WFA News

Walking the talk on climate change

Laura Baeyens, WFA’s communications manager, shares on the WFA team’s sustainability journey and making the organisation’s operations carbon-neutral.

Climate change is the biggest threat to the planet and humanity.

We have heard this time and time again from scientists and environmental organisations. And in summer 2021 the world experienced record-breaking floods, fires, droughts and heatwaves.

According to the latest IPCC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), human activity has been changing the climate at unparalleled rates in the last century and will increasingly and irreversibly do so. We are running out of time to take collective action to reach zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

At the WFA, we are convinced that marketing can be part of the solution. We launched a Planet Pledge in April – a global framework to help marketers lead on sustainability both internally and externally and address the challenges posed by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To credibly launch this initiative, however, we’ve had to start getting our own house in order. To do this, the WFA team convened in early 2021 and worked on rethinking our 2025 strategic plan around 3Ps – Planet, People and Purpose.

Going carbon-neutral

The goal is to make our day-to-day operations carbon-neutral. But before we could identify the steps we need to take in the future, we had to take a step back and look at where we stand today.

B Corp is often regarded as a gold standard for demonstrating how companies balance purpose and profit. As a non-profit WFA cannot get certified, but going through the B Impact Assessment helped us identify where we are doing well and not so well. The WFA team identified three key areas where we can make the most impact on the first phase of our journey to address climate change:

1. Travel

One of the key takeaways from the B Impact Assessment was that we needed to have policies and programmes in place to reduce the environmental footprint caused by travel, which made up 79% (264 tonnes of CO2) of WFA’s emissions in 2019 (pre-Covid).

We developed a carbon-neutral travel policy, which entails reducing our face-to-face member meetings by half once travel conditions have improved, giving more flexibility to the team to work from home, and offsetting carbon emissions for all work travel by supporting environmental projects nominated by the team.

WFA is also exploring a ‘greener’ company car policy and financial incentives or schemes to encourage more use of public transportation and biking to work. 

2. Offices

We got in touch with the owner of our offices and our energy provider to ensure that our HQ office in Brussels and communal areas are energy and water efficient and are 100% powered by low-impact renewable sources. WFA is also looking at moving to a fully cloud-based server to significantly reduce our energy consumption. We will shortly explore doing the same with our offices in London, New York and Singapore.

Additionally, we identified ways to create a greener office, including going paperless and ensuring office equipment is on power-saver mode and shut down when not in use. We have already implemented a paperless policy, made more use of e-signing and moved to digital-only press subscriptions.

3. Supply chain

Encouraging partners to become more sustainable and review their own carbon emissions is critical to making any organisation truly carbon-neutral. We have invited our partmers to join us on our journey and started discussions on how we can measure waste and emissions reduction on both sides.

Measuring progress

We know that what gets measured matters, so we are talking with firms specialising in calculating, reducing and offsetting carbon emissions to help us measure WFA’s overall impact and progress. We will report our findings at Global Marketer Week in Athens on April 5-8, 2022.

No matter how big or small the progress we would have made by next year, however, we believe the process we have been through is crucial to better understand where we are and what we can do to further align and meet the SDGs. This will allow us to improve our action plan as we aspire to go carbon-negative in the years to come.

We also hope that the initial steps the WFA team has taken to encourage more sustainable behaviours at work and home will inspire our partners and other industry associations to start their own sustainability journey.

Ahead of COP26 (https://ukcop26.org/) in Glasgow in November, more companies have signed up to the Planet Pledge as part of their own journey to net zero.

We look forward to more marketers supporting this crucial initiative in the coming months and strengthening the marketing industry’s role as a positive force for change. We are, as the saying goes, all in this together.