Anne Coghlan of Scope3 joins the BSuite podcast with host Anne Richardson.

Episode 7: Reducing The Carbon Impact of Digital Advertising with Anne Coghlan

In this episode, Anne Richardson hosts a cutting-edge conversation about the relationship between sustainability and digital advertising with ad-tech sustainability pioneer and co-founder of Scope3, Anne Coghlan. The two Annes (Anne and Anne) break down the ways digital advertising contributes to a company’s carbon footprint, how companies and advertisers can minimize their advertising emissions, and reveal Scope3’s next steps on their mission to decarbonize the entire digital advertising ecosystem.

When I started in ad tech, people always told me not to be too stressed because we're not saving lives. But actually, this is part of the reason why I founded Scope3. I do wake up thinking about how I can hopefully remove some of the carbon from the atmosphere and that will save lives in the future.

Key Takeaways

Decarbonizing the Advertising Industry

As an ad tech professional, Anne Coghlan has always been fascinated by efficiency and algorithms. However, it wasn’t until she connected with her Scope3 co-founders while working in finance that she began to consider the importance of sustainability and question the real world implications of the ad tech industry. As Anne began to ponder the carbon impact of digital advertising, she had a “back of envelope” realization that by decarbonizing digital advertising, she and her co-founders could make a huge difference for the climate. Today, Scope3 provides tools that advertisers can leverage in order to factor carbon emissions into their ad buying decisions. Scope3 has paved a road for advertising agencies like Richardson Media Group who strive to minimize the carbon footprint of the ads they buy on behalf of their clients.

What are Scope 3 Emissions?

Scope3 takes its name from the term used by climate change experts to describe the carbon emissions generated by an organization’s supply chain. Coghlan recommends that business owners who want to reduce their scope 3 emissions should “ensure the criteria that you set for yourselves are also being set throughout your supply chain.” In the world of digital marketing, advertisers have countless choices about how to buy ads and from whom to buy them. By prioritizing publishers and platforms that are working to minimize their carbon impacts, agencies can minimize their scope 3 emissions by extension. Coghlan shares that last year, the digital advertising ecosystem generated a carbon footprint equivalent to 66 million SUVs being filled with gasoline, a startling figure that Scope3 is on a mission to reduce.

Lower Carbon Impact Equals Better Ad Performance

Coghlan shares that advertisers often worry that reducing their carbon impact will hurt their ROI and the performance of their ads. She assures them that their fears are unfounded because the opposite is actually true. Ad publishers with higher emissions often offer unfriendly user experiences for advertisers and consumers in the form of webpages littered with ads and fraudulent metrics. Eliminating waste from a carbon emissions perspective improves user experience and thereby minimizes waste from a campaign performance perspective. Anne summarizes how more eco-friendly ad publishers have an advantage in the digital space: “the performance of those websites and the commitment that those website publishers have made to making their websites perform more sustainably is also affecting the carbon impact of the ads that are served on those websites.”

What’s Next for Anne Coghlan and Scope3?

Scope3 has just begun their journey towards decarbonizing the ad industry. Coghlan envisions a near future for digital media buyers which will include access to reportable carbon metrics that can be used as benchmarks and incentives for improvement. She also shares that Scope3’s immediate goals involve producing guidance for sustainable creative development practices such as photo and video shoots. They’re also pursuing B Corp certification to join a global community of like-minded businesses and in doing so, they hope that B Lab will begin considering the carbon impact of advertising in its future iterations of the B Impact Assessment. Our episode concludes as Coghlan shares a favorite quote: “If you’re going to be optimistic but passive, don’t do it. If you’re going to be pessimistic but paralyzed, that’s not good either. You just have to be active in every sense of the world.”