08/05/2024 | insights

Decarbonizing an industry

As we race through 2024, many brands are preparing their strategies for operating in a world without third-party cookies. At Resolve, we're creating an opportunity to do things differently, putting privacy at the centre of our approach to future-proof targeting capabilities in digital. While marketers are navigating these monumental shifts in how they plan and measure, we see this as an opportunity to make another important change - and that's how we decarbonize digital advertising.


By now we are all familiar with the huge threat facing our planet. We are in a climate emergency and those least able to cope with the impacts will be hardest hit.

All industries have a responsibility to significantly reduce carbon emissions, including the advertising industry.

Right now, it is estimated that digital advertising generates approx. 3.5% of global greenhouse gasses every year. (GHG) To put that into context, advertising generates more CO₂ than the total GHG for the countries Pakistan, the Philippines or the Netherlands. It is a significant number.

What’s more, it is increasing at an alarming rate. Advertised emissions rose 11% from 2019 to 2022 – equivalent to Kenya’s total emissions in 2022.

Thankfully, there is recognition amongst us all that we need to rapidly improve this, and the industry is moving in the right direction by setting aggressive targets for decarbonization. As an example, WPP has committed to reducing scope 3 emissions by 50% by 2030. However, this goal is only achievable if we start making changes now.

So where do brands start?

When it comes to digital, at the end of the year, brands will have a choice. Do they want to work with solutions based on contextual signals, potentially running the risk of significantly more media wastage (and an estimated increase in GHG emissions) or do they want to find alternatives to targeting capabilities previously reliant on 3rd party cookies? The expectation is that most will go with the latter.

While the more targeted approach will significantly reduce wastage, you’ll be reaching your target audience with an approach that will be heavily reliant on the use of data (and the associated emissions that come with such an approach).

One of the largest contributors to digital’s CO₂ emissions is a result of the data processing needed. Globally it is estimated that data centres account for 2% of total GHG emissions and that number is expected to increase every year from here on out. Again, for some helpful context, the airline industry accounts for 2.5% of global GHG emissions.

The result is that what ever approach brands take there are still likely to be significant GHG emissions as a result of their brand’s digital approach.

So what else can brands do to improve the sustainability of their media practices?

  • Understand the impact of your media with a carbon calculator to assess the CO₂ footprint of your plans.
  • Partner with those that have set aggressive targets to reduce their scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, those emissions that they have direct control over (travel, infrastructure etc.)
  • Work with partners who are working to reduce scope 3 emissions, for digital that means looking at the entire digital supply chain.
  • Seek out alternatives to the status quo. Including new technologies

Moving forward, brands need to consider how they both target effectively and efficiently, and also sustainably.

Resolve computes on the edge

As an industry, we’ve become used to mining data and sending it to various 3rd parties for processing, storage or activation (DSPs etc.).

Resolve recognizes that this approach is not only a challenge when it comes to protecting the privacy of the online population but is also generating huge amounts of additional (and unnecessary) GHG emissions. (due to the additional processing and storage of data)

Resolve’s approach is to compute on the edge. Meaning we deploy our models into a brand or publisher’s own data instance. Reducing the need for data to be moved, transformed, processed and stored elsewhere. Which is the default for most right now and is over-reliant on emission heavy data processing.

We are also considered in our modelling approach. Utilizing the use of pre-trained models and fine tuning them for a specific task vs. constantly remodeling which takes up significantly more resources.

Finally, we also look at how we reduce our scope 3 emissions by actively working with other technology providers who share our ambition to decarbonize digital advertising. For example, working with partners who use 100% renewable energy to power their data centers, or those that are working with third parties such as Ad Net Zero to identify new ways to reduce their emissions in the supply chain.

At this point of inflection in our industry, there is an opportunity for all to do better. from being respectful of consumer privacy to significantly reducing our impact on the planet. Resolve is ahead of the game in this case, all the time driving significant efficiencies and effectiveness for our clients.

Exciting times are ahead.

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