Blog>Digital Marketing Has A Carbon Footprint: Here’s How To Reduce It

Digital Marketing Has A Carbon Footprint: Here’s How To Reduce It

Image of rolling hills in the countryside

Amber Callender


Often we don’t think about the environmental impact of digital marketing because, as Esther Duran, chief design and product officer for Zone, noted at the Festival of Marketing, “human beings are really bad with abstract concepts, and one of those is digital.” She went on to comment that the internet generates 3.7% of global emissions, which is the equivalent of all the air traffic in the world, set to double by 2025. We can harness each of the specialist areas, from SEO to UI/UX Design, to create more sustainable practice across the board.

Creating A More Sustainable Site

Signpost Your Content

Users should be able to find the content they are looking for easily to avoid additional time spent navigating around a site. Unnecessary navigation and excessive page reloading all contribute to the carbon footprint of a web session. To avoid this, rather than focus on the number of pages people view on your site, aim to help the user find the information they are looking for in the fewest clicks possible, through clear signposting and optimised page content.

Keep The User Focused

We all know that attention spans are decreasing. Distracting pop-ups and multiple CTAs can cause users to move away from their initial goal when visiting a site, having to return at a later stage. To combat this, minimise distractions and unnecessary content on your site.

Purge Unnecessary Data

Dark Data refers to data that is stored but not utilised for meaningful purposes, taking up space on servers. This can include information such as customer and transaction data. On average dark data accounts for 52% of the world’s stored data. In 2020 alone, dark data generated 6.4 million tonnes of CO², equivalent to the annual CO² emissions of eighty countries. Minimise this by conducting regular data audits to identify which types of data are collected but not used.

Data usage can also be reduced by optimising the images on your site. An image heavy website will not only increase load time but data storage. Consider the types of files used, using smaller types of files where possible.

Optimise Page Load Time

Page load time differs from server response time in that it encompasses all the elements it takes to download and show a webpage in a browser. This includes server response time as well as the time it takes for the browser to download all the necessary resources, such as HTML and JavaScript, and render them on the screen. The longer a server takes to respond to a request or a page takes to load, the more energy is consumed.

Load time and website performance can be optimised through a reduction in the number of plugins and scripts used on a brand’s site, efficient coding practices and a reduction in the size of images used.

Make Use of CDNs

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can help reduce the carbon footprint of a website by caching the website’s content on servers around the world. This reduces the distance data needs to travel which in turn reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions. Similarly, businesses can optimise their data centres to reduce energy consumption by using energy-efficient devices and consolidating data centres to reduce energy usage.

Sustainable Digital Marketing Campaigns

The methods used to create a more sustainable site can be applied to digital marketing campaigns. Optimise your campaigns by reducing the file weight of banners, limiting animations to only those that are necessary and conveying your marketing message in the most efficient way possible. In the analysis phase, focus on campaigns with the highest ROI and redirect resources away from those which are not generating the most effective results. The same applies for email marketing, rather than bombarding subscribers with emails, reduce the number of emails sent by honing your message, which should also help to reduce unsubscription rates.

The first step is in understanding how digital marketing contributes to the climate crisis.Now we have an awareness and understanding of the actions we can take for a more sustainable digital marketing practice, we can set sustainability goals. Measuring and reporting on your results will help to identify areas that can be improved on, plus you’ll be able to celebrate the wins.