How to offset the carbon footprint of digital advertising

Benoît Skinazi, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Sharethrough

August 17, 2022

Any online activity has an energy and therefore environmental cost. Digital advertising is no exception. The Quebec firm of advertising technology Sharethrough has developed a solution to “measure” and “offset” the carbon footprint of online advertising. Interview with Benoît Skinazi, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Sharethrough, who tells us about their new product of “green programmatic platforms” launched last June.

We are not always aware of it, but surfing the Internet pollutes… Is that the problem?

Benoit Skinazi: Our computers don’t smoke or burn fuel, so it’s not obvious that the Internet is polluting. Or, running the servers that host the websites, displaying the pages of a site or browsing a web application requires a lot of energy. And this consumption generates carbon emissions. Moreover, it is estimated that 2% of global CO2 emissions result from online browsing.

In this navigation, what is the part of online advertisements?

BS: It is estimated at 10% of global navigation. An advertising display generates on average one gram of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. For comparison, 1 million ad impressions is equivalent to a flight from Boston to London.

What solution do you bring to this type of pollution?

BS: As an advertising platform, we asked ourselves what we could do to help decarbonize the programmatic advertising supply chain. For us, the first step was to measure the footprint of an online advertising campaign. To achieve this, we have established a partnership with the firm Scope3, which specializes in this type of calculation. With this information in hand, we are now able to offer advertisers the use of programmatic buying platforms [PMP] “green” allowing them to offset their carbon emissions by paying a contribution to decarbonization initiatives.

The idea here is therefore to ” compensate for ” and not of reduce its emissions, right?

BS: Exactly. Scope3 is associated with Carbon Direct, a company certified in green project investment, which offers a variety of green investments. The best known example is planting trees, but this is not necessarily the most effective project in the short term. Advertisers can choose to invest in green projects including planting trees, but also installing an air filtration system or creating a clean energy production project.

Does it require a significant contribution from advertisers?

BS: It can range from 3 to 20 cents CPM (cost per thousand ad impressions), depending on the efficiency of the ad supply chain; is the site efficient, are there several intermediaries, etc.? On average, we see a cost of 10 under the CPM, but this will decrease as technology companies and content publishers improve the efficiency of their site.

And what is the response from brands so far?

BS: Officially launched in June, we now have over 1,500 brands spending advertising dollars on green PMPs. Brands test; we see great enthusiasm in the UK and Europe; Canada and the United States follow. We are currently in strategic discussions with brands to make this a real program and raise awareness among their employees. Thousands of companies have committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2025, 2030 or 2035, and we are in a position to help them achieve this goal.

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