How McCann Worldgroup's Internal Sustainability Tracker Steers It Toward Net Zero

The internal tool will measure 14 data points across the company's network

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McCann Worldgroup has announced a new sustainability dashboard, the Green Tracker, to measure progress as it works to decarbonize its business.

The dashboard will offer a real-time look at the agency’s global emissions across 14 data points, from air travel and taxis to electricity and heating for nearly 100 offices. For now, the tracker is an internal tool that the company will use to monitor its progress toward net zero carbon emissions, a benchmark it has said it will reach by 2040.

Still, activists argue that agencies must look beyond their physical footprint, addressing the impact of their work for major polluters. McCann has multiple long-standing oil and gas accounts, creating work for companies including Saudi Aramco and ExxonMobil in recent years.

“We are putting in place some clear and concrete sustainability goals and asking our leaders to drive toward those goals, but we need to be able to track those—to give them the data points—so that we can measure ourselves,” explained Nannette Dufour, global chief sustainability officer at McCann Worldgroup. “Otherwise we’re throwing darts in the dark.”

Measuring real-time emissions data

The new dashboard is built on McCann’s data and analytics architecture, in partnership with Microsoft, and uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud. It’ll let staff all around the world see McCann’s progress simultaneously, and aims to promote rapid decarbonization across the network.

“The integration of [Microsoft’s] emissions calculators into our dashboards has enabled us to create comprehensive data sets whilst presenting the information, progress and targets through an easy-to-use interface that our sustainability teams around the world can easily access,” Craig Smith, chief information officer at McCann Worldgroup, said in a statement.

The tracker collects emissions data on air travel, waste, company vehicles, electricity, gas, grey fleet (rented vehicles or those used by employees), heat, generators, paper, refrigerants, scope 3 electricity, taxis, train travel and upstream leased assets.

Building climate literacy

As McCann rolls out this dashboard, it’s also investing in a series of programs aimed at educating its staff on climate-related issues. That includes greenwashing guidelines, which aim to help employees navigate a patchwork global regulatory landscape related to environmental claims, and green office guidelines to promote sustainable behaviors within offices.

The agency is also partnering with climate information platform The Carbon Almanac to educate employees on the science behind climate change and what people can do about the crisis.

“Let’s face it: [Climate and sustainability] is a space that is filled with jargon,” Dufour said. “And the technicalities around those words become really, really important. So we want to make sure that all of our employees have a foundation in that.”

The impact of high-emitting clients

In recent years, activists have been pushing for agencies to look beyond their physical footprint to address the impact of their client work—especially when those clients are some of the world’s biggest polluters.

Clean Creatives, an activist campaign urging ad and PR agencies to end relationships with fossil fuel companies because of their impact on the climate, argued that McCann’s client roster is the most important part of its climate plan.

“An agency that carefully tracks the carbon from its flights and ad buys while working for Aramco, the world’s biggest publicly traded carbon polluter, is simply not a green agency,” Duncan Meisel, executive director of activist group Clean Creatives, told Adweek. “Any measurement mechanism that doesn’t consider the carbon impact of McCann’s most polluting clients won’t be tracking their most meaningful contribution to the climate emergency.”

Dufour agreed that the marketing industry has a major role to play in incentivizing more sustainable consumption habits, especially when it comes to creativity and innovation. And while McCann is implementing stricter climate-related standards for new clients as part of a broader initiative from parent company IPG, it’s not willing to end long-standing relationships with oil and gas companies anytime soon.

Instead, Dufour said the agency is working alongside oil and gas clients to “support them in a way that, as we go forward, we can create something that is aligned with our criteria and our values.”

She also noted that employees who are working on those oil and gas accounts are the first to begin receiving training on environmental claims.

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