As companies around the world continue being held accountable for their sustainability initiatives, news media companies must look at how to prioritise their efforts to be part of that greener world.
INMA members heard some of the ways to do that during this week’s Webinar, How news media advertising teams can tackle the sustainability agenda.
Darshan Grover, a partner of cross-sectoral climate, ESG, and sustainability practice, and Tom Curtis, director of the telecoms, media, and technology practice from the management consulting firm Baringa, shared what sustainability means to the industry and what publishers should be focusing on.
The sustainability push represents tremendous opportunities for the news media industry, Curtis said:
“For advertisers and media owners, the prime opportunity here is to establish your brand as one that is committed to addressing this global challenge. Taking sustainability and the climate crisis more seriously, you can actually inspire your audience. That means you can retain them and attract a new audience.”
Younger generations are more conscious about the relationship between people, planet, and profit, so the media industry should be taking note, Curtis said. However, it’s important to enter such an initiative with the right intention. While it can be seen as an avenue for increasing sales, news publishers must do it for the right reasons or will be accused of “greenwashing.”
“Authenticity is the key,” Curtis said.
A good starting point is to look at the main sources of emissions within the supply chain.
Print, digital, and programmatic advertising each have their own source of emissions.
By committing to renewable energy and assessing how data centres are powered, publishers can make some improvements in controlling emissions. Content production can be reconsidered to think about evergreen content options and avoid the amount of wasted content that is being created, Curtis said.
Print ad delivery can be made more sustainable by making reforestation commitments, using recyclable paper, minimising or eliminating the use of plastic, and adopting print practices that consume less energy.
“We’re talking about UV lighting, which dries ink more quickly,” Curtis said, adding petroleum ink could be eliminated. “Places like The New York Times [are] using soy-based ink.”
In the digital and programmatic ad realm, Curtis said it is all about reducing the number of requests and data being processed. Setting dynamic floor prices on programmatic ads, for example, eliminates unnecessary bidding.
“You can think about minimising the number of bidders so that you’re reducing load times and having timeouts in place so you avoid those long waiting times and processing,” he suggested.
Other things to address are good Web development that allows pages to be loaded more effectively, which conserves bandwidth. “Or, when you’re scrolling the page, the ad only loads at the point in which the viewer needs to read it or view it,” further saving energy.
Adaptive streaming, in which the video adjusts based on the specific conditions of the viewer’s network, can help: “That’s all about reducing data transfer, which has an impact on reducing energy consumption,” he explained.
In addition to getting on board with sustainability initiatives, companies need to be able to set targets and measure the results. Some media, ad tech, and production companies are already on the path to hit net zero, with many looking at short-term goals by 2030 and longer-term objectives by 2050.
Success with sustainability
Grover told INMA members certain factors appear to give organisations a better chance of succeeding with sustainability. He called out three areas that leaders should look at:
- Connectivity and technology, or looking at how technology can be used to help society thrive.
- Inclusive growth. “How do they think about providing functionality and really making sure that not only their customers, but also the communities, are thriving over the long term?”
- Future-proofing the business. “How do we make sure that organisations can really think about this idea of net negative and taking their long-term product roadmap under a sustainability lens or through a sustainability lens?”
In addition to those thematic areas, Grover said he looks at “enablers,” or what organisations do well internally to help promote a successful sustainability strategy and position.
That begins with embedding change within the organisation, which he said meant ensuring that “people understand it not just for the organisation, not just at a vision level or at a board level, but that every function there is a clear idea of what it means for them.”
Grover compared it to having financial or commercial responsibility within a company: “If you manage a P&L, you also manage the sustainability P&L of sorts, almost putting equal weight in there.”
Collaboration was also important to bring all parts together to drive innovation and make sure the organisation works better internally, Grover said. And finally, he said, it was critical to have both a vision and credibility:
“You can no longer just say, ‘Hey, we’re going to be sustainable’ and hope that people will believe you without question. You have to show that you’re willing to make the progress and walk the talk in order to get there. And that’s where we are really starting to see those organisations who are offering credible pathways towards sustainability progress being rewarded by the market, by investors, and by consumers.”
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