Half of of digital advertisers don’t currently measure emissions produced by digital ads

IAB Europe’s study reveals that sustainability is one of the top three challenges facing advertising businesses, according to marketers themselves.

Within the context of the current state of the world, sustainability is an important issue for consideration across almost all industries, and advertising is no different.

In 2022, it was estimated that the internet’s overall environmental impact was around 2% to 4% of global carbon emissions, with a typical ad campaign emitting around 5.4 tons of CO2.

IAB Europe’s new Sustainability in Digital Advertising State of Readiness Report has further identified it as an issue of importance. According to marketers, sustainability is one of the top three challenges for advertising businesses.

Despite this 51% of digital advertisers say they don’t currently measure the emissions produced by the delivery of digital ads at all. On a broader spectrum, the survey found that 55% of respondents believed their company has either started or made significant progress on its journey towards CO2 reduction.

Laura Wade, Head of Sustainability at Essence, said: “With 55% of respondents ‘having started’ or ‘made significant progress’ with their own carbon reduction efforts, I am hopeful this indicates that 2023 is the tipping point for sustainable digital practices to become embedded into the mainstream.

“However, the report also highlights that we need to focus on education and collaboration to turn this into a reality. I believe we need to act quickly and commit fully, to realise the commercial opportunity that decarbonisation and sustainable innovation unlocks.”

How are companies tackling sustainability?

In terms of what companies have begun doing, 50% either have done or are planning a sustainability audit, 46% have a dedicated sustainability lead and 46% have created a checklist.

IAB Europe’s study asserts that the industry is not quite yet up to standard with the measurement of digital adverts' influence on CO2 emissions. A potential reason for this sluggishness, as cited by a third of respondents, is the lack of education (33%) and lack of industry standards (30%) regarding sustainability measurement.

There is a general belief among almost half those surveyed (49%) that industry publications are failing to adequately cover sustainability in digital advertising. Yet, just 53% of respondents agreed that their organisation is prioritising sustainability as a strategic goal. This is despite 75% believing that their company tackling sustainability is important to their employees.

Andrew Hayward-Wright, IAB Europe’s Programmatic & Sustainability Advisor, said: “It is clear from the results that a combination of measurement, standards, and solutions will be key to driving sustainability in digital advertising forward.

“This year, IAB Europe will focus on delivering standardisation of reporting whilst supporting the industry as it navigates the complex European regulatory environment of sustainability."