Why ESG is Vital to the Future of Ad Tech: Q&A with Julie Selman, Magnite


As the world confronts climate change and a global energy crisis, leading companies across all industries are evaluating new ways to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact. Meanwhile, recent social justice movements have shed light on equity and inclusion and where businesses are falling short. To ensure progress is made on all of these issues, environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies are increasingly being used to assess progress towards a fairer and more sustainable future.

In this Q&A, John Still, Head of Content at ExchangeWire, sits down with Julie Selman, SVP Head of EMEA, Magnite, to discuss the newfound urgency of adopting ESG standards in ad technology.


Is ESG considered a priority across the industry?

Significant societal changes over the past two years have led more and more companies to think about how they can contribute to a more diverse, equitable and sustainable future. Movements like #Metoo, BlackLivesMatter and events like the United Nations COP26 conference, as well as the visible effects of climate change, like the catastrophic floods in Pakistan, have highlighted the need for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). guidelines.

Meanwhile, consumers are looking more closely at products and companies to see if their values ​​align. Climate change, for example, is now part of the general consciousness, with 64 percent of people believing that climate change is a global emergency.

As a result, brands are (rightly) placing a greater focus on ESG, and in particular its impact on the environment, for two reasons: a. it is right, and b. Consumers pay attention. In today’s market, brands that ignore ESG risk consumer backlash. Because we are in advertising, public opinion directly affects how we approach our roles and our industry. Like the brands we work with, we need to evolve. And fast!

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What else can and should be done?

Awareness and knowledge are key to advancing our industry in a more equitable and sustainable manner. Most companies are broadly aware of the issues, but don’t fully understand the specific impact of advertising technology on the environment.

For example, Daniel Knapp, Chief Economist at IAB Europe, recently said that the digital advertising industry is responsible for 2% of CO2 emissions. That’s a really shocking number when you think about it!

There was a campaign on diversity in March in the Netherlands, where I come from, that really amazed me. Equileap and Women Inc. found that in the Netherlands, a supposedly liberal, fair country, there are more CEOs named “Peter” than female CEOs. These types of data points are really critical to creating awareness of the issues we need to address in terms of ESG. There is currently no critical mass of consciousness. Knowledge acquisition is still ongoing and there are still large gaps.

The next step, of course, is: “What are we actually doing about it?” Company policies and behaviors need to change. The phase after that will be normalization, in which these problems are at least fundamentally addressed or ideally solved.

Is there enough information about the social and environmental impact of ad tech?

As far as I know, there isn’t much information out there about the broader impact of advertising technology on society and the planet. More research is being done on this front, however. Magnite recently joined Ad Net Zero, an incredibly relevant and useful initiative for the advertising and media industry, and I’m personally part of a new IAB UK Sustainability Group. We are currently putting together a basic glossary so people can learn about common sustainability terms and find more ESG data and resources specific to the digital advertising industry.

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Overall, building ESG competency will take time and will rely on input from people across the industry. The IAB UK Sustainability Group will hopefully be one of many programs to help spread industry knowledge that can then lead to action.

What are your hopes for the ad tech industry in terms of ESG?

I hope that we can come together and move from the awareness and knowledge phase to the action and normalization phase as quickly as possible. There are many initiatives and new organizations working on ESG, but we are still in the early stages. The great thing about working in technology and being close to and part of innovation is that we can really make a difference.

Which trends determine your area of ​​the industry?

SPO has been a key issue in recent years: the idea of ​​having a transparent and cost-efficient delivery route. If you look at SPO through the sustainability lens, the additional criterion is to also evaluate the most efficient routes from an energy point of view. How can you reduce the amount of hops in the supply chain, reduce the amount of unnecessarily collected and stored data and ensure you choose the best possible and most efficient supply path?

In light of the eventual deprecation of third-party cookies, SPO’s goalposts are also changing. The original goal of SPO was to promote more efficiency and transparency. Now there’s also the goal of streamlining the paths that can continue to provide audience addressability and measurability while protecting consumer privacy.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities from an ESG perspective?

The biggest challenge I see is that understanding the depth and scope of ESG issues can be overwhelming for companies. This can lead to executives choosing to do nothing rather than do something because they panic and don’t know where to start.

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That is why knowledge is so important. We can all do something and take steps in the right direction, without it having to be the perfect way forward. There are now tools like carbon calculators that are imperfect but at least give people a better understanding of their travel or emissions impact.

Another challenge is misinformation. There is an exaggerated idea out there that if we apply ESG guidelines we will all go out of business because nobody will be able to make a profit anymore. However, a successful and forward-thinking company will focus on the three Ps in unison: People, Planet, AND Profits.

What is Magnite doing in ESG?

We constantly strive to seize the opportunity to create long-term value for all of our stakeholders. In general, we have identified three of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (“UN SDGs”) to which we contribute directly through our ESG strategy. The first is Talent Engagement, which aims to create an inclusive, equitable and sustainable work environment that fosters employee engagement.

Second, we focus on energy and environmental efficiency to identify and continuously reduce Magnite’s environmental footprint through operational innovation and strong energy management. We are currently working with internal and external experts to develop a framework to transparently improve our energy efficiency. Third, we follow responsible advertising and data stewardship to maintain robust compliance and oversight processes to ensure transparency and responsible advertising across our platforms, while protecting core privacy principles in our collection and use of data.



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