Co-founder and CEO of Good Loop.
Consumers understand that they cannot solve systemic socio-economic challenges alone. No one can improve income inequality, structural racism or housing shortages. So why, when it comes to climate change, do corporate and political messages put so much pressure on the individual to solve the problem by reducing their carbon footprint?
Unfortunately, part of the answer is the advertising industry, which: popularized the concept of a personal carbon footprint on behalf of BP mid-years. The wrong emphasis on individual action in the climate justice movement is no accident; it was developed by companies that wanted to take the responsibility for action from large business actors with the ability to drive systemic change and put it on the consumer.
But this is not only cause for despair or shame. The carbon footprint story shows how impactful marketers can be when it comes to perception and action on key environmental, social and governance issues. It shows that advertisers can take a step in the other direction and improve climate change at the more impactful level of large companies and entire industries, not just individuals.
Here are five steps advertisers can take to limit their carbon emissions and empower organizations working to reverse the effects of climate change.
Track campaign carbon costs.
The advertising industry itself contributes significantly to global carbon emissions. A typical online ad campaign emits 5.4 tons of carbon dioxide, a third of what the average American consumer produces in a year. according to Good-Loop research.
For advertisers, the first step in tackling climate change should be determining their own impact on the environment. The AdGreen carbon calculator can help calculate and reduce the emissions of their productions as advertisers. Another source is the Good-Loop Green ad tagthat allows advertisers to track digital advertising emissions in real time.
Minimize campaign emissions.
The digital advertising industry largely contributes to emissions by relying on electricity, which is often fueled by coal combustion. But there are several steps advertisers can take to reduce those emissions.
For example, busier energy networks are less CO2 efficient, so by placing more advertisements during off-peak hours, marketers can benefit from lower prices and climate-friendly energy costs. At the same time, they can strategically produce more business impact by directing their advertisers to places and times where they can reach potential customers in less crowded environments.
Another mitigation tactic is to use files like SVGs instead of PNGs and JPEGs to reduce file size and avoid wasting energy through consumer interaction with creative.
Support climate-friendly publishers.
One of the main advantages of the advertising industry is that it funds quality journalism. When it comes to tackling the climate crisis, advertisers can double that by partnering with green publishers.
One form of collaboration with green publishers is working with publications that contribute to essential climate reporting. Adding these often long-running sites to your publisher list is a contextual way to reach a targeted audience and environmentally conscious consumers while financially supporting the dissemination of important citizen information.
Another is to partner with publishers with green infrastructure. For example, publishers can operationalize carbon path optimization to avoid sending unnecessary calls to servers, a step that could exacerbate emissions. Advertisers should ask publishers about their green facilities and prioritize working with media organizations that have taken steps to reduce their contribution to climate change.
Consider including green rewards in advertising.
Advertisers who want to make working for a greener industry an important part of their brand don’t have to limit themselves to messaging and technical adjustments. They can have a direct impact by contributing to charities such as tree planting, green innovation and depollution every time consumers respond to their ads.
This is not just altruistic for the advertiser. Telling a consumer who responds to your ad that you are taking an altruistic action on their behalf can help improve ad recall and create a deeper connection with the audience. That’s what ads want to achieve in the first place.
Partner with companies that are doing well.
If ad agencies, ad technology platforms and brands are to take the industry’s overall environmental impact seriously, they must apply the same strict sustainability requirements to all companies they work with, not just those where they place their ads.
Tautologies like “business is business” are obsolete in a world of increasingly bourgeois consumers and pressing geopolitical threats that harm people of every political persuasion. By including environmental policy questions in potential partner assessments, every organization in our industry can do its part to encourage others to take the steps outlined above.
In turn, digital advertising can simply reverse the legacy of campaigns like carbon footprint, reduce emissions and highlight the systemic players that can make that happen.