Spoiler Alert: The media and advertising industry is a major carbon producer


Madison Wapet

Madison Wappet is Sales Manager, Queensland, MiQ.

Climate change is an existential threat to all of us. You may have heard of this. But it’s not your fault. You recycle. You reduce household food waste. You drink from one of the many publisher-brand reusable water bottles scattered around your desk. There are so many things you can do as an individual. It’s not like you work in mining or resources. Right?

The average digital ad campaign produces 5.4 tons of carbon. That’s about half of what you produce as an Australian in a year.

Yes – “average” probably means some of your campaigns don’t, and we could argue about the semantics, but as an industry we should feel some way about that stat. We are one of the first to advertise a corporate sustainability commitment or B-Corp certification in our messaging. However, we are often determined in our show admissions and if we are committed to improving sustainability practices within our industry, it is time to reframe the way we qualify and quantify our shows as advertisers and marketers.

The extent of our problem

Companies are capable of emitting three types of emissions:

  • Scope 1: Emissions produced directly by a company. These are entirely under the control of a company, like equipment.
  • Scope 2: Emissions that a company produces indirectly, such as electricity needed for productivity.
  • And finally, Scope 3: Emissions produced in a company’s supply chain.

For many companies, Scope3 emissions represent approximately 70% of their total carbon footprint. The implication is that for a company to be Net Zero, most will need to aim for reduced emissions in their supply path.

If you’ve reduced your office printer usage, kudos – but consider what contributes to your Scope 3 emissions – our industry’s elephant:

  • Digital technology accounts for 4% of total global greenhouse gas emissions and is growing by 9% every year
  • The communications industry, the backbone of digital advertising, will account for 20% of global emissions by 2025
  • The internet emits 1.6 billion tons of carbon each year, the same amount as road vehicles

In my world, the programmatic and ad tech world, these scope 3 shows are inherently difficult to navigate and solve. Our ecosystem is fragmented. The scope of the supply chain seems endless. The technology and platforms that have become our solution to navigating a fragmented ecosystem contribute significantly to a much bigger problem: climate change.

For years we have tried to optimize the supply chain to balance efficiency and effectiveness – and now we must consider a third measure of success – emissions. The third ‘E’, if you will.

In our industry, the supply chain can be robust: it’s not just media owners and their shows, it’s the technology platforms: supply and demand side, verification partners, ad serving, use of devices, and the list goes on.

Where do we start? How do we change?

It is I who warn you that the word Sustainability is about to become the next mobile, without cookies, podcasts or attention — so get on our new favorite buzzword. But this one is more important than your media plan or the health of your brand, it’s something tangible that can help curb climate change.

All the companies you work with (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but a lot of them) are about to start selling you emissions measurements and carbon offsets. But carbon offsetting is not enough.

I recently spoke to my sister, who is an environmental manager in the resource sector…

Be patient, it is relevant.

I told him about the innovation happening in this space. Where, as advertisers, we can measure and offset the carbon footprint of our campaigns – and she made a very good point. His point was – it doesn’t matter if you can measure your emissions, it doesn’t matter if you offset your emissions, unless you change your emissions, you’re just kicking the road.

Over the next three months, when every seller (including myself) starts talking to you about measuring and offsetting your carbon footprint, ask them this

“How are you going to reduce, and not offset, my carbon footprint? »

There is a solution, especially in the world of programmatic, but I won’t sell you that dream today. Instead, I want to leave you thinking:

What is your position on climate change?

Are you ready for these conversations?

Are your organization and your partners ready to accept that we are complicit in this climate catastrophe?

Will you be part of the solution or will you continue to be the problem?

Do you have anything to say about this? Share your opinions in the comments section below. Or if you have any news or a tip, email us at adnews@yaffa.com.au

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