2023 Resolution: Make Advertising More Sustainable

By David Mead in Sustainability|February 1, 2023

Six Things You Can Do To Start Building More Sustainable Businesses

Sustainability in advertising and media is particularly important because of the cultural influence that both of these industries have on us personally and our business practices. Collectively, we must do more than market sustainability. We need to do the work to become sustainable, and identify objective industry and global standards. OpenX is sharing our story to help companies in our space accelerate their existing initiatives and to show that achieving Net-Zero targets are achievable.

OpenX set a Net-Zero target to reduce scope 1+2+3 emissions by 90% by 2027 from a 2018 base year including holding ourselves to a 1.5 degree standard, and recently received validation from the global consultancy RSK that we’ve achieved our Net-Zero goals in line with the SBTi standard five years ahead of schedule. In fact, we’ve reduced our carbon footprint by 96% since 2018. 

So how do you start becoming a more sustainable business?

One: Establish a Leadership Team (Hint, you might need to call in an outside expert)

In digital, we’re all new to the ins and outs of sustainability. It’s critical to have an internal stakeholder that’s empowered by the leadership team (or someone who is on the leadership team), but it’s likely you’ll also need to tap experts that have experience with measuring and accounting for carbon emissions. 

Early on, we started working with sustainability consultant Bill Wescott for his detailed knowledge about the steps and actions we would have to take to actually audit, measure and reduce our emissions. 

Two: Identify a legitimate third-party to measure your current carbon footprint and to track your progress 

It’s important that in advertising we don’t “grade our own homework.” As part of the advertising supply chain SSPs are part of the “Scope 3” emissions that ultimately roll up to the brands’ own emissions calculations. This fact alone should be enough for all of us to get serious about providing credible measurable reporting around emissions and ensures brands and ultimately their clients understand how we are all working together for a collective common good.

We retained RSK, a consultancy to validate our efforts. Additionally, we contracted a leading accredited third-party verifier of greenhouse gas inventories, LRQA (formerly known as Lloyd’s Registry), to verify the GHG inventory under the ISO 14064-3:2019 standard so that the verified OpenX GHG inventory could be publicly reported and shared directly with key stakeholders. 

Three: Get On Board with Transparency and Measurability

Brands, publishers and tech companies want to become more sustainable, but we need to use the right approach — and that requires standardization, measurable emissions, and transparent reporting that accounts for the entire carbon footprint of a business.

At OpenX, we have had our sights on transparent, measurable sustainability for some time. While it takes work and investment, we’re here to show that companies can dramatically improve their carbon footprint.  

Four: Make a plan to begin reducing your emissions 

Start With A Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHG) — the EPA defines a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory as “a list of emission sources and the associated emissions quantified using standardized methods.” These inventories are used by a variety of entities, including scientists, policymakers, regulatory agencies and corporations.

Why conduct and maintain a greenhouse gas inventory? Such inventories are useful to:

  • Understand the sources of emissions
  • Manage GHG risks and identify opportunities to reduce emissions 
  • Participate in voluntary or mandatory GHG programs
  • Participate in GHG offset markets

Five: Put your plan into action 

Start taking steps to roll out your plan. We took a variety of steps, some large and some small, making changes across different elements of our business concurrently. For example, our engineering team led our migration to GCP, which is powered by renewable energy. Our HR and operations departments worked to consolidate our office footprint and make changes to our travel policies and remote-work policies to reduce commuting. We also cloud-enabled our office infrastructure to reduce electricity consumption. The remaining emissions – created by energy used by work-from-home employees, for example — are offset by investments in high-quality carbon removal projects.

Six: Measure your results and optimize  

Measuring a reduction in emissions is an extension of the initial measurement of overall emissions, and the same rigor is required. It’s important to use a credible third-party who can measure emissions so that it can be reported to government bodies, customers and partners. The more we use standard measurement frameworks and adopt reporting best practices, the faster we can move the needle on sustainability. As we get in the habit of measuring results and moving forward to reach the next level of sustainability, the greater the collective momentum.

To get started, download our ebook, or read more about our journey in this Adweek article.