Digital Technology Accounts For 4% Of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Aerial view coal power plant station in the morning mist, the morning sunrises. coal power plant and environment concept. Coal and steam. Mae Moh, Lampang, Thailand.

At a recent event in Sydney, adtech firm Teads and emissions tracking platform Scope3 revealed that one million ad impressions (or views) equated to one ton of CO2 emissions – or the equivalent of a one-way flight between Paris and New York.

After the 2019 bushfires, Rémi Lafon, Teads ANZ managing director, found himself struggling with the realisation that the things we had been warned about for so long were suddenly a reality and much closer than he had ever thought. Lafon found himself questioning his impact on the planet and the impact the digital advertising industry has on it.

What was found was that digital technologies contribute to 4 per cent of overall greenhouse gas emissions which is the same as the automotive industry. It is also anticipated to double by 2025 which will be the same as aviation. Every one million impressions equate to one ton of CO2 emissions or the equivalent of a one-way flight between Paris and New York.

Teads mapped the increase in greenhouse emissions since the origins of digital technology as we know it today. Back in 1983, when the Internet was born, annual CO2 emissions sat at 20 billion tons; today, they are well above 35 billion annually.

It was also found that digital advertising makes up only an average of 50 per cent of a brand’s marketing spend but contributes to roughly 80 per cent of the carbon it emits. On average, streaming and display advertising generate 7.2 million metric tons of carbon emissions per year, or the equivalent to 3.1 billion litres of petrol consumed.

Lafon and his team began working with the broader international team to find new ways to reduce their impact on the planet. “Our main objective was to reduce the carbon footprint of the campaign while maintaining that same level of performance, scale and cost,” Lafon said.

Teads partnered with Scope3 to help shape a greener digital advertising future. “Advertising is facing a sustainability issue; the reality is it has been largely self-inflicted but the good news is that it can be largely self-remedied,” said Spencer Swaney, platform director at Teads.

“You can actually decrease your emissions, get better performance and it’s not going to cost you more” said Jo Georges, head of AU and NZ at Scope3.

Scope3 provides an open source methodology for measuring impact across all stages of the life cycle, production, distribution and storage, consumer use, and disposal.

Although there is no standard, there are things that Scope3 recommends you ask for. The organisation that you are looking at using should measure emissions from end to end including:

  • Open source methodologies
  • Coverage for all three scopes of GHG emissions
  • Assessment of every part of the ad life cycle
  • Granular data on programmatic supply graphs and grid mix

Teads has helped manage their impact by directly integrating with publishers to help them control every step of the ad lifecycle. Working with a pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, and utilising Scope3’s tools, Teads aimed to lower the video campaign’s carbon footprint. In particular, direct changes were made to the campaign targeting, including omitting any domains with a high carbon score Teads was able to see a direct correlation to the ad selection emissions throughout the campaign.

The results were significant, with a 34 per cent reduction in energy consumption and a reduction of 34 per cent in carbon emissions. “When we considered the Australian benchmark, that’s around a 38 per cent reduction below the Scope3 benchmark,” said Claire Stapleton, head of CX and sustainability lead at Teads.

While there is still a long way to go, Teads is taking giant steps toward net-zero targets. The primary advice from those inside the industry? Just take the first step.

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