Let’s get digital, but sustainable too: Three initiatives for a greener future
The adoption of digital technologies is rapidly increasing across industries. To take my own industry as an example, “martech” (the use of technology to enhance marketing) is expected to grow 14% by 2027. Unfortunately, with this growth comes a significant impact on the environment.
A study by Purpose Disruptors found emissions driven by advertising increased 11% between 2019 and 2022 which in turn drove the carbon footprint of each consumer up by almost a third (32%) (The Drum, 2022). With $500 billion spent on advertising every year, the industry’s impact on climate change is significant.
At the same time, consumers have never cared more about their environmental impact. Globally, 95% of consumers consider a product’s sustainability to be important (Capterra, 2022) and 88% shared their intentional support for a brand that supports social or environmental initiatives (Forbes, 2018). Sustainability is no longer a buzzword, but a critical business strategy for 2023 and beyond.
Fortunately, there are practical initiatives that we can take to ensure a sustainable digital future. As the head of global impact at a technology and marketing services business that is also B Corporation certified, here are some strategies for reducing the environmental impact of digital marketing.
Digital energy efficiency
The digital world currently accounts for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and this is expected to triple by 2025 (The Drum, 2021). One of the most practical initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of digital activities is through energy efficiency, namely using renewable energy sources to power digital infrastructure. At DEPT, 76% of our total energy consumption came from renewable sources in 2021 (DEPT Social Impact Report, 2021). Additionally, adopting energy-efficient hardware and software solutions can significantly reduce energy consumption. For instance, cloud-based services are up to 98% more energy-efficient than on-site servers (Microsoft Azure, 2018). By using a cloud environment, businesses are not only able to build greener architecture, but can also automate key processes to eliminate overconsumption of cloud resources and improve the power usage effectiveness (PUE) of systems.
Sustainable web design practices
Web design plays a significant role in determining the environmental impact of digital activities. The amount of energy consumed by a website is determined by design elements such as images and videos, and the hosting service. Businesses can reduce the carbon footprint of a website by optimising images and videos for the web, using efficient coding techniques, and selecting sustainable hosting services. The use of sustainable web design frameworks such as Materialize and Bootstrap can significantly reduce the time and energy required for web development.
Green digital marketing
Digital marketing plays a significant role in promoting sustainable businesses and their products. However, the methods used in digital marketing can themselves have a damaging impact on the environment. Businesses can adopt green digital marketing practices such as using sustainable advertising platforms, reducing the frequency and volume of digital advertisements and offsetting the impact of campaigns via carbon credits. At DEPT, we work with ClimatePartner, a trusted provider that helps us measure the impact of a campaign and source a sufficient amount of carbon credits to compensate for it.
We all love technology, but we need to make sure we’re using it responsibly. By adopting practical initiatives like digital energy efficiency, sustainable web design, and green digital marketing, we can significantly reduce the environmental impact of our digital activities. The future of the digital world depends on our ability to adopt sustainable practices, and by considering these three initiatives, companies can take a step in the right direction.
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