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Demystifying Sustainability

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Authors: Céline Tran, Callie Strickland and Catherine Le Liboux

We are all familiar with acronyms, new buzzwords and trends in programmatic. Over the past months, everyone has been talking about sustainability. At TWIPN, we are looking to help demystify sustainability and help ensure more efficient and sustainable solutions. So, what does sustainability look like in programmatic advertising?

Sustainability is a complex and multifaceted concept encompassing a wide range of environmental, social, and economic issues. It is not just about climate change and the future of the planet, but also about how we build and grow our businesses, industries, and advertising campaigns.

So, where do you start?

Be the leader of change

One of the challenges you will face in your journey is convincing the sceptical ones at work and it could be difficult to shift top leadership’s mindset towards genuine commitment and playing the long game. The key hurdle often lies in leaders’ capacity to navigate change and complexity. It is important to look at Innovative collaboration and upskills to nurture mindsets and qualities required to be sustainable champions within your organisation. The Inner development goals provides many free resources that can help with developing your inner abilities.

Look into your personal sustainable journey

There are several concrete steps that individuals can take to advance their sustainability journey. Here are the examples:

  • Reduce energy consumption and use renewable energy sources if/where possible,

  • Eat more plants and less animal products

  • Limit air travel and choose sustainable modes of transportation wherever possible

  • Limit unnecessary purchases

  • Buy from sustainable brands (i.e. B Corp certified)

  • Educate yourself about sustainability, i.e. The Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership (CISL) 8-week course about sustainable marketing, media and creative or free courses are available on the United Nations (UN SDGs Learn’s website).

These above steps can be also applied to businesses to help reduce carbon footprints at the office. For business travels, review your travel policy so it encourages sustainable habits too.

Sustainability is not the responsibility of just one person at work

Everyone should be involved in the company strategy with sustainable actions that align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals provide a framework for addressing global challenges such as poverty, inequality, and climate change. Here are some pointers to prepare your strategy for action:

  • What is the company's purpose? Is your purpose based on the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social and economic?

  • Create your ambition statement that identifies your personal purpose and the sustainability challenges that you want to address

  • Define your measurable objectives that will help you achieve your desired change

  • Specify the actions that are required to meet each of your objectives and measure your progress

  • Identify the partners and collaborations that can be involved in your strategy

Measuring is what could be difficult to do at this present time as you might need to find external partners to help. Whilst there are many tools that you can purchase to measure and monitor, we recommend looking at the free impact assessment from the B-corp first as it gives some very good guidance.

For those of us working in programmatic and looking to advance sustainability, what can we do? To simplify, it’s all about reducing, measuring and influencing.

  • We can reduce the carbon emissions of our ad campaigns by choosing the most direct and efficient sources of supply and by measuring the performance with key sustainability metrics.

  • Another step is the advertising campaign itself: think about how your campaigns can encourage more sustainable behaviours from consumers.

  • Well-known brands like Patagonia are often referenced in sustainability. Check their recent work and their ad campaigns which are great examples of how to influence better behaviours.

  • To avoid greenwashing traps, remember to be authentic and check if your sustainable claims are true. The WWF provides good guidelines - watch out for buzzwords, proofs of your claims, verification and evidence; and remember about the three pillars of sustainability (environmental, social and economic).

From a supply perspective:

  • We all talk about supply path optimisation, but we also tend to forget that optimising your most direct demand will reduce the volume of lines to add in your ad.txt! Consider asking your demand partners to implement the buyer.json from the IAB

  • Taking steps to remove traffic waste (low fill rate for example)

  • Investing in technology and infrastructure that use renewable energy sources are also great starting points.

  • You can audit your tech stack and set targets using the Science-Based Targets.

  • Traffic shaping tools also make sense in helping with efficiency.

  • Review your editorial/creative guidelines and the accepted media file sizes - running smaller sizes load quicker

If you need more stats and arguments about sustainability, here are some key ones:

  • The advertising industry has a responsibility to its impact on the planet: the UK advertising industry now influences, and is responsible for, an increase in the carbon footprint of every citizen in the UK’, from 28% in 2019 to 32% in 2022 (Purpose Disruptors)

  • Sustainability helps retain talents: 56% of employees are more inclined to stay with a company if they have a strong sustainability record – meaning sustainability has implications for keeping your best people. (GetSmarter)

  • Sustainability cuts operational costs: Reducing material waste through zero and low-waste policies can improve operating profits by as much as 60%. (McKinsey)

  • People want to prioritise a good life: In 2023, citizens’ visions of 2030 still orient towards a stronger sense of interconnectedness, seeking a deeper connection to self, others and nature. (Purpose Disruptors & Insight Climate Collective)

To sum up, sustainability is not just about protecting the environment, but also about promoting well-being for all. TWIPN is on a mission to encourage our members to be committed to the triple bottom line of planet, people and purpose.

TWIPN would like to hear about your sustainability journey and the resources you need in this space. We would love to hear from you and would be grateful if you could share your thoughts HERE. Your responses will help us tailor our first sustainability workshop and provide members with concrete actions to use in their personal or professional lives.

Remember that every small step you take towards a more sustainable lifestyle can make a big difference! Together we can do great things!

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