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IAB Europe releases new Sustainability in Digital Advertising State of Readiness report

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IAB Europe, the leading European-level industry association for the digital and marketing ecosystem today announced the results of its new ‘State of Readiness – Sustainability in Digital Advertising’ Report. The survey received 256 respondents from across 29 European markets and shares key insights on how far the digital advertising industry is progressing on its journey towards the delivery of sustainable digital advertising. 

Sustainability is now a key focus for the digital advertising industry. Last year, it was estimated that a typical ad campaign emitted around 5.4 tons of Co2, with a programmatic ad impression producing around one gram of Co2 emissions. When the number of ad impressions transacted on a regular basis multiplies over time, it is easy to see how this has become an imperative problem for the industry. 

In order to gain insight into how the digital advertising industry is tackling sustainability and what measures individual companies have in place, IAB Europe’s Sustainability Standards Committee developed the State of Readiness – Sustainability in Digital Advertising survey. The survey attracted 256 respondents from across the digital advertising ecosystem with the vast majority coming from Ad Tech, Agency, and Publisher businesses, as well as Advertisers. 

Key Findings:

  • 55% of respondents believe that their company has started or made significant progress on its journey towards Co2e reduction. However, 18% have not yet started or thought about it yet.
  • In terms of what those companies are doing, 50% have done or are doing a sustainability audit, 46% have a dedicated sustainability lead and 46% have created a checklist.
  • When asked what the top three challenges were for businesses, sustainability is one of the top 3 challenges, ranking just below cookieless targeting and measurement.
  • The measurement of Co2e was cited as the top action needed to drive Co2e reduction in digital advertising (35% of respondents cited it as the most important focus), closely followed by the creation of consistent standards (33%) and providing tools and solutions that can reduce the Co2 emissions produced by digital ads today (25%). 
  • 51% of respondents stated that their companies currently do not measure the emissions produced by the delivery of digital ads. 

Commenting on the findings, 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.”

IAB Europe’s Sustainability Standards Committee which comprises over 40 European and Global organisations is using the survey findings to help shape its 2023 work plan. 

Commenting on the core focus, 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.”

Adding to the work being conducted by the  Committee, Steffen Johann Hubert, Associate Director & Lead Sustainability, Seven.One Media said, “Sustainability is indispensable for today’s and all future generations. Therefore we are pleased to be able to support the development of IAB Europe’s Sustainability Standards Committee. The challenge of reconciling the diverse sustainability requirements of regulations, investors, competitors, advertisers, employees, and consumers is enormous and will demand a lot from all market participants. Addressing a common understanding of the challenge via IAB Europe can form an important basis.”

Alongside the work of the Sustainability Standards Committee, IAB Europe has also set up a dedicated Working Group for European National IABs who are currently working together on a joint action plan and charter to show the industry’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, which will be released in the next few weeks.


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