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Digital Advertising Sustainability

The countdown to 2030: what needs to change to hit net zero?

IAB UK

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August 24, 2023 | 5 min read

We recently asked IAB members to share one action that they’re most proud of when it comes to creating a more environmentally sustainable industry, highlighting how companies and individuals are prioritising efforts to tackle climate change

We recently asked IAB members to share one action that they’re most proud of when it comes to creating a more environmentally sustainable industry, highlighting how companies and individuals are prioritising efforts to tackle climate change. Now we’re turning our attention to what more needs to change in order for our industry to hit net zero by 2030 - a goal that is just seven years off.

From the vital importance of shared measurement to reducing carbon inefficient intermediaries, members of our Sustainability Group share what has to happen in the next couple of years to collectively drive us forwards.

From buzzword to business necessity

Luca Masiello (advertising partnerships, Microsoft Advertising): “The time for acting on the climate crisis is now, sustainability has to move from industry buzzword to business necessity. Within programmatic specifically, carbon needs to become a standard metric in reporting to help advertisers target ‘green’ media and block high-emission inventory.

"Across the supply chain we can start reducing the number of carbon inefficient intermediaries through disabling inefficient SSP connections. And, as individuals, we can evaluate the carbon emissions of our actions on everything from campaign costs and KPIs, to business travel and event participation. We should all make sustainability a priority as we approach 2030.”

It’s not enough to offset emissions

Clare Burger (senior project manager - Imagine, Immediate Media): “I hope that in 2-3 years, we will have made substantial progress in tackling climate change. While the industry has moved toward more sustainable practices, there is still much to be done. It’s not enough to just offset emissions; we should reconsider and review every aspect of how we produce content from production all the way through to reporting.

"One area where we can make a meaningful impact is the energy we use. Research by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows that renewable energy technologies are becoming cost-competitive with fossil fuels. This should pave the way for a cleaner energy use, not just within our industry but universally.”

Meaningful action = accurate measurement

Abigale Borsberry (head of programmatic media operations, Encore Digital Media): “It's 2023 and our industry has a big problem. Among the myriad of carbon calculators, unbelievably, there is no universally agreed carbon measurement format in the digital advertising industry. In the following years, my hope is that people from across the industry will come together with a mission to create a standard methodology, used by all, encompassing everything from creative all the way to delivery. This would provide the impetus to build all campaigns with sustainability at its heart, transparency throughout the supply chain and provide the push needed for industry-wide commitments. We can’t take meaningful action without accurate measurement.”

Emissions from media placement in reduction targets

Dave Sandham (engagement & operations director, GroupM): “It has been heartening to see the recent elevation of awareness and desire for action, and I am confident we will see this translate into continued progress. While some areas of precise measurement are still in development, we must see the industry unite in adopting standardized methodologies and frameworks to measure and reduce effectively. We also need more key players to include emissions from media placement in their overall reduction targets. There have been significant advancements, and combined with initiatives like the IAB Tech lab recommendations, this will go a long way to reducing carbon from the media supply chain.”

Greater industry collaboration on technical solutions

Virginie Dremeaux (VP marketing & communications, International, FreeWheel): “As we face the realities of climate change and the need for climate action, the advertising industry is mobilizing to find solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We hope that over the next few years media and advertising companies will have gained a good understanding of their carbon impact for Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and set clear strategies to continue reducing them.

"Critical also will be greater industry collaboration on technical solutions to help optimize processes across the value chain and eliminate inefficiencies so that we can support a more sustainable future.”

Sustainability-first in every decision made

Milica Lukic (account director, Adform): “While it’s always promising to see companies commit to improving their sustainable practices, more needs to be done to make a difference. We need to take a zero-tolerance approach to sustainability in the advertising ecosystem and take responsibility to clean it up. To really move the dial, we need to agree on a set of non-negotiable standards that will ensure the industry is measuring and reducing emissions spanning the entire campaign lifecycle. I’d like to see everyone play their part by taking a sustainability-first approach to every decision made. Only then will we make a significant impact on carbon emissions.”

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