Interactive Advertising Bureau
16 February 2023

IAB Europe’s Sustainability Standards Committee Share Agreed Definition of Sustainable Digital Advertising

Once a fairly niche topic in the world of digital advertising, sustainability has, in recent years, moved up the agenda to become one of the most talked-about topics in our industry today. As an industry, we have become increasingly aware of our impact on the environment and the responsibility we have to be more sustainable to help tackle the shared problem of the climate crisis.

But before we can start to drive real change, we need to be clear on what we mean by sustainable digital advertising when it comes to the supply chain. Whilst there is a lot of key work being done at a local level, right now, the industry lacks a clear and consistent overall European and Global definition of what the delivery of sustainable digital advertising actually means. And if we are to create valuable work and make meaningful change, we must have a common definition and language in place.

As such, IAB Europe’s Sustainability Standards Committee has worked together to establish a definition for Sustainable Digital Advertising, as outlined below. This definition forms the basis of the key work and road map that the committee is working on.

Definition of Sustainable Digital Advertising

Sustainable digital advertising refers to the practice of using digital marketing and advertising techniques and technologies in a way that mitigates the negative impact on the environment and society, whilst also being economically viable.

This includes the digital supply chain, and the technologies used to deliver the ad from the agency or advertisers system to the end user’s screen, and covers the three pillars of sustainability. This does not encompass the creative production process, advertised emissions, or activities outside of this scope.

Environmental Sustainability in Digital Advertising [Updated 29th February 2024]

Environmental sustainability in digital advertising refers to the adoption of actions and strategies by digital advertising stakeholders to reduce and ultimately minimise the aggregated negative environmental impact of business activity across the digital advertising value chain. First by reducing the environmental impacts resulting from the lifecycle of IT resources associated with the delivery of digital ads, including but not limited to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and their effect on the climate emergency, and finally through investment in decarbonisation efforts and voluntary contribution to positive environmental initiatives where reduction is not possible.

Social Sustainability in Digital Advertising

Social sustainability in digital advertising refers to the impact that the industry has on people and communities. This includes, but is not limited to, employment, diversity and inclusion, data privacy and ethics, brand and browsing safety, online veracity of information, and fraud and transparency, meaning that organisations consider the impact of their actions, products, and services on the wider society and not just on customers and suppliers.

Economic Sustainability in Digital Advertising

Economic sustainability in digital advertising refers to the ability of a company or industry to generate profits, and support itself, its employees, and its community financially over the long term. It can be impacted by factors such as the cost of delivering digital ads, the efficiency of operations, and the level of demand for digital advertising services.

It is important for companies to align their sustainability practices with the CSRD, which requires a growing number of companies to report on their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance.

By considering all three pillars of sustainability [environmental, social, economic] digital advertising companies and individuals can make choices that address the need for immediate action to tackle the climate crisis, whilst considering the needs of the future. In doing so organisations will help to ensure the long-term health and prosperity of the industry and the communities it serves.

The IAB Europe Sustainability Standards Committee recognises the great work being done across all sectors of our industry to drive the sustainability agenda and is actively engaged with other key initiatives such as IAB Tech Lab and Ad Net Zero. The committee work track is also open to input and guidance to ensure outputs are progressed with success. You can find more information on the committee and how you can get involved below.

About IAB Europe Sustainability Standards Committee

IAB Europe’s Sustainability Standards Committee was formed in October 2022 with the primary focus of bringing the industry together to create standards for the delivery of digital advertising and to help all industry participants to reduce the amount of energy consumed and carbon emissions produced through the use of digital media.

The committee is open to all IAB Europe members, including corporate companies and National IABs from across Europe.

For more information and to join the committee please email

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