As the world faces climate change and a global energy crisis, leaders across industries are evaluating new ways to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact. Meanwhile, recent social justice movements have shed light on equity and inclusion, and corporate shortcomings. To ensure progress is made on all of these, environmental, social and governance (ESG) guidelines are increasingly being used to assess progress towards a more equitable and sustainable future.
In this Q&A session, ExchangeWire Chief Content Officer John Still talks to Julie Selman, Senior Vice President of EMEA, magnite to discuss the new urgency to adopt ESG standards in ad tech.
Is ESG seen as a priority by the industry as a whole?
Significant changes in society over the past two years have prompted more companies to consider how they contribute to a more diverse, equitable and sustainable future. Movements like #Metoo, BlackLivesMatter and events like the UN COP26 conference, as well as the visible effects of climate change, such as the catastrophic floods in Pakistan, have highlighted the need for an environmental, social and governance (ESG) guidelines.
Meanwhile, consumers are taking a closer look at products and companies to see if their values align. Climate change, for example, is now part of mainstream consciousness, with 64% of people believing climate change is a global emergency.
As a result, brands are (rightly) putting more emphasis on ESG and specifically on their impact on the environment for two reasons: a. It’s the right thing to do, and b. Consumers pay attention. In today’s market, brands that ignore ESG risk turning against consumers. Because we work in advertising, public sentiment has a direct effect on how we approach our roles and our industry. We, like the brands we work with, need to evolve. And quickly!
What more can and should we do?
Awareness and knowledge are key to moving our industry forward in a more equitable and sustainable way. Most companies are aware of the issues in general, but don’t fully understand how ad technology impacts the environment specifically.
For example, Daniel Knapp, chief economist at IAB Europe, recently stated that the digital advertising industry is responsible for 2% of carbon emissions. That’s a really shocking number if you think about it!
On the theme of diversity, there was a campaign in March in the Netherlands, where I come from, which really blew me away. Equileap and Women Inc. found that there are more CEOs named “Peter” in the supposedly liberal and fair Netherlands, than female CEOs. These kinds of data points are really key to raising awareness of the issues we need to address when it comes to ESG. Currently, there is not yet a critical mass of awareness. Knowledge gathering is still ongoing and there are still significant gaps.
The next step, of course, is to ask, “What are we actually doing about this? Company policies and behaviors will have to change. The next phase will be normalization, where these problems have been solved at least in a basic way or ideally, have been solved.
Is there enough information available regarding the societal and environmental impact of advertising technologies?
As far as I know, there isn’t a ton of information out there regarding the broader impact of ad tech on society and the planet. However, more research is being developed on this front. Magnite recently joined Ad Net Zero which is an incredibly relevant and useful initiative for the advertising and media industry and I am personally part of a new sustainability group IAB UK. We are currently putting together a basic glossary, so people can learn more about general sustainability terms and find more ESG data and resources specifically related to the digital advertising industry.
Overall, developing ESG literacy will take time and depend on input from people across the industry. The IAB UK Sustainability Group will hopefully be one of many programs that will help spread industry knowledge, which can then lead to action.
What are your hopes for the ad tech industry in terms of ESG?
I hope we can come together and move from the awareness and knowledge phase to the action and normalization phase as soon as possible. Many initiatives and new organizations are emerging to address ESG, but we are only at the beginning stages. The advantage of working in technology and being close to and part of innovation is that we can make a real difference.
What trends are defining your industry?
SPO has been a hot topic in recent years: the idea of having a transparent and cost-effective supply chain. If you look at SPO through a sustainability lens, the additional criteria is to assess the most efficient routes from an energy perspective as well. How can you reduce the number of hops in the supply chain, reduce the amount of unnecessary data collected and stored, and ensure that you are targeting the best and most efficient supply path possible?
Faced with the possible obsolescence of third-party cookies, the objectives of SPO also change. SPO’s initial goal was to promote greater efficiency and transparency. Now there is also the goal of streamlining paths that can continue to provide audience addressability and measurability in the future while protecting consumer privacy.
What are the main challenges and opportunities from an ESG perspective?
The main challenge I see is that for companies learning the depth and scope of ESG issues can be overwhelming. This can cause leaders to do nothing rather than do something because they panic and don’t know where to start.
This is why knowledge is so essential. We can all do something and take steps in the right direction without it having to be the perfect path. There are now tools like carbon calculators that are imperfect but at least give people a better understanding of the impact of their travel or emissions.
Another challenge is misinformation. There is the hyperbolic idea that if we apply ESG guidelines, we will all go bankrupt because no one will be able to make a profit. However, a successful and forward-looking business will focus on the three Ps in unison: people, planet and profits.
What is Magnite doing in the ESG space?
We constantly strive to seize the opportunity to deliver long-term value to all of our stakeholders. Broadly, we have identified three of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (“UN SDGs”) to which we contribute directly through our ESG strategy. The first is talent engagement, which aims to create an inclusive, fair and sustainable work environment that drives employee engagement.
Second, we focus on energy and environmental efficiency, to identify and continuously reduce Magnite’s environmental footprint through operational innovation and strong energy management. We are currently collaborating with internal and external experts to develop a framework to transparently improve our energy efficiency. Third, we follow responsible advertising and data governance, to maintain strong compliance and oversight processes to ensure transparency and responsible advertising on our platforms, while protecting fundamental privacy principles in our collection and use. Datas.