Birds Eye View

How can we balance sustainability with performance across our media buying?

By Naomi Linturn, Senior Digital Account Manager 

As the climate crisis continues to be front of mind for many organisations, our industry continues to research and invest in how we can improve in this eco-space. 

It’s a complex topic, and it seems that everyone is taking different approaches. Agencies and media owners are trying to find the answer through various methods, from carbon calculators to ESG scores to offsetting. 

However, when the cost-of-living crisis continues to affect business, and every sale or donation counts, it’s key that performance isn’t impacted. With Governments making u-turns on Net Zero commitments and many industries facing their toughest yet, how can we look to balance performance and sustainability? 

Firstly, we must look at ‘ecoeffectiveness’, a term coined by Iris and Elvis and launched by the IPA. Ecoeffectiveness is a methodology that incorporates three elements:

  1.  Honest reporting of greenhouse gas emissions driven by advertising
  2.  The return on CO2e (the revenue generated for every tonne of CO2 emitted)
  3.  Levers of ecoeffectivenes, a model to identify what headroom exists and what methods can be used to reduce impact whilst maintaining profitability

Here, we would look at Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions to see where improvements can be made across both indirect media buying and direct company emissions. 

So, how does this come into our media planning? 

When it comes to the key players in the market like Google and Meta, there are obvious questions around sustainability, and we have little control over making improvements to our digital carbon footprint, given the huge scale of these platforms. But can we still use these media giants for good? 

Let’s look at an approach outside of the green credentials of these platforms and consider how green consumerism has a big impact on profits. The #ChangeTheBrief initiative encourages brands and advertisers to consider promoting more sustainable behaviour through their media, i.e. encouraging the reduction of energy usage or saying no to plastic. This isn’t a question of delivering low-carbon campaigns necessarily, but more so communicating an environmentally considered message and promoting good. The argument I’d like to make here is that statistics show that 40% of consumers are choosing to buy sustainable products. So, whilst the media itself may not be ‘green’, advertisers can encourage positive change, which in turn improves profit. When there may not be an opportunity to promote environmental change, advertisers still have an onus to encourage greener media buying to help our industry meet Net Zero goals. 

A key part of ‘greener’ media planning can include choosing media partners with solid environmental credentials. It’s important to understand what media owners are doing in the green space and how they can drive results at low carbon emissions. For instance, if you have a list of media partners who all offer managed service campaigns intending to drive video views with similar benchmarks, simply request their green credentials! If we can opt for green partners that match or exceed performance of non-green partners at no extra cost, then surely this is a no-brainer? At TKF, we’ve developed a database of green credentials across our media owners so we can easily choose the most suitable partner! 

Finally, it’s important to look beyond our paid media and at how we can improve the eco-footprint of our websites and organic content. By reducing and compressing images and videos on site and removing unnecessary coding and pages, we can improve load times and reduce carbon emissions accordingly. Tools such as Google’s PageSpeed allow developers to analyse and optimise webpages by scoring on-site elements that affect page loading. These on-site adjustments will improve the environmental impact of our websites and vastly improve the overall user experience on-site, thanks to quicker load times and more accessible journeys. One can argue that it’s worth the investment here to lower emissions associated with our websites and improve conversion rates and SEO at the same time. 

There’s a lot to consider, from media planning and buying to website performance. It’s made more complicated given everyone is measuring and reporting differently, so it’s hard to benchmark across our industry. At The Kite Factory, greener media buying is high on the agenda, and we’re actively working to improve the sustainability of our ecosystem at no cost to performance. 


  • https://adassoc.org.uk/our-work/ecoffectiveness/ 
  • https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/sustainable-consumer.html 
  • https://www.iabuk.com/sustainability-digital-advertising 
  • https://www.performancemarketingworld.com/article/1820331/drive-sustainability-search 
  • https://developers.google.com/speed