Vox media bans fossil fuel advertising and touts carbon offsetting to marketers

Image: Vox Media

The update, posted by Vox Media’s chief revenue officer Ryan Pauley on Thursday (5 January), confirms that the firm has taken no payments for advertising fossil fuel companies since the start of 2021. At that point, it publicly stated a decision no longer to advertise products, services or jobs from companies “mining resources from the earth that are non-renewable” – nor to promote organisations lobbying in support of these companies.

Going forward, Vox Media will formalise its advertising policy, putting these exclusions into written contracts. It has also confirmed plans to bring forward additional criteria for advertisements and partnerships, relating to environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics. Pauley said the aim is to ensure that Vox Media is “more deliberate about who [it] partners with”.

As well as operating the eponymous and popular ‘Vox’ website, Vox Media also owns titles and online brands including The Verge, New York magazine, Popsugar, The Dodo and The Cut.

Vox Media is also set to offset emissions generated by the advertising inventory of its Concert advertising network. The firm has partnered with Scope3, an advertising tech firm that enables publishers to measure, reduce and offset the emissions associated with adverts. Advertisers will pay for the impact of actual audience impressions, while Vox Media will pay to offset other emissions.

Advertising aside, Pauley also stated a commitment to increasing the editorial focus on environmental sustainability across all brands. Vox and NowThis will plan additional coverage for Earth Month (April), Climate Week NYC in September and COP28 in the run-up to Christmas. The brands will also be used to host new explainers on droughts, water shortages and cleantech.

“Our editorial brands will continue to cover the important issues surrounding climate and sustainability, but with even more urgency…we are taking a cross-platform approach to informing and inspiring our audiences,” said Pauley.

Few media brands globally have implemented an outright ban on fossil fuel adverts. The first major group to do so, in early 2020, was The Guardian Media Group, which also owns The Observer. Bloomberg’s climate site, and vertical Bloomberg Green, also has a similar ban in place.

The Guardian Media Group’s top team stated at the time that while it “is true that rejecting some adverts might make our lives a tiny bit tougher in the very short term”, they believe that “building a more purposeful organisation and remaining financially sustainable have to go hand in hand.”

Former Bloomberg Media Group CEO Justin Smith co-founded a new digital media brand, Semafore, last year. The title recently lost its first climate editor, Bill Spindle, who resigned in December and cited “an over-dependence on sponsorship from Chevron”.

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