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ESG has got us talking, it’s got us thinking and it’s got us doing. It’s a complex beast that is now core to what so many agencies and brands consider to be valuable and important for the future of businesses. We’re all at different stages in our ESG journeys and that’s what this series is all about. It’s about sharing thoughts, hearing from others about what they’re doing and who’s doing it well, and keeping the conversation going – as well as hopefully getting some key nuggets of insight along the way!

We’re going to be joined by a range of real ESG trail blazers in our eight-part series, interviewing people across the industry who are invested in the topic, whether professionally or personally.

We are joined this week by Alice Date, Group Sustainability Manager at Talon OOH. Alice has a wealth of experience in the realm of Sustainability. Previously working in the Climate Change and Sustainability Services team at EY Melbourne & Sydney, Alice played a pivotal role in propelling her team to global recognition by Verdantix as leaders in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) consulting. Adding to her professional expertise, she has completed the Sustainable Supply Chain Management programme at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and continues to champion sustainability best practice.

Q. Tell me about what Talon is doing currently that relates to ESG and sustainability and how you’re involved

A. I am Talon’s Group Sustainability Manager, which is a new role for the company. I lead on the development and execution of our internal sustainability strategy. Day-to-day, this involves developing new processes and policies, upskilling our teams and working with our suppliers. I also get involved externally through industry working groups and holding discussions with various stakeholders across different agencies and media owners.

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

A. Definitely – given clients are consumer facing they have probably (and hopefully) already started considering sustainability and have set strategic goals. Sustainability extends into all facets of the business, including media, so we are seeing more pressure mounting on marketing functions to help their business achieve sustainability goals. If marketing teams aren’t already facing this pressure, it’s only a matter of when – as agencies we therefore must be cognisant of what to expect.

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

A. I have been surprised how far behind the industry is in sustainability generally, but progress is happening. So far, the collaboration happening seems to be being pushed by the clients themselves, Giffgaff for example has been pushing its agency to think creatively about its media planning and buying in support of its ‘Up To Good’ strategy which is awesome. I would however love to see agencies take a leading role in these conversations. Adland has climate tunnel vision at the moment, but sustainability encompasses a much broader set of topics so it’s important that we start collaborating on the bigger picture.

Q. Are there companies you feel have already demonstrated a robust strategy in this space and if so, what are they doing?

A. Yes, I have seen a few companies asking the right questions which is the best place to start. They want to know where their media is being placed, by who and using what materials. I’m seeing carbon reduction tabled as a lever in planning more and more often, but whilst it may be a consideration in planning, other key levers like price are still dominating the conversation.

Q. Who is inspiring you or innovating in this area at the moment?

A. I have really enjoyed seeing what Not On The High Street did for its recent Christmas campaign – not only is its messaging consistent with positive consumer behaviour change (Don’t Gift Landfill) but the billboard has also used materials in production that were donated to people experiencing homelessness through Crisis. It’s this ultimate combination of considering both messaging and waste that make this space so exciting, it’s exactly what the world needs more of.



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

A. I don’t see climate impact disappearing from focus in 2024, but I would love to see other environmental issues like biodiversity and waste acknowledged. The UK government has already mandated reporting against TCFD (Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) and, with the TNFD (Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures) on the horizon, I think this will be the next wave. Our industry has always been good at highlighting social issues, but we must start thinking of them within the realm of sustainability and discussing them with the same rigour as climate change.

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

A. I decree that all advertising messaging must contribute positively to society either through positive consumer behavioural change or due to the impact of the product or service being advertised. Our industry has a HUGE role to play in the change we need to see!

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