CRAFTED LABS - Sustainability in digital
Marketing shouldn’t cost the earth.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about global warming? The typical coal-fuelled power station? Skies full of flights? Deforestation in the Amazon? A room full of servers doesn’t often make the cut, but with the internet and digital systems accounting for around 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions, it’s a huge (and growing) source of energy consumption.
For many businesses, sustainability policies focus on more physical measures such as business travel, utilities consumption, and waste management. Emissions from digital activity remain largely under the radar.
As digital activity contributes more carbon than the aviation industry, we’re sharing what we as marketers can do to identify and reduce that impact.
Sustainable digital advertising.
Online ads consume power and thus have an environmental impact. The higher the file size and complexity of the ad serving process, the more carbon created.
While measuring the impact of ad campaigns isn’t a perfect science, Scope3 and Ebiquity have made huge strides in calculating the global weighted average of digital ad emissions. The findings equalled 670g CO2PM (carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gases emissions per 1000 advertising impressions).
With campaigns often driving millions of impressions, it soon adds up and it’s common for ad campaigns to create more than five tonnes of CO2 on average. Thankfully there are several opportunities to create more sustainable campaigns.
Just like optimising a webpage, smaller file sizes mean a smaller carbon footprint. When briefing ad creative, include a note on achieving small file sizes as opposed to only including the maximum file size guidelines from the platform.
Create a six-second video instead of a twenty-second one. The carbon footprint will be three times smaller, but the advertising effect will only be marginally reduced.” Pablo Galiana, Global Industry Director at Teads.
It’s entirely possible to purchase more sustainable ad inventory. For example, by working with StackAdapt, we’re able to target sustainable context, meaning ads will be placed on publishers that support sustainability, green products, renewable energy, recycling/upcycling, farming, conservation, or organic/vegan lifestyles, paving the way for a sustainable future.
Avoid placements on overtly ‘made-for-advertising’ websites; sites set up with the pure purpose of running ads. These often provide a poor user experience and the overwhelming ads on the page not only are the worst offenders from an environmental perspective, but they also have little value for your overall campaign’s performance.
The webpage examples above highlight the invasiveness of ads, often heightened on a mobile browser. Recent studies showed as high as 15% of ads drove no value to advertisers, yet the carbon emissions still add up.
Ads placed on a low-clutter page experienced an 82% increase in aided ad recall and a 62% increase in unaided ad recall, compared to ads on high clutter pages, according to research by MAGNA and Eyeo.
More direct supply chains.
Media buying auctions often lead to a sustainability challenge when a single placement can often be bid on across more than 50 SSPs (supply side platforms). All this data exchanging has an environmental cost to it.
Sophie, Group Advertising Strategist
Target placements in a simplified supply chain. For example, one of our partner platforms, Teads, operates on a direct buy model, resulting in one-to-one exchanges and no excessive auctions.
Sustainable website development.
Building and managing websites follows the same sustainability principles as running ads. The more efficient the site, the more sustainable it becomes.
Efficiency can be anything from how many calls it makes to the server to retrieve information, the weight of your webpages, or how easy it is for users to find the information they need.
Taking the first steps to improving your website sustainability is often a simple process that may not require any technical development. For example, removing any insight tools, pop-up surveys or tracking scripts that aren’t being actively used can instantly reduce the weight of a page load.
It’s also easy to review your media content throughout the website. Does it add value to the page? Can the file size be reduced prior to uploading to the CMS? For example, Squoosh is a great tool to compress images. Is the way it loads optimised i.e. does your site use lazy loading for media further down the page?
Looking for a starting benchmark? Check out the tools available below.
Tools for testing.
Mark, Senior Developer
Like many tools, these provide a snapshot of performance at a single point in time; a great benchmark to have. It’s worth periodically retesting to see how your site changes over time. There is an industry common goal to have an average page emission of 1g of carbon dioxide or less.
Ecograder delivers a well-rounded score based on performance, efficiency, and user experience factors. It also highlights emissions estimates and whether your site uses green hosting.
Website Carbon Calculator.
A clear and effective tool that delivers an easy to understand statement on how your site performs against the web.
Green Web Foundation.
A simple tool to check whether your site is hosted on renewable energy. Beyond the tool, the Green Web Foundation is working to accelerate the transition to a fossil-free internet. Its open dataset—accessed over 5 billion times—tracks how much of the internet runs on green energy.
This is the world’s first eco standard for websites. They will carry out a free audit of your site and help you through the steps to certification. Celebrate your achievement and inspire others to join the movement for a more sustainable digital world.
Offsetting the impact.
In addition to taking steps above, you can reduce the impact further through carbon offsetting. Reducing the impact in the first place is always better than offsetting schemes.
As an agency we offset more CO2 than we produce through a variety of different schemes (along with our policies to reduce our impact overall). Look out for certified schemes as not all carbon offsetting is equal.
This isn’t the conclusion.
The spotlight on digital sustainability will only grow stronger. In the short period of research for this piece alone, there was a noticeable increase in coverage from industry bodies, marketing technology providers and news outlets.
In the near future, we expect carbon neutral marketing campaigns and sustainable-focused website projects to play a bigger part of the briefing process. Just like we have metrics for page speed, cumulative layout shift, impressions, and conversions, carbon impact will become a line item in reporting within the next couple of years.
At Crafted, beyond being a carbon negative business, we take a responsibility in educating and reducing the impact of the work we do on behalf of our clients. We've built more sustainable options into our service offering, are developing a way of highlighting carbon benchmarking for campaigns, and reviewing our technology partnerships based on sustainable credentials.
A FINAL WORD FROM THE AUTHOR
Sam, Head of Marketing
This is just the start. As an industry there are still lots of opportunities to explore. I'd love to hear from you if you’ve got more to add to this piece or have solutions that can help us to continue on this road of improved sustainability.
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Interested in running more sustainable marketing campaigns? We’d love to hear from you.