Businesses face a variety of ever-evolving roadblocks today on their way to success. Unforeseen events such as COVID-19 have thrown entire industries for a loop, changing once-certain circumstances forever. There are also obstacles that seem too distant to take seriously today. However, those far-off dilemmas have a nasty habit of becoming very serious, very quickly.
Digital sustainability falls into this latter category of potholes every business must face at some point. Yes, environmental concern is something that can be put off until tomorrow in some cases. But that won’t be the case forever.
Furthermore, when deployed correctly, digital sustainability can actually be a competitive advantage. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to be digitally sustainable, and how your brand can take simple steps today to get closer to this goal.
What is Digital Sustainability?
Much has been made in recent years about carbon footprints, going green, reducing energy consumption, and so on and so forth. Each of these initiatives falls under the umbrella of environmental sustainability.
Digital sustainability takes these eco-friendly concepts and applies them to the digital age. Why? Because digital actions, when taken en masse, can have a significant impact on the environment.
The sum of all digital activities conducted by humans is responsible for four percent of worldwide carbon emissions, which is approximately the same percentage incurred by airplanes. Worse, this number is increasing by nine percent each year. In other words, this is only going to get worse, unless brands start to make it better.
Benefits of Digital Sustainability
There are two main draws to being digitally sustainable. The first is that, from a corporate responsibility perspective, caring for the environment is simply the right thing to do. Nobody likes a company that preaches about being green while its CEO uses tons of jet fuel to fly around the world.
If a brand wants to preach digital sustainability, it has to mean what it says and stand behind its word. Fully following through on digital sustainability can make a real difference in conserving resources and helping the environment, and it can help others to do the same.
The second benefit to incorporating digital sustainability is that it can serve as a branding asset. While a brand that jumps on the digital sustainability bandwagon for the purpose of bragging about it on marketing materials completely misses the meaning of the concept, the fact is that today’s consumers are basing their decisions more than ever on the socially conscious actions of the brands they support.
A company that takes digital sustainability seriously should promote what it’s doing — not for the social media clout, but because it’s a cause the business believes in, from top to bottom. If the brand is serious about what they’re doing, it will show forth in all of its actions, endearing the company to eco-conscious consumers.
Of course, you can’t preach digital sustainability until you’ve actually done something to help the world in which we live. Here are some ways your brand can get started with digital sustainability.
Start From The Top
Change of all kinds begins at the top of an organization and filters its way down. For a brand to truly become digitally sustainable, it has to be a full-on effort that all parts of the business buy into.
Every decision the brand makes has to incorporate digital sustainability wherever possible. Brands should communicate their desire to become more digitally sustainable to consumers. Web design should be more minimalistic, without reliance on images and videos that require significant use of data. Partnerships, including the computer software used by the company, should be crafted with the shared value of digital sustainability in mind.
The brand’s goals should be publicly displayed and frequently updated so that customers can support these initiatives — and if the brand provides tips for how those people can incorporate digital sustainability into their own lives, all the better.
The idea is to create a movement that inspires change, even at the smallest of levels. Those changes will add up to become collectively powerful over time.
Consider Your Data Policy
One of the constant reminders we hear in digital marketing is that data is king, and the more data we have, the better off we are. However, storing data does come at a cost. Servers require electricity, creating high levels of energy use and emissions.
If your brand collects and stores tons of data, not only can parsing through all of that data be challenging, but you’re also negatively impacting the environment by holding onto data you may or may not need.
Brands should keep environmental concerns in mind as they approach data. A more streamlined strategy for data collection and storage — and data deletion after certain inactivity thresholds are met — may be beneficial in more ways than one.
Of course, all modern businesses can and should use data to achieve their goals. However, it’s important to realize that server size and capacity aren’t the only concerns when it comes to data storage.
Track Your Progress
It’s one thing to talk about digital sustainability and pat yourself on the back for the improvements you’ve embarked upon. But how do you know if it’s really working?
Online tools like the Website Carbon Calculator can help you to measure your brand’s progress over time. While the Website Carbon Calculator will only examine your brand’s website, it’s a great place to start with the tracking of your brand’s emissions. Over time, you can see how your website is improving, giving you some numbers to show to your audience as proof that your brand’s efforts are working.
With that little boost from the Website Carbon Calculator, you can look into how some of your other policies are paying off from a digital sustainability perspective. Success breeds more success. Your website might not be your entire operation, but improvements on your site can go a long way toward propelling you towards progress in other areas of digital sustainability.
Investigate Alternative Methods
Though many brands would love to use digital sustainability to the fullest, it’s not always possible for every business to fully get on board. The simple reason is that not every industry or product line lends itself to digital sustainability.
For example, clothing manufacturers can say all they want that the environment is a concern, but it rings hollow when jeans take nearly 8,000 liters of water to produce. The same applies to high energy costs in producing cryptocurrency. It just doesn’t work all the time — which leads a cynic to say, why try?
It doesn’t matter where you start, but where you finish. Wrangler has publicly stated it aims to reduce its water use in jeans by 50 percent. It won’t solve the problem of jeans being too reliant on way too much water, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Digital sustainability is much the same. Any business can set a goal for reducing its carbon footprint, energy costs, or anything that would produce a net positive change for the environment. As long as the company stakeholders hold themselves accountable, display their progress in public, and truly make an effort to improve, it will be seen as a positive initiative.
What’s really important, though, is that brands don’t just stick to these simple things we’ve discussed. A brand that’s serious about digital sustainability will investigate every aspect of its processes to find ways they can be run more efficiently.
Customer retention policies that store less data, a mobile website with fewer colors and graphics, and a production facility that can use solar power — are just a few examples of improvements that can really make a difference, for brands and for the environment alike.
These are measures the public can and should know about so that the brand can be recognized for its digital sustainability success, and consumers will know who to back with their dollars.
Digital sustainability takes some effort and a little knowledge about the environment, but it’s easy to implement and can yield results quickly. Most importantly, it will help your brand make a real difference in the world. It also communicates a lot about your own values as a brand and an organization. To learn more about how your brand can do more to become digitally sustainable, contact us at Commit Agency today.