Top 5 Key Lessons From the Green Media Summit Hosted By Sharethrough

This article was originally written by Sharethrough published on April 27, 2023.

Sharethough’s Green Media Summit was the advertising industry’s first conference on sustainability. Held on April 13, 2023, nearly 300 professionals from all sides of the industry came together at the Edison Ballroom in New York to share their findings, learn actionable insights to bring back to their organizations and meet like-minded individuals focusing on sustainability.

Throughout the 10 sessions featuring over 25 speakers, 5 major trends and lessons emerged, which are helpful for anyone in the industry looking to catch up on the state of sustainability in advertising.

But first, enjoy this short video recap of the event.

1. There’s No Time to Waste

To kick off the event, Noel Anderson, Chief Sustainability Officer at American Red Cross, set the stage with context on how climate change is impacting human life across the planet and why it is crucial that every person, country and organization takes actions to improve sustainability efforts and lower carbon emissions.

Throughout the day, the topic of action over perfection reiterated the need for the advertising community to stop wasting time and start making changes. On the IAB Tech Lab panel, Hillary Slattery, Director of Programmatic at IAB Tech Lab and Curt Larson, Chief Product Officer at Sharethrough used the analogy of fighting fires, “If the fire truck shows up at a house, they don’t stop to analyze which rooms are on fire. They just start fighting fire and then they learn as they go.”

Even measuring your current emissions, internally or externally, is a good start. Richard Davis, CEO & Co-Founder of carbon emissions measurement and reduction company 51toCarbonZero shared how organizations can build a sustainability action plan. His presentation helped reduce the stigma that measuring, reducing and ultimately reaching net-zero emissions is difficult. Any organization can get started right away but it’s up to individuals like you (yes you who cares enough to read this article) to become a champion at your organization to prioritize the path to sustainability.

Richard Davis from 51toCarbon0 at the Green Media Summit sharing a 5-point action plan to reach net zero emissions.

2. We Need Standards for Measuring Carbon Emissions

Many sessions at the Green Media Summit emphasized the need for a standard measurement of carbon emissions. Currently, there is no universal standard, leading to a disjointed approach within the industry. The panel of agency sustainability leads from GroupM, Publicis, IPG, and Havas highlighted the importance of working together to establish agreed-upon standards. Many attendees left the panel with optimism that if those four competitive agencies can unanimously agree on stage that they need to work together to create standards, then these standards will happen sooner rather than later.

The question of who should develop and enforce these standards was also discussed at the summit. AdNetZero, Scope3, and the IAB Tech Lab all shared their individual and joint efforts in creating standards for the industry. Once again, the collaboration was cause for optimism that 2023 could be the year standards are set.

Panelists discussing how agencies will hold the digital industry accountable for reaching net-zero emissions.

Related: 5 Simple Ways Brands Can Make Display Ads More Sustainable — Sharethrough

3. Sustainability Leads to Better Outcomes for Brands

A recent McKinsey and NielsenIQ study shows that sustainable packaging results in a 28% growth in sales vs. 20% without. Knowing this, brands can use sustainability as a competitive advantage. At iRobot, Jennie Mucciarone, Digital Media Strategist said the drive to become more energy efficient in their products led to product innovations that improved the efficiency and speed of their robot vacuums.

And the improvements don’t stop there. By running GreenPMPs™ to neutralize the emissions from their digital ad campaigns, iRobot saw performance improvements across the board. 

Martin Bryan, Chief Sustainability Officer at UM and Mediabrands, proclaimed that proving sustainability yields higher ROI is the key to motivating brands to prioritize green media products. He was excited to announce at the summit that their Magna Media Trials team is about to publish research that shows a correlation between sustainable media and positive outcomes for brands.

Combined together, focusing on sustainability can lead to sales growth, product innovations and improved ad campaign performance.

Jennie Mucciarone, Digital Media Strategist at iRobot speaks to Brian Murphy, Founder of the Alpine Project.

4. Advertisers and DSPs Can be a Catalyst for Positive Change

Advertisers have the chance to become leaders of sustainability within the media and ads industry. With their purchasing power, advertisers can “vote with their wallets” and choose to only spend with low-to-no emission publishers, enforce measurement standards and require that servers are powered by renewable energy. And, like the fast development and adoption of the ads.txt and sellers.json files that agencies and DSPs demanded, those same advertisers and DSPs can demand the adoption of sustainability best practices and solutions to accelerate the path for the industry to reach net zero by 2030.

Demand-side platforms (DSPs) can play a role in promoting sustainability by simplifying the process for programmatic ad buyers to locate and purchase net-zero, net-neutral, or reduced-emissions supply paths. The simpler DSPs can make transactions for advertisers, without affecting performance, the faster green media products can grow. These solutions will also encourage publishers who have already taken steps to lower their carbon emissions.

5. Supply Path Optimization Can Lead to Carbon Path Optimization

Throughout the day, supply path optimization (SPO) was highlighted as an effective solution for reducing carbon emissions. Every step an ad takes in the programmatic ecosystem requires more energy and computing power, leading to higher carbon footprint. As a result, reducing the number of steps involved can significantly decrease an organization’s overall carbon emissions. Advertisers can achieve this by identifying and optimizing the most efficient supply paths to reach their desired publisher, while publishers can limit the number of partners allowed to bid on each impression or fire pixels.

Chao Liao, SVP of Revenue Ops & Data Strategy at Insider Advertising, shared that Insider reduced its carbon emissions by 20% in Q1 2021 by evaluating their ads.txt files and removing resellers and partners generating limited revenue, without any impact on ROI. 

Brian O’Kelley, CEO and Co-Founder of Scope3, added that SPO efforts and even removing wasteful sites like made-for-advertising sites have three positive impacts: advertisers achieve better outcomes, more advertising budgets are directed to premium publishers who can then hire better writers and journalists, and carbon is reduced throughout the entire supply chain.

Jennie Mucciarone of iRobot says they are looking to take SPO a step further and achieve “carbon path optimization” by reducing emissions as much as possible through SPO, but also removing ads from sites with low outcomes and compensating for the remaining emissions they can’t reduce.

Related: [Infographic] Research Reveals Consumer Understanding of Advertising’s Impact on Carbon Emissions — Sharethrough

Sustainability Isn’t a Race, It’s a Marathon

It was inspiring to see how many different people and organizations from all over media and advertising rallied around sustainability at the first-ever Green Media Summit. Reducing campaign emissions or becoming a net zero organization isn’t the finish line. Instead, these are checkpoints in a longer marathon the entire industry is running. While some may be running faster than others, what’s important is that we work together, even pre-competitively, to achieve net-zero emissions.  

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