Calculator Assesses Digital Campaigns' Carbon Footprint
So Dallas-based imc2 has launched Clear Sky Digital Media, a new, free tool that lets marketers assess the carbon footprint of a proposed online media campaign, and then get a ballpark figure for how much it would cost to purchase green energy credits to offset the environmental toll.
Marketers can find the tool at www.imc2.com/carbon. Once they plug in campaign details like which sites the ads will run on, the dimensions of each ad, and the number of impressions expected, Clear Sky Digital Media then spits out the carbon cost of the campaign. For example, a 4.5 million impression display and video campaign running on AOL, Yahoo and MSN would create about 10 metric tons of carbon--and would cost roughly $126 worth of green energy credits to offset.
Imc2 doesn't keep any of the campaign data that's entered, so there should be no worries about inter-agency trade secrets or proprietary stats being poached. And the agency doesn't recommend any particular green energy firm or organization to contact for the offset credits, choosing to have interested parties get in touch with Beth Bengtson, vice president of corporate social responsibility/positive impact at imc2, for a discussion about their available options.
"They can get in contact with me through the number on the site," Bengtson said, "because what works in terms of offsetting carbon for one company may not be feasible for another. The point is to get an individual conversation going between us, and then within their agency or brand."
Bengtson helped lead the agency's team during the final six months of the nearly year-long development of Clear Sky Digital Media, and said the project was one of the first steps the industry as a whole could take in the long walk toward operating sustainably.
"The final number isn't the biggest part of the conversation," Bengtson said. "It's about thinking differently about a campaign and how we all operate. Depending on how you change your practice, you can raise or lower the offset cost. So it becomes a thought process--like, if I could just get my file sizes down lower, I could reduce the cost by this much." She added that while offset credits were not the Holy Grail for sustainable marketing, getting individuals and companies to even think about the carbon cost of their online campaigns was vital to help brands move away from "greenwashing"--or over-hyping and misleading consumers about the proposed environmental benefits of a product or service.
Imc2 also partnered with Stanford University professor Jon Koomey and Cody Taylor, an energy and climate consultant at the socially oriented consultancy ICF International to develop the tool, which is the agency's second sustainability-focused project. The first was a Positive Impact Report released earlier this year, which detailed imc2's efforts to grow its business while keeping in mind the best interests of its employees, the environment and society at large.