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Net-zero – time for action

As an industry, we urgently need to do more to reduce our environmental impact.

By James Evelegh

Net-zero – time for action

According to some estimates, data processing across the internet causes about 2% of global carbon emissions. The programmatic ecosystem, on which publishing relies on for so much of its revenue, is a hugely wasteful and resource-intensive process, with huge amounts of data being passed between multiple players in every bid request.

With the impact of climate change becoming more apparent – this year has seen Hurricane Ian, devasting flooding in Pakistan and even wildfires on the edge of London – the pressure is on for everyone to play their part.

This includes publishers, agencies and the whole ad supply chain.

This was the subject of an AOP podcast this week, part of its Publishing Tech Talk event.

The industry has been talking about what it can do to address these issues for a number of years and there was consensus on the podcast that the time for talking was almost over and that action was needed.

Essence’s Laura Wade said the industry urgently needed to accelerate to a place where measurement methodologies and benchmarks were widely agreed. Her timescale for this was a matter of months.

Key reference points mentioned in the podcast were the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and Group M’s decarbonisation framework.

One thing Laura was keen to emphasise was that the ambition was not carbon neutrality but net-zero. “There is a difference,” she said. There would always be a role for offsetting but the primary objective was to make significant long-term reductions in emissions.

The industry needs to act fast, for two reasons: firstly, it’s the right thing to do; secondly, if we don’t act, then government will step in and we will find ourselves on the backfoot.

For Right Thing Media’s Gerson Barnett, this was part of the wider ESG (environment, social, governance) movement, being taken up by the City and others, whereby companies that invest in ESG initiatives are rewarded and those that don’t aren’t.

Publishing looks like it’s heading in the same direction and those that take their environmental responsibilities seriously will be the winners.

You can catch James Evelegh’s regular column in the InPubWeekly newsletter, which you can register to receive here.