Michael Benedek is CEO of Datonics, an online data company and pioneer in the integration of audience data into programmatic platforms.
Sustainability has evolved as a priority initiative in many industries for long-term investment and strategy. Technia found that the five industries leading the charge in making these key sustainable changes include architecture and construction, consumer packaged goods, energy, process and utility, life sciences, and transportation and mobility. In a 2017 Cone Communications survey, 88% of consumers shared their intentional support for a company that would support social or environmental issues. A 2019 Hotwire survey took this one step further and showed that 47% of internet users claimed to have ditched products that went against their environmental values.
Sustainability conversations are also taking shape for industries that are primarily digital. For example, the carbon footprint of NFTs and crypto was brought to light last year for the immense processing power required to mine coins.
The digital advertising sector is also becoming aware of heavy computer processing and the resulting impact on the environment. More companies in the space are making sustainability a top consideration factor for future tech collaborations and building out tech stacks.
Is Sustainability Really An Issue In Advertising?
The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference—COP27—called for the inclusion of all industries to work on reducing carbon emissions.
Digital advertising may not be an obvious culprit in large-ticket environmental issues, but the move to sustainability requires participation from all businesses. The programmatic and digital advertising ecosystem use a great deal of processing power—especially to enable real-time transactions—and can contribute to a heavier carbon footprint. In a climate study done in January 2020 by Ad Net Zero, it was estimated that operational CO2 equivalent emissions from the U.K. digital advertising industry alone exceeded 84,000 metric tons per year. This study led to the estimation that the digital advertising industry could exceed 1 million tons per year of CO2 emissions.
Current Initiatives To Promote Sustainability
Ad Net Zero is an industry-wide initiative that was launched with the goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions from all activities associated with the advertising industry by the end of 2030. There are several key players now working to make this a reality.
According to a report from Digiday, Scope3 focuses on improving efficiencies on the supply side. The current system of monetizing a single web page is done through multiple transactions over many trading platforms. One potential efficiency for this process is “batch-based buying” to reduce the footprint for each ad loaded on the page. With this in mind, Scope3 is partnering with Blockthrough to help buyers gain access to low-carbon advertisements from one trading platform.
Companies like Good-Loop and AdGreen are developing carbon calculators for digital advertising agencies to be able to calculate and be aware of the carbon footprint of their campaigns.
Cutting down on middlemen in the ad tech process is another way to decrease processing power. For example, data companies that integrate directly with DSPs and DMPs use fewer intermediaries. An added benefit is more competitive pricing.
The ad industry is also honing in on the growing trend of “greenwashing,” where companies use the theme of sustainability inauthentically. Holding businesses accountable for their marketing messages is another way the industry is helping move environmental initiatives forward.
Sustainability isn’t just good for the planet; it’s also good for business. Advertising companies that invest in sustainable practices are taking into consideration the principal value of all of their stakeholders—employees, customers, partners and investors. By investing in the environment, companies can invest in their own growth.