As a result of the electricity used by the millions of servers that power real-time bidding, machine learning, identity management and beyond, digital advertising has proven to be a meaningful contributor to carbon emissions. Every step in the lifecycle – from creation to delivery – generates carbon emissions.
WPP, the world’s largest investor in media advertising, reports that 55% of its current carbon emissions come from the programmatic supply chain that delivers campaigns on behalf of its clients. That’s equivalent to 7.3 billion miles driven by a gas-powered vehicle, according to WPP.
To help brands respond to growing demands for higher sustainability standards, DoubleVerify (DV) has partnered with Scope3 to make the measurement and reporting of carbon emissions from digital ad campaigns as accessible as viewability, brand suitability and fraud/IVT.
DV’s carbon emissions measurement, powered by Scope3, provides brands with transparent and consistent reporting on the carbon footprint of their digital advertising. Scope3 has developed the industry’s first predictive model that calculates the end-to-end emissions of the digital advertising lifecycle, accounting for the complete carbon footprint of an ad campaign. This footprint includes the ad tech graph behind every impression they measure. As a result, Scope3 and DV are able to provide detailed campaign-based reporting that includes the emissions contributions from every digital supply chain entity across every campaign.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Anne Coghlan, co-founder and head of product at Scope3, to learn more about their best-in-class digital advertising emissions measurement.
Can you tell us how Scope3 first began and what your company offers?
My co-founders and I have backgrounds in ad tech and are deeply familiar with the programmatic ecosystem.
Most recently, we worked at a physical supply chain company, and we realized there were many of the same challenges in the digital supply chain as there were in “real-world” supply chains. We recognized this incredibly unique opportunity to optimize the digital supply chain for sustainability by allowing the entire media and advertising industry to measure emissions and factor the price of carbon into key decisions on a per impression basis.
Today, Scope3 offers a complete map of a digital ad’s carbon footprint. Every part of the value chain is considered to provide an emissions calculation. Our data enables companies to understand, reduce and, ultimately, decarbonize their digital advertising.
On a personal note, climate change is a topic I have always been passionate about. I was seven-years-old when I wrote to my local representatives because I was concerned about the hole in the ozone layer caused by humans and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The opportunity to use my knowledge of programmatic to drive not just local impact, but global, systemic change was a no-brainer.
What are Scope 3 carbon emissions and how do you measure them for digital advertising?
Under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the way emissions are categorized is split into 3 scopes:
- Scope 1 – Direct emissions like those from your company cars
- Scope 2 – Indirect emissions like purchasing electricity to heat your office
- Scope 3 – Emissions from across your value chain. For example, emissions from the suppliers that you work with
Though it is less regulated at this time, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol confirms that any scope 3 emissions in connection with a business should be measured as part of the footprint of a company.
Our team has built a robust and detailed model to measure the emissions of website and ad delivery emissions. This model uses both public and private data sources to map everything from the energy required to load a site where an ad is served to the overhead emissions of each vendor involved in the path for delivery. Tracking down data for accurate scope 3 measurement does not require engagement with every publisher or company in the value chain, but it does require an investment of time to gather sources and perform heuristic analysis on each site.
What would you say is the most unique aspect of your company compared with other carbon emission measurement vendors?
The granularity of our measurement sets us apart. Most calculations look at a subset of vendors or apply averages and often for just the scope 1 and 2 emissions. We include the indirect, scope 3 emissions from a company’s value chain that can account for up to 92% of the total carbon footprint for some digital advertising companies.
This granularity is possible, in part, due to our team’s deep knowledge of the complicated ad tech industry. We have experience in the intricacies of this space and are uniquely positioned to handle the complexities of the ecosystem.
What value does Scope3 provide to digital advertisers? Why do you believe they should include environmental impact as an integral part of their strategy?
Global climate change is a serious issue, and consumers, employees and investors are becoming increasingly aware of the companies that are aligning with this value. Many brands are setting science-based targets and agencies are making net zero commitments. This is great to see but, in these cases, measurement is often inconsistent and does not include the full value chain.
Scope3 allows all parties in the digital advertising ecosystem to better understand and track the impact of their media planning decisions on the environment and take action to reach net zero targets and share progress with all stakeholders. Including scope 3 emissions in measurement is critical to driving true change in the advertising industry and beyond.
What first step(s) would you recommend to an advertiser who wants to start making carbon-aware decisions?
Start by setting a goal you can work towards – a commitment to decarbonizing, even if that means starting small. Begin by calculating your carbon footprint, so you can start building a roadmap to that commitment and determine how you will use data to make and track progress. DV’s integration with Scope3 data makes this incredibly easy. DV clients are able to see the grams of carbon for every campaign running with DV in a custom report.
Once you are able to calculate your carbon footprint, start making investment choices with carbon as a variable. Many leading publishers and suppliers are offering green media that is measured by Scope3 and fully compensates for the carbon emitted from serving the campaign.
If every advertiser made a reasonable effort to increase their investment in green media by 20% every year, the industry would be well on its way to a carbon-free future.
What are Green Media Products?
A Green Media Product (GMP) is a carbon-neutral media product powered by Scope3 data. Any existing display or mobile programmatic media product can be upgraded to a GMP if the seller contributes $100 per metric ton of emitted CO2e to a high-quality portfolio of carbon removal projects. Scope3 provides the emissions measurement and manages the workflow of creating, tracking and reporting on GMPs and their associated carbon removal contributions.
When advertisers shift spend towards green media measured by Scope3, carbon is directly removed from the atmosphere – plus sellers are incentivized to reduce their own footprints to keep their costs down.
What does the future look like for Scope3? Any innovations, focal areas or solutions that you’re looking forward to releasing?
We are rapidly expanding our measurement coverage across channels and are focused on making it as easy as possible for advertisers to shift spend to GMPs. I believe our industry can be one of, if not the first to fully decarbonize with 100% allocation towards green media.
If we can eliminate the carbon footprint of advertising, we can create a roadmap to dramatically lower the footprint of the Internet, which is one of the major components of global electricity use. And we’ll go from there.