Omnicom Group announced the appointment of Karen van Bergen to Chief Environmental Sustainability Officer, reporting to John Wren, Chairman and CEO, Omnicom. In this role, van Bergen will be responsible for overseeing the company’s climate change initiatives and processes which include setting measurable goals, policies and partnerships that will reduce its carbon footprint. This new position will be in addition to her current role as EVP and Dean of Omnicom University.
Van Bergen’s appointment underpins Omnicom’s on-going effort to reduce the environmental impact of its operations across its global networks and agencies. Nearly five years ago, the company established sustainability goals aimed at reducing its energy use while increasing use of renewable resources. With these goals targeted for completion by 2023, van Bergen will work with executive leadership on developing a climate action plan with the goal of further reducing Omnicom’s carbon footprint.
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In addition to these internal goals, the company remains a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, which commits to undertaking initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility and encourage the diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies. Moving forward, Omnicom has committed to the Science Based Targets Initiative, which audits participating companies on their emissions goals and evaluates whether they are in-line with the global mandate to keep warming below 1.5 degrees.
Omnicom, in line with many of its peers, has also committed to joining industry initiatives that will serve as catalysts for change. Several of its UK agencies have joined Ad Net Zero, the U.K. advertising industry’s initiative to achieve real net zero carbon emissions from the development, production and media placement of advertising by the end of 2030. Omnicom is also a founding member of the #ChangeTheBrief Alliance, a flagship initiative that calls for the agencies and clients to harness the power of their advertising to promote sustainable consumer choices and behaviors.
“By 2023, we will have exceeded our current sustainability goals and are committed to developing and implementing an even more ambitious climate action plan,” said John Wren, Chairman and CEO of Omnicom. “Karen van Bergen is just the right leader for this effort given her long tenure with Omnicom and excellent previous experience with environmental initiatives at multinational corporations. Under her leadership, I have no doubt we will continue to raise the bar in minimizing the environmental impact of our global operations.”
Environmental sustainability has played a role in several of van Bergen’s previous positions. Earlier in her career, she led environmental policy and stakeholder dialogue for Outboard Marine Corporation in Europe. When she was later at McDonald’s Europe, she created and led the first Environment department, working on sustainable packaging, minimizing environmental impact and stakeholder engagement. She also led the business/NGO coalition to initiate the first moratorium on rainforest deforestation in Brazil. Furthermore, she headed up the Environment Subcommittee at the American Chamber of Commerce in Europe for four years, leading business dialogue with the European Union (Commission, Council, Parliament) and other key stakeholders.
During her time at Omnicom, van Bergen has used her expertise to counsel a wide variety of clients on sustainability policies, communications strategies and stakeholder engagement. For the past four years, she has also served as the Strategy Officer for Omnicom with the World Economic Forum, which developed its own framework for ESG reporting that Omnicom follows.
“Environmental sustainability has been a priority for businesses for decades, but there is a renewed energy that is urging more action and proactivity from companies worldwide,” said van Bergen. “Omnicom is ready to do its part to create a better future, and I am pleased to assist in identifying, implementing and expanding our sustainability initiatives. As an industry with worldwide influence through advertising and communications, it is imperative that we set an example and be a part of the solution.”
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