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Harmonising Language Use for Sustainability Approaches in Digital Advertising: Recommendations from IAB Europe’s Sustainability Standards Committee

Nov 23,2023
Lauren Wakefield
Sustainability HubKnowledgeHubSustainability

The IAB Europe Sustainability Standards Committee, which acts as a vehicle for discourse between members from across the digital advertising ecosystem, aims to share guidance that will support and strengthen the industry’s approach to sustainability. As such, the Committee shares the following recommendations when it comes to language use:

1. Evaluation or Assessment

The process by which a stakeholder explores the environmental impact of its activities involves a combination of direct measurement and estimation. Stakeholders may collect information that captures the actual environmental impact of their activity, or they may rely on models that provide an estimation of it. The use of the term measurement to describe both components of efforts to understand environmental impact fails to take account of this distinction. Therefore, the Committee recommends that evaluation and assessment be used to describe the process of analysing the environmental impact of the digital advertising ecosystem’s activity.

2. GHG Evaluation or GHG Assessment

Environmental impact is not limited to the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), which accelerate global warming and climate change. Still, the digital advertising ecosystem has correctly focused environmental impact assessment efforts on understanding the level of GHG emissions associated with its activities. While carbon dioxide emissions contribute significantly to global warming, it is the emission of greenhouse gases as a whole that drives climate change. Therefore, when referring to the evaluation of the environmental impact of activities in the digital advertising ecosystem with respect to global warming, the Committee recommends this process be described as GHG evaluation and GHG assessment.

3. GHG Estimators or Models

The term carbon calculator is commonly used to refer to a tool that takes an input in terms of a predefined quantity that generally expresses volume (i.e. number of impressions, creative length, or payload size) and returns an estimate expressed in terms of a predefined quantity that describes the likely GHG impact of the evaluated activity. The prevailing unit for the output is CO₂e, which encompasses both the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases weighted according to their global warming potential, relative to carbon dioxide. Describing such a tool as a calculator may be misleading, however, as it implies a higher degree of determinism than what is present. When a quantity is “calculated”, it usually means that we know its value for certain. Carbon calculators, however, do not return a figure that is certain. Rather, they return an estimate for the carbon equivalent emissions of an activity. The Committee, therefore, recommends that such tools be described as GHG estimators or GHG models.

The above recommendations, by fostering a shared understanding of key terms, should enable better communication amongst stakeholders and ultimately help the industry to drive and achieve key sustainability goals.

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