There is a great sense of enthusiasm in making advertising as environmentally sustainable as possible. Many leading companies have already made significant commitments in this respect. But, such aspirations often become misguided by lack of available relevant information and the general difficulty of understanding complex systems.
Environmental Impact Assessment of Online Advertising, a peer-reviewed paper published in 2018, highlights how close to 100% of emissions in advertising come from delivering and displaying online ads. However, today in 2021, most advertising industry companies believe that emissions instead come from auxiliary sources, such as office buildings and business travel. In summary, what the industry decision-makers widely believe in causing 100% of industry emissions, actually causes less than 1% of emissions.
"Less than 1% of emissions in advertising are caused by buildings and travel"
Moreover, there is a misunderstanding that it is possible to offset carbon emissions by planting trees effectively. Carbon offsetting is the practice where fossil fuels are used as a source of energy, and trees are planted to offset that. But planting new trees is not a viable solution as long as mature trees are being cut down. A decade after planting, ten thousand Birch trees in Finland cannot offset the same amount of carbon a single mature rainforest tree can offset.
The primary means by which advertising emissions can be minimized are two. First, there are various means of reducing energy consumption. Second, there is a way to limit energy consumption to certified renewable energy. In terms of reducing energy consumption, there are two ways. One way is to reduce energy consumption at the expense of the value delivered to advertisers and their partners. This is called “Primitive Energy Efficiency.” The second way is to reduce energy consumption without compromising the value delivered to advertisers and their partners. This is called “Energy Efficiency.” The second and superior way is achieved by engineering excellence.
"When energy consumption is reduced without compromising business value, this is called energy efficiency"
With Cavai, we work hard to be the stalwarts of energy efficiency in advertising. As our first major industry contribution in this respect, we will be publishing a novel framework for attaining energy efficiency in the advertising industry. The framework establishes five factors that can be used to describe any advertising system. Furthermore, the framework introduces five aspects of each of the factors, making up the 25 Intervention Vectors. Advertising technology companies can readily apply the Intervention Vectors to improve their energy efficiency dramatically without compromising advertiser value.