A startup is aiming to decarbonise an entire industry by becoming the ‘single source of truth for emissions’.

Scope3, which operates remotely, has innovation hubs in New York, London and Sydney. It intends to expand, particularly in Europe, as it targets emissions in the advertising sector and beyond.

Co-founder and COO Anne Coghlan is based in London. “Digital advertising is a $400 billion industry with a significant emissions problem,” she tells TechBlast. 

“Think about digital advertising specifically: people don’t immediately recognise the carbon footprint of serving an ad. It’s largely hidden because emissions are generated by an array of unseen servers used in the ad-decisioning process. 

“There’s a significant emissions cost which largely ties into other industry problems, such as waste.”

Digital doesn’t mean carbon-free

Digital, therefore, doesn’t necessarily mean carbon-free: the internet now emits more carbon than the entire aviation industry.

“I’ve always been interested in systems and how abstract concepts can be applied to reality,” continues Coghlan (pictured below), who has an educational background in maths and philosophy and started her career in consulting at Accenture before moving into AdTech with AppNexus. 

“At AppNexus, I was looking at how savvy media buyers were disrupting the AdTech space and how the company could improve the process. I then started thinking about the physical supply chain world as the head of product at Waybridge, with the goal of helping large buyers of raw material become more efficient, resilient and sustainable. 

“Combining my experience, I became acutely aware of the industry’s carbon reality and how the problem could be solved. This was the origin of Scope3.”

Anne Coghlan, COO, Scope3

The company was founded as a public benefit corporation at the beginning of 2022 with a mission to shine a light on the hidden problem of emissions in the digital advertising supply chain.

Its name is derived from Scope 3, which encompasses emissions that are not produced by a company itself, but by those it is indirectly responsible for – up and down its value chain. An example of this is when we buy, use and dispose of products from suppliers.

AppNexus pedigree

CEO Brian O’Kelley, one of six co-founders at the business, founded AppNexus from his apartment in 2007 and exited to telecoms giant AT&T in 2018.

“When the founding team started working on ideas around sustainability in media, we recognised the problem was two-fold: not only was the challenge incredibly complex from a technical standpoint, but it would also require getting the industry to buy into and join a movement,” explains Coghlan.

“Given my background in advanced math, consulting and operations – and Brian’s track record of building innovative companies and creating industries – there was a natural fit. We push each other to strike a balance between operational excellence, building solutions that solve real problems, and inspiring the industry to act.”

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Measure & take action

Scope3 aims to educate players within the ad industry on the state of the problem, pinpoint their companies’ role in trying to solve that problem then help them start their decarbonisation journey in a systematic way. 

“This year, we’ve been trying to help the industry measure and understand the carbon footprint of digital advertising. Next year, we want to see action towards reduction,” says Coghlan.

“We hope for 2022 to be the year of peak carbon emissions. In the years to come we want to see smaller and smaller carbon footprints, and we’ll be supporting our clients each step of the way.”

Following a data-driven measurement of a company’s carbon footprint, it helps them to shift budget towards green media and compensate for emissions via its portfolio of carbon removal projects.

Among its partners is Good-Loop, a provider of ethical advertising tech for retailers which featured on our sister publication BusinessCloud’s MarTech 50 ranking last year.

Entrepreneurial journey

Coghlan adds: “The entrepreneurial journey is often portrayed as a glamorous transition from founding to funding to success. While we have experienced an overwhelmingly positive response to our vision, this is not a challenge that we take lightly. We are painstaking about balancing momentum with sustainability.

“People want to help make a difference. The speed and appetite for which all players in the industry want to better understand what’s happening and how they can make their advertising practices more sustainable is impressive.

“On the other side of things, introducing a new concept to people means there is a learning curve. We’ve learned that it’s more about evangelising our vision for what a more sustainable ecosystem looks like and bringing people into that movement. It’s a case of turning positive intent into positive action.”

Asked for a tip for fellow entrepreneurs, she answers: “It’s important to clearly define and articulate the mission and vision of the company that you are founding.

“This gives you a crucial foundation and framework to use as your north star in all decision making.”

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