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July 08, 2019

Can digital marketing be a sustainable solution for our planet?

Digital Strategy

In this article, we’re going to discuss a topic that’s a little different to what you might usually expect. Over the past few years, digital marketing has been on the rise. Indeed, it allows you to reach out to a larger number of people at a lower cost and with an increasingly precise focus.

What’s more, with regard to the environment, digital marketing seems to be the perfect alternative for companies who use the “triple P” (“people, planet, profit”) evaluation model. The amount of paper used for printing has decreased drastically, as has the amount of physical movement required to distribute documents.

But in reality, is digital marketing more sustainable? And what tools can you use to make your marketing agency or company better for our ecosystem? This is what we will be discussing in this article.

Why should we be worrying about this?

Based on current arrangements and political trends, it’s inevitable that we will see a growing number of laws to regulate companies’ relationship with their environment, so it’s wise to get a head start here.

Furthermore, we all have a responsibility to do our utmost to protect and respect our environment, both for future generations (if you feel strongly about this) and for our own, notably with the issue of the increase in waste.

Lastly, on an economic level, this could allow companies to interact more with clients who are affected by the same issues.

“The web’s power consumption is equal to the consumption for a country like Denmark”

The real ecological impacts of digital marketing

With the dawn of Web 2.0, we are enjoying free and efficient access to information like never before. From free storage spaces we can use on Google Drive or Dropbox, emails and server farms which house the millions of available websites, the web’s power consumption is equal to that of a country like Denmark (some studies even suggest it’s higher). The highest consumption level, however, comes from on-demand video streaming services such as Netflix.

Advertising screens and boards also consume a great deal of energy. So too do the terminals left on or in sleep mode at our marketing agencies when no one is in the office. As well as analysing the power consumption, we need to examine the light pollution generated by screens, of which we’re seeing an increasing amount, for example on the underground or in train stations, at bus stops, etc.

Another level of pollution that we could consider is the social impact that this overabundance of information has on consumers. A MailChimp campaign or a Facebook ad are all well and good, but you need to reach the right people. As such, not only are consumers targeted more often, which means they end up consuming more, but also many people are seeing a huge increase in the number of digital images they’re subject to. As a result, the sector risks losing consumers’ attention on a general level if practices fail to evolve.

The last level of the ecological impact of digital marketing lies in the creation of all kinds of computer terminal. Smartphones, laptops and tablets require the extraction of rare metals and consume energy on a daily basis.

Three measures to adopt

We’ve picked out three categories of measure to adopt to help your digital marketing flourish. The first concerns the digital strategy as a whole, the second relates to IT infrastructure and the third shows the actions to be taken in collaboration with the different stakeholders involved.

  • 1. Strategic action

To make digital marketing more ecological, you first need to set out an overall strategy with the company decision-makers. Without this, it will be difficult to take any other measures to reduce your ecological impact. One solution can be to adopt a charter to display and share the values with the collaborators, as well as a CSR policy to communicate to clients. If you work as a marketer in a company, don’t hesitate to open up a discussion about these issues or share our article with your superiors.

It could be interesting to appeal to a service provider to conduct an environmental audit of your daily activities in order to establish a score that must not be exceeded by each of your marketing campaigns. From there, solutions will appear, such as reducing high power expenses or compensating through projects which sequestrate carbon or fund reforestation. Some companies are even going a step further and including these energy goals in their KPI.

Ultimately, the main action of more sustainable marketing is better targeting of prospective clients. Indeed, in addition to generating less data on the servers, you will also decrease your spending on marketing and see your CTR increase. A good tool to use to achieve this is lead generation through Facebook. Ask your agency to show you how to make your targeting as precise as possible.

  • 2. Action on IT infrastructure

The “Green IT” movement is in full flight. The aim of this movement is to allow IT infrastructures to have a neutral ecological impact, and thus advocates use of green servers for your websites and data. Companies like Green Host offer this kind of service.

You can also monitor the power consumption of your offices in general, computers (hibernate rather than sleep mode) and lights. Think about installing an automatic regulator to switch appliances off if you have a tendency to forget, and to do the same for the heating and air conditioning.

There’s no such thing as a small gesture in this fight to help the environment, and using Ecosia is a good example of this: you plant a tree every time you perform an internet search. To transfer large files, use Wetransfer which deletes the data a week after it has been sent. Of course, local storage remains the solution of choice for files which should not be stored on Drives or Dropbox. Lastly, for emails, make sure that you limit the size of your attachments and files you share using Wetransfer.

We’ve discussed the overabundance of information and Cloud storage spaces. Request that your collaborators take time every week to clear out their mailboxes for twenty minutes, taking special care to delete emails containing images or videos, which take up the most space.

Companies that make an effort in this area, like Facebook with its data centres which are fuelled by renewable energy, have received backing from NGOs like Greenpeace. This is an extra benefit to motivate you to tackle the issue head-on.

  • 3. Collaboration with stakeholders

With regard to your service providers, you can select those who respect corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies.

It’s not about green brainwashing, but when you’re doing your utmost to protect the environment, you need to talk to your clients about these actions. First, this allows you to make them aware of the issue. Next, it allows you to justify a price difference that might come from the purchase of more sustainable energy or materials. Lastly, it offers the benefit of a better public image. If you’re going to do it, you might as well use your efforts as a way of standing out from the rest – it would be a shame not to.

Finally, if you’re an agency looking to be as green as possible, choose clients who also take responsibility for the environment. Creating a virtuous circle with regard to the production line is the global solution that will allow you to create a sufficiently strong lever to ensure a successful ecological transition.

If you have any other suggestions about how to improve your carbon footprint while continuing to work in digital marketing, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments!


How to reconcile digital marketing and your environmental impact

The lie behind green growth

Ecological impact of digital: real or virtual?

What is nudge marketing?

It’s time to act for digital ecology

Digital at the service of ecology

Making the internet more ecological

It’s time for digital marketing to have its own sustainability movement

5 things digital marketers can do for sustainability

Create value with sustainable digital marketing

Tomorrow, the film. Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent.

Data centers at FB

Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash


December 4, 2023 at 6 pm 44 min

J'ai trouvé l'article pertinent et actuel considérant que le numérique est une des industries les plus polluantes. Les organisations ont aussi leur part de responsabilité pour limiter leur impact environnemental. Dans une perspective plus large, allier marketing digital et éthique les inscrirait dans un marketing plus durable constituant une combinaison gagnante aussi bien pour l'environnement, les organisations et les consommateurs. Pour en apprendre davantage, je conseille cet article :

Brands Up
December 8, 2023 at 2 pm 31 min

Merci pour votre commentaire et votre partage d'expérience !