Are AdTech Companies Morally Responsible For Climate Change?

A few weeks ago I was suddenly involved in the social media buzz around the young climate activist Greta Thunberg. There was no escaping her heartfelt message from the UN Climate Action Summit which was plastered all over my Facebook feed.

People are suffering, people are dying, an entire ecosystem is collapsing.

There is a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5C degrees global temperature rise.

You’re failing us, but young people are starting to understand your betrayal.

During her speech, the 16-year old Greta was sitting in front of the world’s leaders and advocating for the planet, barely curbing tears, anger, and despair. She clamored vehemently about climate-saving actions that need to be taken immediately. After hearing Greta Thunberg, she made me think about the following: what is the role of AdTech companies in bringing Earth closer to a climate catastrophe?

For more than a decade, AdTech companies have been boasting about their achievements in making online ads ubiquitous and automated. We are so proud of giving birth to programmatic, especially given its ability to hit millions of screens in seconds. Look what great people we are: we brought to life a technology that saves thousands of dollars to advertisers and brands! However, like every coin, programmatic has another side. It also helps advertisers persuade millions of people to buy needless things (read: pollute the planet).

Unlike creative agencies, AdTech companies often don’t have a chance to choose the clients they work with. Most AdTech platforms operate in such a way where anyone can hire our technology by quick signup. Every week hundreds of advertisers come to our self-serve DSP to set up ads and deliver them worldwide with just a single click.

When it comes to ad servers, we also prefer to stay in the dark and not ask what exactly our new partners are going to promote. They chose us among our competitors, and that should be enough, right? Agree with me or not, but the AdTech business is also responsible for what’s happening to our climate today.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all AdTech companies should immediately shut down their offices. I’m telling you that we should get together and create a new system of regulations and actions to help prevent climate collapse. Together we are strong enough to direct the industry’s lens towards the climate problem. So what else can we do right now?

Inform. Shed Light. Spark Conversations.

The advertising business isn’t just about making a buck on promoting things. We already have a robust technology able to knock at every door, remember? What if we invest in social ads and run them all over the world using our beloved programmatic? Even simple banners or layouts with catchy and clear messages can make a difference when spotted worldwide.

How many of us take part in international conferences? I think we can use offline events to know our partners and their businesses better as well as discuss the possible mutual actions on preventing climate changes.

Demand Actions.

Being citizens of our сountries gives us rights. They include the right to demand actions towards waste sorting, recycling, reducing air pollution, and prohibiting plastic bags in supermarkets. We can’t control all the people and all the big corporations, but we can influence our state and local governments and force them to pass climate-saving laws.

Set an Example.

Being a good leader for your team means setting a great example. The same can be applied to climate initiatives. Company executives can inspire teammates to join #FridaysForFuture or give up eating meat on Mondays. Your case may even spread outside the walls of your office. Here in Kyiv, we admire companies like MacPaw who organize joint cleanings of local parks, rivers, and streets. Our team is going to follow their inspiring example.

If you don’t have time to volunteer, you can always take your wallet and invest in local climate activities.

Be Involved.

Today we can’t afford to stay apart. Even if it’s too late to fix the consequences, let’s hope that we can still improve the situation. Each of us may take on actions and reduce waste. If we want to continue soaking the majestic beauty of our planet, it’s time to roll up our sleeves. Greta Thunberg’s fight for our planet is real, and it’s your choice to decide whether to join her or continue watching the ice caps melt.

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