How Smartly.io is overcompensating for its carbon emissions
By partnering with Compensate, the adtech platform is reducing its overall carbon footprint
Climate and the environment were topics Smartly.io, the social advertising platform, had felt strongly about for some time, but it was the changes wrought by the pandemic that spurred the Smartly team into action.
“The events of last year provided a new sense of awareness of the impact of some of our activities as a business would be affecting the environment, or the world in general,” said Robert Rothschild, Smartly’s CMO, VP and Global Head of Marketing.
Partnering with Compensate. Before taking action, Smartly needed to understand just which of its activities were having a negative impact. “One of the very first points the team considered was that we’re a software company; as an organization this is not our core competence,” said Rothschild. Inquiring within Smartly’s own eco-system of customers and other organizations “We surfaced Compensate as a potential partner.
Compensate, a non-profit, helps companies measure, reduce and off-set carbon emissions. “We had an opportunity to leverage their expertise, their ability to manage the calculation of the carbon footprint in the most scientifically accurate and efficient way,” Rothschild said.
An unexpected source of emissions. Smartly isn’t in the data center business, a space which has a notoriously large carbon footprint, but it did look at the impact of its IT usage. It turned out, however, that its biggest contribution to carbon emissions lay elsewhere.
“The largest source of our emissions when we looked back — not at last year, because 2020 was an anomaly — but in 2019 was business travel: 85% of Smartly’s overall carbon footprint. Because of the nature of our business, just under 5% was the result of direct greenhouse gas emissions, from things like electricity, heating and cooling across the various offices we have around the world.”
The pandemic created an unexpected opportunity to re-evaluate the volume and urgency of business travel. “We’re definitely considering how we optimize business travel overall. A lot of it was air travel, which is the most inefficient from a greenhouse gas perspective, so we’re looking into opportunities to encourage alternative forms of travel if we have to do the travel.”
Compensate’s model. Compensate charges fees for its service, but as a non-profit, it channels that revenue into support for both traditional and innovative carbon capture projects — the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. Compensate clients like Smartly can “overcompensate” by supporting the eradication of more CO2 than their own activities create.
“In our case, we actually purchased and retired more than 10,000 carbon credits,” said Rothschild, “which enabled the removal of over 6,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. Nine thousand and forty-two of those credits were used for traditional carbon capture projects, including forest preservation projects in Cambodia, Zambia and Peru. We also invested in re-forestation projects. The balance went towards innovative carbon capture; in this case, regenerative agricultural programs that aim to increase the amount of carbon soil collects. Those projects are in the United States and Germany.”
Smartly took the decision to “overcompensate” for 2019’s emissions as well as 2020’s, again because last year was so atypical.
Future opportunities. Compensate works with a wide range of organizations, from the London School of Economics to Reima, a children’s wear brand, and HIFK, a professional Finnish ice hockey club. But Rothschild also sees further opportunities within the adtech space.
“Adtech companies may not be the biggest offenders in terms of the carbon footprint,” he said, “but there are so many players within this eco-system that if all of us made a commitment, we think we could have a carbon neutral adtech supply chain, and that could have an impact on the environment.”
Why we care. We might not consider the martech and adtech industries to be big contributors to carbon emissions — unless, that is, we count the reliance any cloud-based business has on server farms — but Smartly.io’s initiative is a reminder that any company has it in its power to reduce (or compensate for) its carbon footprint.