Masse Critique launches to make the industry more sustainable

The organization aims to bring advertising and marketing companies together to correct the harm they have caused the environment.

A new organization aims to mobilize companies in advertising, marketing and communications to learn more about the impact their businesses have on the planet – and work together to fix it.

Announced Monday at the C2 conference in Montreal, Masse Critique (“Critical Mass” in English, not to be confused with the digital agency of the same name) is a non-profit with a goal to set new standards for the industry and move it towards a future that is “harmonious with the environment.” It aims to utilize the “collective power” of the marketing, advertising and communications industries to create a new normal and inspire different behaviours that will have a positive impact on the environment.

Beyond simply playing a part in one of the planet’s biggest crises, the group argues the industry should commit to this in order to make up for the role it has played in getting us here. In its own survey, Masse Critique found 91.3% of respondents from the industry believe it has contributed to the deterioration of the environment.

“Our planet and our society are facing their greatest challenges. And we all face the troubling reality of the careers we have chosen,” the group’s manifesto reads. “Our communications industry has contributed to environmental degradation and social distinction. And if we have all played a role, it is up to us to change it.”

For its launch in October, the organization plans to begin its work towards its goals by offering content and education about the marcom industry’s environmental impact; providing guides and training to help companies adopt more sustainable business practices; and connecting members with consulting services and experts in the field.

The organization is looking to get its work off the ground with the support of La Ruche, a crowdfunding platform owned by Desjardins, which is running a fundraising campaign with a goal of $15,000 by mid-November. In exchange for their support, donors are being given memberships to Masse Critique. Paid members receive free access to monthly conferences, as well as the ability to participate private networking platform allowing them to access exclusive content and exchange knowledge with contemporaries in the industry.

The organization is being led by founder and board president Valérie Vedrines, who until February was VP of marketing, ecommerce and visual presentation at Reitmans. A number of industry figures are joining her on the executive board, including Benoit Chapellier (VP at Cossette), Caroline Losson (SVP of brand, Stora Enso), Damien Lefebvre (EVP North America, Valtech), Jaylone Lee (CMO, Decathlon Canada), Vincent Fortin-Laurin (president and CEO, Republik), Maxime Baril (co-executive director of Quintus) and Esther Dormagen (president, Ellio).

Other sponsors include out-of-home companies Pattison Outdoor and Outfront Media, as well as newspaper La Presse. It is also supported by the Quebec Marketing Association and Quebec Public Health Association.

There has been a growing awareness of the impact of marketing and advertising on the environment, especially as digital receives a greater share of spending and makes the supply chain more carbon-intensive. In July, WPP’s GroupM its new environmental commitments alongside a report that called out the industry’s “insufficient” efforts, including a lack of consistent methodology on calculating emissions, using questionable data sources and leaving out significant carbons contributors like data center, cloud services and network transmission operations.

But outside of media and raw emissions, Masse Critique also wants to address the ad industry’s role in communicating about sustainability efforts. It cites a survey by the Quebec Public Health Association that found 84% of Quebec residents said ads should be regulated to prevent false or misleading information about the environmental benefits a company promotes – nearly as many who said the same about health claims in ads.

“There is no doubt about it: Quebecers demand clarity and transparency in the media and advertising they consume on a daily basis. Given the impact of publicity on sustainable healthcare, we need to standardize marketing behaviours in all areas,” Thomas Bastien, director general of the the Quebec Public Health Association, in a statement about Masse Critique’s goals.