In our previous blog addressing sustainability in digital marketing, we tackled the environmental impact of digital ads. One of the critical issues that not too many consumers and even from our own industry know is how the internet is fueled by dirty energy. According to Statista, 64.4 percent or 5.16 billion of the global population were internet users since January 2023. And, 59.4 percent or 4.76 billion of this total were social media users.
Digital marketing’s carbon footprint
Just imagine the vast amounts of dirty energy or carbon emissions released in the atmosphere just by using the internet by billions of people on a daily basis on top of the other daily activities and factors that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s take a quick look at some of digital marketing’s carbon footprint, which includes activities such as website hosting, email marketing, social media advertising, and other online marketing activities:
- The carbon footprint of a single email is estimated to be around 4 grams of CO2, including the energy used to power the device used to send and receive the email, as well as the energy used by servers and data centres to store and transmit the email.
- A report by the Carbon Trust found that website hosting accounts for 0.5% of global GHG emissions, and this is expected to increase as more businesses move online and rely on digital marketing to reach their customers.
- According to a study by the Shift Project, the digital industry produces 4% of global GHG emissions, and this is expected to increase to 8% by 2025.
- Zero Carbon reported that streaming approximately 5 hours of content daily by one person releases up to 1.57 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. However, this is lower compared to the carbon footprints of physical formats.
Many SMEs are focusing on green marketing as more consumers demand products and services that support the environment. Digital marketing needs to avoid greenwashing or making misleading or false claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, or company in order to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers. It is a form of deceptive advertising that can harm both consumers and the environment. Further, it undermines the efforts of genuinely sustainable companies by making it difficult for consumers to identify and support truly sustainable products and services.
Here are 3 ways to avoid greenwashing in digital marketing practices:
- Consider the entire lifecycle of a product or service
Be sure to consider the entire lifecycle of a product, from production to disposal. Even if a product is made from sustainable materials, it may still have negative environmental impacts during other stages of its lifecycle.
- Avoid exaggerated claims
It is almost impossible for any product or service to have zero impact on the environment.
Be wary of claims that seem too good to be true, such as products claiming to be 100% environmentally friendly.
- Research the company and its environmental practices
Before doing business with a company, take the time to research their environmental practices. Look for information on their website, social media accounts, and independent third-party certifications that verify their claims.
Other sustainable solutions in digital marketing
We’ve also discussed five sustainable practices to reduce digital marketing’s carbon emissions in our previous blog, which strongly focuses on content production and ad targeting strategy. But here are other ways to help minimise our internet pollution as digital marketers and advertisers:
- Calculate your carbon footprint
The first step in offsetting your company’s carbon emissions is to understand how much you are generating. Use online carbon footprint calculators to estimate your emissions from various sources, such as electricity use, transportation, and data centre usage.
- Select a carbon offset project
Once you have chosen an offsetting program, select a carbon offset project to support. There are many types of projects, such as reforestation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Choose a project that aligns with your values and goals.
- Use energy-efficient hardware
Choose energy-efficient hardware such as low-power processors and monitors to reduce the energy consumption of digital marketing activities.
- Use virtual meetings
Rather than travelling to attend meetings, use virtual meeting tools such as video conferencing, which can reduce one’s carbon footprint by minimizing the amount of travel required.
- Use cloud-based services
Using cloud-based services can help reduce the energy consumption of your digital marketing activities by allowing you to share resources and reduce the need for physical infrastructure.