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To conclude our ESG Insights: Behind the Headlines series, we are delighted to welcome Tom Patterson from Channel 4 to talk to us about what’s happening in the realm of AV.

Tom works in the sales team as senior commercial development & sustainability lead at Channel 4. He works with independent media agencies and new to TV brands to reach audiences at scale across the Channel 4 ecosystem: linear, streaming and social. Tom also leads the commercial sustainability strategy, working with the corporate sustainability manager to deliver on Channel 4’s commitments to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis.

Prior to being sustainability lead Tom led the ‘Greener Channel 4 Project’ and co-chaired the employee rep group 4Earth. During which time it delivered Channel 4’s first sustainability roadmap which catalysed impactful change in our operations and supply chain. More recently he’s been working closely with the Ad Association’s Ad Net Zero and Purpose Disruptors in an effort to decarbonise the advertising industry and inspire viewers to make positive changes.

Q. Tell me about what Channel 4 is doing currently in the ESG and sustainability space and the role you play in this?

A. It’s been a busy start to 2024 at Channel 4 in the ESG space. Channel 4 has always been at the forefront of innovation and at the end of 2023 we had our Science Based Targets validated. This means our near-term and net zero emissions targets are verified by the Science Based Targets Initiative and align with a 1.5 degree global climate change trajectory. Science based targets help lead the way to a zero-carbon economy, boost innovation and drive sustainable growth by bringing ambitions in line with best practice for delivery.  We have since been flat out implementing the processes to ensure we have a clear transition plan to dramatically reduce our emissions.

More recently we launched our first equity strategy, which will build diversity and inclusion into all our decision-making across the business, while ensuring that there are fair outcomes and opportunities for all those we work with. The strategy, “Equity by Design”, provides a blueprint for continued progress and allows us to drive industry-wide change on multiple fronts. It is a framework for us to continue being a disruptive force for change with a focus on societal impact.

In the commercial team we’re excited about the return of the Paralympics in Paris this summer. It’s a unique opportunity to work with likeminded brands to align with the greatest show in the world. There’s always a real buzz at Channel 4 when the Paras marketing drops and the content is firmed up. It’ll also follow the debut of the winning ad from our most recent Diversity in Advertising Award competition. It’s Channel 4’s annual £1 million creative competition challenging UK brands and creative agencies to be more inclusive in their TV campaigns. The award is an established industry scheme designed to encourage greater and more authentic representation of diverse UK communities through mainstream UK television advertising. The overall ambition of the award is to get more representative advertising campaigns on air and encourage greater inclusive thinking within the creative process behind the campaigns. In 2023, we asked brands to be bold & embrace being ‘Proud All Over’ by submitting ground-breaking campaign ideas representing the LGBTQIA+ community. It revisited the theme of 2019’s award, LGBTQ+ representation.

As a publicly-owned, remit & purpose driven business, environmental sustainability and equitable representation are the foundation of Channel 4. In my role as Commercial Development & Sustainability Lead for Channel 4 Sales I’ve been working across the business to ensure everything we do as a sales team has considered people, planet and profit.


Q. Do you think advertisers (our clients) should be planning media investment with ESG goals in mind?

A. Yes. Broadly we are seeing shifts in people expecting more from brands in this space, moving to expecting more meaningful action. People are spending more time engaging with social issues and there is more emphasis on brands to stand for something beyond selling products. But of course, any campaign that is ‘purpose led’ needs to be genuine. And not solely for winning awards or latching onto social media trends. Citizens can smell inauthenticity a mile off and will take brands to task if they aren’t walking the walk.


Q. Are advertisers and their agencies leaning forward on this topic collaboratively do you think?

A. Our Black in Business initiative is a good example of media owner, agency and advertiser collaboration. Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank launched Black in Business to help boost up to five black-owned businesses with TV advertising airtime worth more than half a million pounds.

In addition to receiving airtime, each of the five business owners had a creative bespoke TV advert made for them and six months of tailored marketing and business support from Channel 4, Lloyds Bank and social enterprise, DOES.

The initiative offers support to small businesses that are new to TV advertising and comes after research commissioned by the Channel 4 commercial team revealed that black entrepreneurs face more obstacles setting up and running their businesses than their white counterparts.

Black in Business, launched in partnership with Lloyds Bank, forms part of Channel 4’s Black to Front legacy – which is our ongoing commitment to improve black representation on-screen and more widely in the TV industry.


Q. Are there companies you feel have already demonstrated a robust strategy in this space and if so, what are they doing? And who is inspiring you or innovating in this area at the moment?

A. Specifically, in the “green” space, Channel 4 is a founding signatory of the Ad Association’s Ad Net Zero steering group and contributed to its book ‘Sustainable Advertising: How advertising can support a better future’ written by AA’s Matt Bourn and Sebastian Munden, former CEO of Unilever, chair of WRAP and ANZ. Ad Net Zero and its members have built a pretty robust strategy to transition the advertising industry to be more sustainable. It has five clear actions for the ad industry to follow and, importantly, holds members accountable by auditing emission reduction. The AA will also be launching a gold standard carbon calculator for media planning with a methodology agreed by the industry and verified by academics.

An organisation in the creative and media space that I’m in awe of are the Purpose Disruptors. They are on a mission to transform the advertising industry into a force for good that will promote a thriving future. It recently launched The Agency For Nature which is a team of young creatives from top UK agencies who are harnessing their collective expertise to connect citizens back to nature and a sustainable lifestyle. It has already launched several inspiring and punchy campaigns.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, in the research and climate comms space are ACT Climate Labs. It does some incredible work debunking misinformation, supercharging climate comms and offering strategic advice for its members on best practice for impactful campaigns. Its insight, including The Persuadables (the 69% of people in the UK who are neither climate activists or climate deniers), has been invaluable to the C4 commercial team when responding to client briefs and in forming our own strategy.


Q. What do you think key players in the industry might be focused on in 2024 with regards to an ESG agenda?

A. AI is obviously attracting a lot of attention at the moment. What if AI & ESG combined? How can we harness the power of technology to better society? Protect the planet?


Q. If you were King for the day, what ESG policy would you decree?!

A. There are already plenty of strong ESG policies out there – my decree would be to adhere to them! Make them front and centre of all decision making! As a communication industry and the architects of desire we have the power to shift perceptions and inspire meaningful change. What a world it’d be if the advertising and media industry exercised that power by protecting people, planet and profit? Make those your key KPIs.

Channel 4s purpose is to create change through entertainment by representing unheard voices, challenging with purpose and reinventing entertainment. 

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