Calculating a Cleaner Future Now: A Unified Methodology for Accelerated Media Decarbonization

GroupM and WPP are holding ourselves accountable in our commitment to decarbonization. WPP has committed to reach net-zero across its direct operations (Scopes 1 and 2) by 2025 and its value chain (Scope 3) by 2030. This commitment includes the media GroupM buys on behalf of our clients, which collectively account for more than 50% of WPP’s total emissions. These goals are underpinned by carbon reduction targets that are in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and verified by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

We aim to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions by at least 84% by 2025 and absolute Scope 3 emissions by at least 50% by 2030, both from a 2019 base year.

Our commitment is unique to our industry in that we are the only marketing communications company to include the emissions from media placement in our emissions reduction target. Currently, media accounts for more than half of our total emissions.

WPP is working to develop the technology and standards that can be used to measure and reduce emissions from advertising globally. As part of that effort, GroupM commissioned research from independent specialists in carbon measurement to help create a robust methodology for accurately measuring emissions across the media supply chain to allow targeted interventions to reduce emissions from media placement. Once created, the lifecycle assessment methodologies of media channels would allow a new carbon calculator to be built, which could serve anyone in the industry willing to set absolute emissions reduction targets and build in vendor-level data where available. The most noteworthy conclusions include:

  • There are a number of media carbon calculators that exist currently; however, they use inconsistent parameters — meaning that we cannot compare emissions from one channel to another — data and calculation methodology, resulting in overly broad estimates and offsetting.
  • A greater level of data granularity will make it possible for clients to move their media investments to lower-emission media publishers and platforms, which in turn will change behaviors and accelerate decarbonization across the media supply chain.
  • The first step is to agree on consistent industry application of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP). This will expand the amount of carbon accounted for versus current calculators and will enable accurate carbon accounting through a transparent calculation methodology.
  • Consistent industry application of the GHGP will confirm the data sets required from publishers and platforms, reducing the reporting burden for both and supporting them in their own emissions-reduction efforts. Data quality is a particular challenge for managing supply chain emissions, as it is beyond our direct control.
  • GroupM is dedicated to developing the tools and technology to ensure that carbon emissions are considered a part of the media planning process. We believe the relative carbon footprint of different media distribution options will increasingly influence where clients choose to make their investments. That is why we are making investments in research, validation and operations to empower buying decisions that factor in supply chain decarbonization. Our aim, therefore, is to have a new version of the carbon calculator in Q4 2022. We will continue to improve the calculator as data quality evolves.
  • In addition, we are committed to working with and through industry trade bodies and Ad Net Zero to create alignment around a common industry solution. We believe this, along with market commitments to Science-Based targets, including media, will rapidly accelerate decarbonization of the industry.