Somerset takes the lead banning high carbon adverts

Somerset Council has just adopted a new advertising policy, specifically targeted at the adverts placed on 120 roundabouts populating their estate. The policy is by far the most ambitious passed by any council when it comes to addressing high-carbon advertising. The policy calls an end to advertising for fossil fuels, vehicles powered by petrol, diesel or hybrid power, and airlines, airports or flights across the council’s highways assets.

While it remains to be seen how it will be implemented across the overall advertising estate, Somerset’s ethical advertising policy is a huge step when it comes to showing positive examples of local bans against high-carbon advertising and should serve as an example for other public authorities willing to adjust their approach to advertising with their carbon reduction targets.

An ambitious ethical advertising policy

Other recent examples of ethical or low-carbon advertising policies adopted by councils across the UK, including CambridgeshireBasingstoke & Deane and Coventry councils, have specifically prohibited fossil fuel adverts across their advertising estate. Somerset is the first council to explicitly name and prohibit high-carbon products (see point c. below) from advertising. As such, this policy most closely aligns with our recommendations to local authorities passing low-carbon advertising policies.

c. The council will not permit advertisements from organisations who manufacture or supply ‘high carbon’ products but may permit some advertisements featuring products from these organisations at its discretion. For example, an advertisement from a car dealership featuring a fully electric vehicle may be permitted, although the dealership also currently sells petrol, diesel, or hybrid vehicles

The policy goes even further, explicitly listing fossil fuels, airlines, flights, airports and fossil-powered vehicles, alongside others ads like gambling or alcohol ads, in the categories of products and services exempted from advertising. 

When asked about the extension of this policy to the wider advertising estate, a spokesperson for the council said they are planning to revisit the contracts with external partners that are approaching renewal and bring these assets in-house again, which would subject them to the same new ethical advertising policy.

Next steps?

Somerset’s new advertising policy is a powerful example of how councils can be practically by aligning their advertising policy with their climate commitments by explicitly prohibiting advertising for high-carbon products and services. 

We have a duty to act as soon as possible, albeit at a local level, rather than wait for a national Government policy and thought it was only fitting that our Advertising Policy should be developed to align with our Climate Emergency Strategy.” – Lucille Simms, Somerset Council Principal Commercial Officer

With the caveat that advertising policies should never be used to justify new advertising sites, we hope that many more councils, alongside transport authorities and media organisations, take the courageous and straightforward step to review their advertising policy and introduce restrictions on high-carbon advertising that is driving local air pollution, fuelling the climate emergency and holding back behaviour change initiatives to reach net zero.  

Check out our low-carbon advertising toolkit

SEPTEMBER 28, 2023

This post first appeared on the Badvertising website.

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