Member Q&A Series: Road to Sustainability: Reducing the industry’s Carbon Footprint

On March 03, 2022 Research & Resources

In 2022, IAB Australia are looking to provide further education and understanding on key topics that pertain to the digital advertising industry. One of these is Sustainability. In 2021, we worked with our members and experts on this topic on a Q&A piece that was focused on Sustainable Marketing and how it is affecting consumers, brands and the planet. This year we are looking to deepen the conversation on Sustainability and find out about the policy changes and practices that companies in our industry are making to reduce their footprint directly through their own businesses and through their partnerships.

Thank you to those who contributed from Val Morgan, SeenThisBBC Global News and Gumtree


Paul MacGregor, Director of Strategy and Marketing, Val Morgan

Why is everyone suddenly talking about sustainability?

The science of climate change is irrefutable and it’s a global trend that will be detrimental to communities, environments, businesses, and the long-term economic prospects of our industry.

The simplest way to think about ‘sustainability’ is as a movement. The movement is being driven at a global level as part of the guiding principles of the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, from a climate change perspective, the Paris Agreement (and the subsequent COP26) outlined emissions targets which 196 countries (including Australia!) agreed to. The aim of both is to shape future economic development and secure the well-being of people across the planet.

To reach a net-zero goal, an effective emissions policy requires 3 major players to act:

  • Governments setting policies which incentivise zero or low carbon energy supply and infrastructure
  • Finance sector that focuses investment in zero or low carbon businesses 
  • Businesses that invest in products, services, and supply chains to reach zero or low carbon footprints.

In Australia, we haven’t needed to work within progressive government climate policies. However, due to the global interconnectedness of multi-national brands, advertising agencies, media, and tech solutions, we are starting to see the effects of predominately EU and UK sustainability policies within our local business interactions.

At the heart of this change are Corporate ESG Disclosures which companies submit annually either mandatorily (UK/EU) or voluntarily (Aus). This is important for our industry because these disclosures look beyond the owned mechanisms of the business and broaden the scope to understand the impact of the company’s global supply chain, this includes advertising agencies, technology services, and media partners.

The Australian advertising industry is entering a new marketplace where having a sustainability plan is no longer a feel-good, virtue signalling CSR project, but a critical business strategy. The future success of your business will depend on it.

For some businesses they aren’t even sure where to start, what advice could you offer as a first step?

There are 3 key steps to kicking off a sustainability plan for your company:

Invest in training: Most businesses in our industry won’t have the resources to invest in a dedicated sustainability team. This makes the role of external sustainability training for existing employees both a good commercial and cultural investment.

Build a strategy: Spend time developing a sustainability strategy that is holistic and long-term. The strategy needs to go beyond simple carbon off-setting and CSR projects, to a vision that reflects the positive contribution your business (and its supply chain) can have on the environment and community it exists within.

Create Champions: Whilst any sustainability strategy needs to be owned by the leadership team, create champions across departments which can own, drive, and action the vision.


Adam Roberts, Sales Director AUNZ, SeenThis

Are sustainability conversations becoming more frequent between your organisation and vendors or clients? How do you feel this is impacting business relationships?

Absolutely! Brands are feeling pressure from board level, through the c-level and down, conversely from society back up into their organisation - ‘how sustainable is our digital media strategy?’.


Everyday we speak to our agency and platform partners throughout Australia about the positive environmental impact they can deliver to their clients, on top of the cost and performance benefits, by switching the delivery method of their digital media strategy from a rudimentary download protocol, to an adaptive streaming protocol.

When you compare the cost and time it takes for a brand to identify and implement emission reduction initiatives, next to adopting a streaming strategy, the savings are considerable.


In Dec’21, SeenThis published the first in a series of whitepapers on the topic of our industry’s unique position to reduce the internet’s CO2 impact on the environment. The whitepaper has generated a huge response from agencies, media owners, publishers and brands direct – and the primary aim of this research is to literally just start the conversation, which I’m glad to see it has begun to do! With the conversations that have been generated, it does add a level of complexity, but it also adds a lot of positivity to the discussion because it’s a win-win for both sides, media performance uplift and reduced data/energy waste = less CO2 emissions.


To reinforce the above in Q4 last year alone, SeenThis was asked to participate in multiple pitches across Australian agency groups where the emphasis was on the sustainability of the digital strategy being recommended; when a media plan is activated via adaptive streaming, the carbon savings being made can be calculated in tonnes. This is valuable to brands & advertisers as the carbon savings do not require any capital investment other than the cost of media.

At the end of the day, SeenThis is in the business of delivering marketing communications & content via our adaptive streaming technology; a fantastic by-product of our day-to-day operations are the significant data savings and positive environmental impact, which is of growing importance to brands & their customers in every industry.


What policies and practices does your organisation have in place to help on the road towards net zero?

