Is it possible to reduce the carbon footprint in digital marketing?

Mar 29, 2022 | Articles

Sara Merino

Sara Merino


carbon emissions in digital marketing

Although it’s hard to believe, Internet usage has a large carbon footprint and it contributes heavily to global carbon emissions. It represents around 3.7% of the total emissions according to the BBC. To put it into perspective, it has a similar impact as the airline industry.

While some governments are making promises and creating policies for climate change, individual sectors also have the responsibility to innovate and make a change to reduce carbon emissions.

In digital marketing, people have been addressing this topic lately, as sustainability has become more of an important topic for both marketers and customers. Therefore, marketers have been doing and publishing research to try to understand and deliver sustainable solutions to reduce CO2.

However, it seems like implementing these solutions is more complex than we thought.

How does the digital marketing industry contribute to pollution?

The internet can be thought of as a supply chain. It begins with the storage of the information in data centers and ends its journey in our devices, such as smartphones and computers.

In fact, data transfer is the main driver of today’s internet energy usage, reaching 30% of the total consumption. Digital marketing just so happens to be based on data transfer, being video and display ads the ones that generate more CO2 emissions. And let’s not forget that ad sales are one of the main sources of revenue for publishers.

But it’s not so simple. While digital advertising’s definition can be dumbed down to transferring an image file from point A to B, in reality there are a lot of intermediaries in between. These intermediaries add more layers to the process and increase energy usage, like third-party tracking platforms or safety systems. That’s why, simplifying this process and connecting direct publishers with marketers can be a good way to decrease carbon footprint, like we do in DirectoPub.

According to marketing news platform The Drum, the increasing consumption of video and mobile networking and the demand for high quality resolutions will lead to a bigger digital carbon footprint. After all, advertisers and publishers are mostly forced to follow and keep up with the expectations of users.

carbon emissions in digital advertising

What are the challenges of reducing carbon footprint in digital marketing?

As we explained before, it’s not so easy to provide quick solutions to this issue. Some of the challenges we have are:

Difference of opinions regarding the footprint impact of the internet

This generates disagreements between different members of the industry, from business organizations to individual influential players that have their own agendas.

Difficulty to measure the CO2 impact

You can see that the information you find about the topic can vastly differ from different resources, since sources can use different methods to measure the CO2 emissions. This is why we need to come together and create standards to measure carbon footprint effectively.

Complexity of the industry

From the physical costs of creating and maintaining data infrastructures, to electricity consumption and the screen size of our devices. We need to focus our efforts in reducing the emissions in the key phases that produce more CO2.

Green certifications

Technology grows at a faster pace than research and the creation of certifications that verify the transparency and sustainability of the processes.

There is good news though! The industry is already working on changing the ad landscape and taking steps to reduce carbon emissions in digital marketing. The earlier we begin to do our part, the earlier we’ll create a more sustainable industry.

Does digital marketing produce carbon emissions?

Yes it does. Although it’s difficult to measure, it’s said that it represents 3.7% of the global carbon emissions. That’s why we need to come together in the industry and create solutions to reduce the carbon footprint.

What solutions exist to reduce the environmental impact of digital marketing?

First and foremost, we need to find a way to measure carbon emissions effectively. Also, focusing on those parts of the digital marketing process that emits the most CO2 is a way to find quicker and more successful solutions.

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