disposal of unwanted methane gas from fossil fuels

Gas venting, more specifically known as natural-gas venting or methane venting, is the intentional and controlled release of gases containing alkane hydrocarbons - predominately methane - into earth's atmosphere. It is a widely used method for disposal of unwanted gases which are produced during the extraction of coal and crude oil. Such gases may lack value when they are not recyclable into the production process, have no export route to consumer markets, or are surplus to near-term demand. In cases where the gases have value to the producer, substantial amounts may also be vented from the equipment used for gas collection, transport, and distribution.


  1. EIA - Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the U.S. 2006-Overview
  2. 1 2 NY Times Advertisement
  3. Archived December 1, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  5. "Green Marketing Myopia and the SunChips Snacklash". Harvard Business Review. October 26, 2010.