I am very proud of the lead that SeenThis is taking with policies and practices not only within our own business, but with our partners too, to deliver on ESG commitments.

We believe that it is critical for the media industry to start measuring emissions from digital advertising, as a standard for this type of measurement simply does not exist.

To even begin to understand the scale of the problem, we need to first find and then agree on an industry wide, acceptable method of measurement. This motivated us to invest in our own understanding of the digital media space and develop our own opinions on what alternative solutions for standardised measurement could look like.

In mid-2021, SeenThis invested in an independent sustainability analysis which engaged a global management consultancy and ICT sustainability experts from some of Europe’s top universities to publish a whitepaper on what the current state looks like. (download your own copy of the whitepaper HERE)

The fact that data transfer reduction is also one of the top KPI’s that our product development team are continuously working on improving, shows our commitment to advancing this discussion and ensuring that it is incorporated into how we engage and work with our partners in every market SeenThis is in.

Our commitment to this is also demonstrated by the recent hiring of our first ever sustainability lead, who will advance this work right across the SeenThis business.


Terri Seow, Vice President: Marketing & Insights APAC, BBC Global News

Question: What policies and practices does your organisation have in place to help on the road towards net zero?

As a world-renowned publisher and content provider, engaging our audiences with global sustainability and the climate crisis is a key focus both editorially and commercially; from in-depth coverage and analysis on our news platforms to groundbreaking natural history content like ‘The Green Planet.’

In response to a growing audience need for more sustainability content, BBC Future Planet( was launched in 2020, devoted to covering the climate crisis and the environment in a solution focussed way. Each Future Planet story carries a figure estimating the carbon emissions associated with creating it – taking into consideration carbon emissions from reporters’ transport for the story, and emissions from the digital infrastructure needed to publish it. As far as we know, BBC Future Planet is the first major environmental publication to take this step.

We are also focusing on a ‘deep decarbonisation’ strategy across the business, targeting and eliminating fossil fuel usage across our operations to drastically reduce the amount of carbon produced. Details of the strategy include: switching to renewables and electric vehicles; reducing business travel; continuing to implement more sustainable production methods; and working collaboratively with the BBC’s suppliers to reduce emissions within their own organisations.

We also believe in the importance of supporting the industry towards net zero. The BBC continues to play an active and prominent role in the collaborative pan-industry BAFTA albert Consortium and Directorate, of which the BBC is a founder member, having gifted the albert carbon calculator to BAFTA a decade ago. BBC StoryWorks, our inhouse commercial content studio, last year delivered their first ALBERT certified production for Hyundai and is piloting net zero campaigns in APAC this year and we believe this approach needs to become business as usual across all of StoryWorks output. For 20/21, all BBC Studios TV productions completed the albert carbon footprint with 98% managing to decrease carbon emissions; 48% of BBC programmes were albert certified, an increase of 14% YoY; and 93% of BBC programmes completed the albert carbon footprint.


Shannon Fitzpatrick, Director of Commercial Partnerships, Gumtree, CarsGuide and Autotrader

Are sustainability conversations becoming more frequent between your organisation and vendors or clients? How do you feel this is impacting business relationships?
Consumers and brands have increasingly become aware of their environmental responsibilities. From a business perspective, they’re looking at everything from production to operations as well as media buying. This trend is only accelerating in 2022 with growing consumer advocacy and the change in spending preferences, as Australians actively vote with their wallets. From our point of view as a marketplace, we have witnessed first-hand the definitive shift towards the adoption of more sustainable messaging, products and partnerships as a strategic business priority.

As an online marketplace, our three brands Gumtree, CarsGuide and Autotrader place the future of the planet and the experience of our community at the centre of our business model. In 2021, we partnered with Planet Ark, one of Australia’s most trusted environmental organisations, to educate Aussies on the environmental benefits of embracing more sustainable practices by driving the adoption of a national circular economy. Our CarsGuide platform is also playing an industry-leading role in educating Australians on the benefits of electric vehicles through our EV Guide, educating Australians with regular EV reviews and education.

Our media sales teams frequently have conversations with brands about the opportunity of taking part in the sustainability movement and the Australian circular economy – which our 2021 Trading in the Circular Economy Report revealed could be worth around $48 billion. We’re seeing more brands strive to participate in this global progressive movement and partner with like minded brands.

This year, we as a business,  are building on our commitment to the environment - and putting our money where our mouth is! -  through the launch of incentivised sustainable advertising packages, that both reward and assist our brand partners, who share our commitment to practise sustainability and make a positive impact on their community, as well as connect them with eco-conscious customers.

We believe that when a brand thinks and acts in a sustainable way, it has the authority to have a conversation with its customers that is a lot more impactful, beyond that of an initial point of discovery. Most importantly, it is not just for marketers, it is an opportunity for businesses to act in a way that is meaningful to consumers, the planet and their organisation as a whole.