What Is Digital Sustainably And How Can Businesses Embrace It?

16 Sept 2023

Is your business digitally sustainable? 

As we’ve discussed many times on the EcoSend podcast, becoming a more climate-conscious business is a learning curve for everyone, not least when it comes to digital sustainability. 

Since many people don’t know their digital habits generate CO2, this is one area that is commonly overlooked by businesses. Yet our online activity and use of technology as a whole actually have a huge impact on the planet. 

While there can be a lot to learn, and even a lot to change - every effort is needed to reduce our emissions as businesses, as well as individuals too.  

Digital sustainability can even have far-reaching benefits for businesses that extend beyond the climate, such as reduced costs and improved mental health. 

So here’s what you need to know about becoming more sustainable throughout all of your digital activity as a business. 

What Is Digital Sustainability?

First, a quick overview for anyone new to the term. 

Digital Sustainability is the concept of using digital technology in a way that minimises negative impacts on the environment with a view to creating a more sustainable future. 

Other environmental concepts also relate to digital sustainability. These include reducing greenhouse gases, lowering carbon footprints, resource conservation and protecting biodiversity. The difference with digital sustainability is that any actions relate specifically to the use of technology. 

Statista reports the total carbon emissions per year stands at 37.49 billion metric tons (GtCO₂) as of 2022. 

The IT sector is thought to account for 3.7% of all global emissions - a figure that’s set to double by 2025. This amounts to billions of tonnes of emissions, even for such a ‘low’ percentage. 

Therefore, digital sustainability aims to shine a light on the emissions that practically all businesses generate with any online activity or use of technology.

This applies whether you're a freelancer, start-up, small business or long established global organisation - we all need to play out part in improving our digital sustainability.

Energy Efficiency 

It’s a simple fact that our devices require power to work. Traditionally, this has come from coal or oil powered energy suppliers. 

The whole lifespan of our digital devices needs to be considered since it requires energy to manufacture, distribute and use our digital devices. In particular, as we use our devices to create content and communicate as a business, this also results in increased carbon emissions. 

So when it comes to energy efficiency, businesses need to understand how much power their digital devices require, along with how these are being powered. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are the way to go compared with oil or gas. 

Ageing or inefficient technology can also result in higher CO2 emissions, meaning businesses should also look to replace any hardware or software to be able to produce fewer emissions. 

E-Waste Management

When your tech is no longer needed - it becomes e-waste. 

E-waste can include the likes of :

  • Audio equipment

  • Cables 

  • Chargers 

  • Computers and laptops

  • Keyboards and mice

  • Printers and scanners

  • Smartphones

  • Tablets

If you’re based in the UK, Reyclenow has some excellent advice on how and where to recycle electrical tech.

Since many items cannot be sent to landfill, any e-waste needs to be correctly sorted and sent to the right place. 

Of course, minimising any e-waste in the first place is also key. This can involving buying less tech or donating unwanted tech that is otherwise in working order.

Digital Sobriety 

In a webinar held by Globant, the notion of digital sobriety was mentioned as a core principle of digital sustainability. 

The analogy of digital sobriety was first coined in 2008. It means: 

“An approach that consists of designing leaner digital services and curbing everyday digital use.” 

Webinar participant and sustainability champion Elena Morettini stated: “Even though there are industries which can be thought of as the most emitting ones, it is very crucial that each one of us takes on the responsibility of our role and impact with respect to emissions and energy consumption."

While talking about the IT industry specifically, Elena added: “No industry is exempt from that crucial and key responsibility.”

So what does digital sobriety mean in real terms? On a basic level, websites should be designed in a way that is user-friendly in every sense of the word.

Beyond WCAG compliance for digital accessibility, there is a need to make websites light in size and as easy to navigate as possible for digital sustainability.

Developments and trends such as infinite scroll or even clickbait content are the very opposite of digital sobriety. These are far from the only examples of where the web has become wasteful and even downright unhelpful. 

Therefore, our take on digital sobriety is about recognising such poor web design or content creation practices, and instead opting for a greener approach.

FYI, the above image is the homepage of the incredibly insightful Sustainable Web Design.

Opting For Audio Rather Than Video Calls

Most businesses use video calling such as Zoom on a weekly if not daily basis. 

But did you know that an hour of video conferencing can release up to 1,000g of CO2e into the atmosphere? That’s according to research by MIT, which also found that by opting for an audio call instead, the carbon footprint of that call can be slashed by 96%. 

Sure, meeting over Zoom does produce fewer emissions compared with driving or even flying in for a meeting. The trouble is, like with most of our digital habits, we just don’t think of the carbon emissions associated with everyday admin or meetings. 

So if the call can definitely be done with voice (especially if you’re not presenting anything but talking about general work updates) this is yet another way that businesses can embrace digital sustainability. 

Better still, say it over Slack!

ESG Reporting

What all digital sustainability efforts come down to (plus any other environmental changes you’ve made to your business) is measuring the impact to track progress, along with identifying areas for improvement. 

ESG stands for environmental, social and governance performance and practices. In short, an ESG report outlines company performance on all aspects relating to the business’s environmental impact.

Increasingly, this includes digital based emissions such as email sending, video marketing and even web design

For example, EcoSend customers are given access to the Treeapp dashboard which outlines how many trees have been planted to absorb any carbon emissions associated with their email marketing activity.

Most importantly, the EcoSend dashboard will tell users how much CO2 has been reduced, due to sending their emails through our renewable energy powered servers. 

All of which is designed to inform businesses on their environmental impact which can be important for ESG reporting.

Whatever other digital tools you use to do business - the same thought process needs to be applied and documented within the report.

Read more: EcoSend Trees Are Now Planted Via Treeapp

EcoSend - Switch Your Email Marketing To Our Sustainable Platform Today

Now you’re aware of what digital sustainability is, are you also aware that your emails have a carbon footprint? 

Some 300 billion emails are sent each day. Depending on the size of the email, this can emit up to 26g of carbon per message.

EcoSend runs on renewable energy sources and plants trees on behalf of businesses. This makes it possible for you to keep sending amazing email campaigns - but without the impact on the climate. 

Want to try EcoSend for yourself? Start your free trial to get started. 

If you need any help we can also offer you a demo of EcoSend where we’ll walk you through all the features and benefits.

Or, drop us a message if you have any other questions about sustainable email marketing.

About the author

Rachael O'Flaherty

Content Writer

Email marketing without the carbon footprint

The climate conscious email marketing platform. Send your first campaign today.

  • Free Email Templates

  • Smart Segmentation

  • Lead Forms

  • Automated Campaigns

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  • Team Sharing

  • HTML Email Editor

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  • MailChimp Import

  • Zapier Integration

  • Powerful API

Email marketing without the carbon footprint

The climate conscious email marketing platform. Send your first campaign today.

  • Free Email Templates

  • Smart Segmentation

  • Lead Forms

  • Automated Campaigns

  • Automatic Offsetting

  • Team Sharing

  • HTML Email Editor

  • Multi-channel Campaigns

  • Drip Campaigns

  • MailChimp Import

  • Zapier Integration

  • Powerful API