Last week, a major new United Nations scientific report delivered the grim news that nations have delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions so long that they can no longer stop global warming from increasing over the next 30 years. On a slightly more encouraging note, the study also suggested there is a short window of time where immediate action could help prevent the most potentially devastating outcomes.
And depending on where in the world you live, the last few months may have made you acutely aware of the changes our planet is undergoing. In the summer of 2021 alone, there have been record-breaking heatwaves across much of the United States and Canada, unprecedented floods have wreaked havoc in Germany and China, and wildfires have raged in many parts of the world where their very occurrence is unusual.
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The carbon footprint of advertising
So, as we all look towards contributing to a lower carbon footprint across the board, we have to ask ourselves—what role do advertising and online marketing play in terms of environmental impact?
That is precisely the question that Good-Loop, an ad tech company, set out to answer. Launched in late July, the company has developed a new ad tracker that lets advertisers track and offset the exact carbon cost of their digital campaigns in real-time.
Green Ad Tag
The platform’s Green Ad Tag, which can be wrapped into any digital campaign, empowers brands and agencies to effectively monitor the environmental impact of their ads throughout the entire campaign lifecycle and therefore see the carbon cost of digital campaigns.
The tracker detects data transmission in real-time, allowing for variations in the territory, device, bandwidth use, and time of day. In addition to the carbon costs of these variables, the tracker also accounts for electricity consumption—to enable advertisers and agencies to see their carbon cost of digital campaigns through a dashboard.
Facing the numbers – carbon cost of digital campaigns
Good-Loop has stated that, on average, a typical online ad campaign emits around 5.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide—almost half of what an average person in the UK produces in a year. They intend to offset the carbon cost through Verified Carbon Standard projects, in addition to providing recommendations on how advertisers can reduce the impact of their media buying. One option available to brands will be buying ads using a rate called “TreePM,” which plants a tree for every 1,000 impressions purchased.
A changing industry
This tool is part of a more significant movement within the advertising industry to set more ambitious carbon-neutral goals. For example, last November the Advertising Association, IPA and ISBA, announced an initiative to become carbon net-zero by 2030. Likewise, in May 2021, Unilever and Nestlé became the first brand owners to commit to paying a green levy of 0.25% of the cost to produce an ad.
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Amy Williams, chief executive and founder of Good-Loop, said in a press release: “Whether it’s the Ad Net Zero initiative or the IPA’s Media Climate Charter, there have been some encouraging recent signs that the ad industry is finally starting to get its act together and acknowledge it needs to do more to address the negative impact it has on the environment.
But to ensure these commitments are not just more hot air, advertisers need access to the right tools to help them significantly reduce the carbon cost of digital campaigns.
Good-Loop’s Green Ad Tag does just that, providing brands and agencies with on-the-button, real-time information about their live campaigns, helping them to drive efficiencies and cut carbon costs throughout the lifetime of their media plans.”
We all have a role to play
As with everything—the first step is always awareness. But acting consciously and being aware of our impact on the climate extends beyond just knowing about it. When tracking and monitoring, knowing what to look for is often the foremost hurdle to getting to a level of awareness that you can act on. So, a tool like this from Good-Loop is a vital support aid. It will make awareness that much more active and tangible to us and our clients.
As a digital consultancy with such a strong focus on marketing, advertising naturally plays a crucial role in what we do. Engaging in conversations with ourselves and our clients about the impact campaigns have on their carbon footprint is an important step. With that comes ideas on how we can reduce waste in the ads-building processes and execution on the GANDT side, and which tools or partners to work with within the broader ecosystem.
There are plenty of variables to consider when trying to offset your impact, so speaking transparently about those options is the first step to generating real change.