Just a few years ago, the “Fridays For Future” movement, with its demands for biodiversity protection, fair water management and protection against exploitation in supply chains, took center stage and faced headwind from many sides, both from politics and business. Today, companies themselves are challenged and forced by upcoming legislation such as the Supply Chain Law to respond to all these demands and find appropriate solutions to position themselves for the future.
The pressure is now coming not only from climate activists, but also from many other directions. Public environmental awareness is rising rapidly, and consumers are demanding sustainable services and fairly produced products. Russia, the USA and Europe are tightening their climate policies and targets. Global climate policy will gradually have a major impact on all business activities. Investors like Black Rock cite sustainability as a focus of their investment strategy. Top talents are looking for companies that think and act sustainably and business partners are starting to analyze their supply chain and will prefer Carbon-transparent agencies.
One thing is certain: our world is changing and we are changing with it.
We are often asked how sustainability and advertising agencies fit together at all. Yet one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals also actively targets our industry. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 12 covers sustainable consumption and production. To achieve this, consumers need to be better informed in order to make sustainable purchasing decisions. It also encourages companies to adopt sustainable practices and integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.
At the Serviceplan Group, we have been working intensively on these issues in recent years. As a large international agency group, we have asked ourselves how we can contribute to more climate protection in order to create a better and healthier future.
We aim to be climate neutral at all 24 locations worldwide by the end of 2022. Our focus is not on offsetting our emissions as a first step, but on looking at which emissions we can reduce and avoid. Four emissions areas are relevant for agencies: Building emissions, employee emissions, purchasing emissions and client emissions. Through various measures, such as blocking short-haul routes in the travel tool, converting the vehicle fleet to electric and hybrid vehicles, and purchasing green electricity, we achieved climate neutrality for all German locations last year.
In doing so, we follow the guiding principle “Do good and talk about it”. This also includes talking about where we still need to optimize and what we can do better. For example, we still see potential for improvement in the collection and quantity of emission data. The more accurate the carbon footprint, the greater the reduction potential.
Knowing that these challenges can only be met if all colleagues are on board, we launched a global internal survey the last two years and derived from it our shared understanding of sustainability: “We as an agency have the opportunity to make development sustainable – to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainable business means leaving behind an environmental, social and economic structure that is truly future-proof. We integrate sustainability into our strategic focus, optimizing all economic, social and environmental factors. Another decisive factor for us is the credibility and transparency of our initiative. Transparency because we believe in the multiplier effect in our industry.
We can all learn from each other and develop together. We create credibility through independent external organizations that audit and evaluate our measures. This year, for example, we committed to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and address these goals in our first sustainability report. The report is audited and certified by the Global Reporting Index. Other standards we are addressing include the Sienced Based Targets and the Ecovadis ranking. After all, sustainability is not only a strong and very present change driver in the corporate structure, it is also handled differently in each culture.
We are convinced: We can only advise our clients on the subject of sustainability if we ourselves apply and exemplify the same processes. The Serviceplan Group is a large global gathering of creative minds; our potential is communication and creativity. We also use this potential to continue working on innovative ideas that make the world a better place. In our own processes, we show how climate protection can be successfully communicated with the greatest possible transparency, regular sustainability reports, validation through external labels and certifications, and the involvement of colleagues.
Our industry has the powerful privilege of being able to make a real difference. With creative communication, we can convince people to join a positive global change process and get them excited about sustainable products and services.
Structural sustainability should be lived by the company at all levels, because only together can we achieve a global sustainable economy.
Julia Nicolaisen, Head of Sustainability Management at Serviceplan Group