Sustainable digital marketing

4 minute read

The last twenty years have seen an ever-increasing migration towards digital channels, as technology and user patterns have evolved, accelerated from 2020 when the covid-19 pandemic forced millions around the world to interact with family, friends and colleagues through digital media in place of face-to face communication. Within the wealth and asset management industry, this acted as a catalyst to accelerate an already present trend of firms dedicating more time and resource to their digital offering, including websites, client portals and digital corporate and product communications.

Whist this was in part driven by necessity, it was also fed by an increasing number of firms seeking to ‘green’ their practices through reducing the amount of printed collateral that they produce on a regular basis, a trend that was well underway before the advent of global lockdowns and working from home becoming a norm.

However, it is important to remember that just because it’s digital doesn’t mean its green per se. The energy consumption required of the on-masse shift to digital have huge consequences in terms of emissions and environmental impact. To give this some context, if the global internet was a country, it would be the sixth most polluting country in the world.

When thinking about the considerations for using digital environments, we must consider that we are storing information on a server, servers use a lot of energy to run. To recall the information either downloading or viewing also takes energy.

Reducing file sizes and optimising infrastructure and processes ultimately allows us to minimise the amount of data being stored, transferred, or downloaded.

There are a number of ways in which we can think about designing more environmentally friendly websites and digital adverts.

  1. A simplified user experience that takes users more quickly to the information they are looking for is not only UX best practice but fewer clicks uses less energy and therefore produces fewer emissions
  2. Streamlined content is another general UX recommendation that is also  beneficial from an environmental perspective as pages that are quicker to load use less energy
  3. Colours can play a role – darker colours use less energy on screen so across an entire website can have a big impact  on energy consumption 
  4. Efficient use of web typography – like imagery, fonts are pieces of information that need to load every time a web page loads. Some standard fonts, like Arial and Times New Roman, live on computers as standard so require less time and energy to load, whereas custom or unusual fonts need to be provided by the server via an HTTP request each time they are used.

A number of considerations from a web development perspective collectively can have a big impact on a website’s energy use:

  • Use only optimised plugins and minimise site weight and load times
  • Reduce unnecessary page loads
  • Reduce bounce rate so only real visitors use up valuable energy
  • Use lightweight imagery and optimise using latest file formats such as webp
  • Serve up imagery at the correct size using responsive techniques
  • Minimise the use of tracking scripts
  • Use server-side caching as that reduces the initial overhead of querying the database
  • Compress all code to remove white space so it loads faster
  • Block all unnecessary bots
  • Content delivery networks-The closer you move the largest les towards your user base, the fewer megabyte miles the data needs to travel
  • We suggest using Cloudflare as they have a renewable energy commitment
  • Be efficient with module design. Reuse existing modules where possible rather than creating bespoke modules for each page – meaning there is less code to power.

Generally we do not have control over the full energy supply of web services, but we do have some control over where we host our projects.

That said, we don’t want to locate our servers too far away from our users; it takes energy to transmit data through the telecom’s networks, and the further the data travels, the more energy is consumed. Best practice would be to target your server based upon your analytics data so it’s closest to your main source of visitors, thus it uses less power for the majority of your visitors.

In summary, reduced data transfer translates to energy efficiency, a key factor to reducing carbon emissions of web products. The more efficient your website, intranet and other digital products, the less electricity they use, and the less fossil fuels need to be burned to produce the electricity to power them.

Optional Read: If you are interested in sustainable web design: Tom Greenwood – Sustainable Web Design