Sustainable digital marketing is an approach that focuses on minimizing environmental impact and promoting social responsibility in various online marketing activities, such as digital advertising, social media, email marketing, SEO, content marketing, analytics, and events.
- Eco-friendly digital marketing stack: We can reduce carbon emissions, energy consumption, and digital waste by using eco-friendly tools and methods to create, communicate, and deliver value to customers.
- Sustainable marketing strategies: The goal is to align marketing practices with environmental and ethical values, leading to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly business landscape.
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For some, marketing activities may be seen as a brutal and aggressive play to get the attention of potential customers in a crowded advertising environment. It can be perceived as a fishing expedition where we have to choose the best spot to catch the right fish by various fishing techniques. From this standpoint, the idea of "catching fish" in the digital realm may appear as an oxymoron for staying eco-friendly and sustainable.
Nevertheless, let's consider digital marketing from a new perspective by comparing it to tending a garden. By carefully selecting sustainable marketing tools and methods, removing unnecessary actions and data like weeds, and giving the garden the proper attention, we can ensure the growth of beautiful plants. With these efforts, the garden can bring joy to both you and the right customers, who will feel welcomed rather than trapped in this calming and relaxing environment.
Digital marketing plays a crucial role in overall marketing strategies. In today's world, the internet and digital platforms are the go-to places for connecting with customers. It can be said that most of our articles focus on digital products like websites and apps, which are essential for marketing. And that's right! The websites we develop, update and fill in with product and service information, as well as contact forms, serve as a cornerstone for our marketing efforts and what we can truly provide to our customers.
Nonetheless, digital marketing encompasses more than just websites, as it involves a variety of different actions. Just like how engaging books can be supported by various marketing efforts to inform people about your activities and the value you provide. As mentioned earlier, digital products such as websites and apps can be conscientiously created and curated to minimize their environmental impact and reduce carbon footprint.
Is it possible to utilize marketing in a sustainable manner? How can we strike a balance and be more effective and eco-friendly in the constant pursuit of growth, gaining more followers, subscribers, and clients?This is where sustainable or green marketing comes in, demonstrating a more responsible approach to becoming visible, noticed, and chosen by customers.
Let's delve into the topic of sustainable digital marketing.
What is sustainable marketing?
The majority of sustainable marketing definitions we found online focus less on the actual marketing activities and more on the environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable nature of the products or services themselves. This is a natural combination when a company offers eco-friendly products and promotes them in an environmentally friendly manner. However, I would refer to these actions as marketing for sustainable brands.
Nevertheless, there are still many businesses that do not associate sustainability as a descriptor for their products, even if they are environmentally friendly, but still aim to act responsibly and consider the well-being of the planet and future generations at every level, including in their marketing efforts.
That’s why when talking about sustainable marketing, we would like to focus more on all other digital marketing activities, and a part of the website itself, that can also be made in a more sustainable way.
Like all activities, marketing has an impact on the environment, contributing to carbon emissions. Whether it's traditional marketing or sustainable, the goal remains the same - providing value to the consumer. However, the focus should not just be on the end goal, but also on the methods used to target the right audience while incorporating eco-friendly practices.
Thank you for not printing this email. Take care of the environment.
No doubt, digital marketing has a massive environmental impact. It can be illusory to think that today's marketing is less polluting than 30 years ago. Indeed, we are doing our best for the planet by using less paper, printing fewer posters and leaflets, and adding to the email signature footer information, such as: "Thank you for not printing this email. Take care of the environment." (oh my, who is today printing emails?)
Of course, it may seem that marketing was more polluting in the past, especially since those marketing actions were more tangible. Over a decade ago, Philip Kotler, a famous American marketing author and consultant, wrote:
Marketers in the past have based their strategies on the assumption of infinite resources and zero environmental impact. With the growing recognition of finite resources and high environmental costs, marketers need to re-examine their theory and practices. They need to revise their policies on product development, pricing, distribution, and branding. Companies must balance more carefully their growth goals with the need to pursue “sustainability”.
Today, we are more aware of the finite resources. However, in terms of digitality and the web, we still treat it as an unstoppably growing galaxy capable of containing everything.
Patrick Hartmann and his team have observed that when it comes to advertising and climate change, the industry's environmental impact "was expected to decline" with the rise of the internet. This is because online advertising eliminated the necessity for mass production of materials, a key factor in print media. However, the significant increase in online advertising production has led to a rise in the industry's carbon footprint, effectively canceling the environmental benefits of its resource efficiency.
Think before you thank
Nowadays, we live in a society that is increasingly cautious and concerned about the environment, promoting responsible use of resources, recycling, and the adoption of renewable energy while also encouraging the idea of zero waste. However, despite the evidence presented in numerous articles, we struggle to fully grasp the fact that the digital world also has a significant carbon footprint. This footprint continues to expand as the infrastructure required to support every website, app, email, streamed video, and other digital data becomes more powerful and energy-intensive.
Digital marketing can be highly energy-demanding. Indeed, it helps us to reduce the energy hidden above the traditional media, such as leaflets and posters, all its manufacture. However, we should keep in mind that it is not controlled by a mystical digital force, but rather, as previously mentioned, by energy generated from the burning of fossil fuels.
Today, digital marketing has taken over the role of traditional paper media. Instead of posters and leaflets, digital banners, pop-ups, Google Ads, and social media ads are now used to capture people's attention. These digital versions not only engage and impact the audience, but they also have a detrimental effect on the environment.
To illustrate it, let's imagine Times Square in New York with all those flickering and alluring humongous city lights, LEDs, and other lit-up screens. It was calculated that their one-day running consumes about 161 megawatts, which is comparable to the power needed by around 160,000 homes. Those data sounds shocking, but they can realize that going digital does not always equal becoming more eco-friendly.
The extremely appealing advertising area in Time Square can be found now on the internet, with a significant focus on online advertising. It is seen on websites and through various online channels such as banners, pop-ups, paid ads, social media posts, newsletters, videos, and more. These forms of online advertising also have an impact on the environment.
According to a study by Pärssinen and colleagues, online advertising "consumes vast amounts of energy" and contributes around 10-20% of carbon emissions.
Reducing online advertising traffic will improve the energy efficiency of the Internet. The impact will not manifest immediately, but somewhat gradually. While the impact of invalid online advertising significantly affects the advertising economy in monetary terms, it also consumes lots of energy and has a hefty carbon footprint.
We need to become aware that turning into digital transformation in business also brings environmental costs. To illustrate it, instead of the signature footer asking for not printing the email, we should raise awareness that every response emits CO2. This approach was extensively promoted by the UK campaign "Think before you thank." It encouraged people to consider the environmental cost of sending unnecessary emails and messages. This includes the CO2 emissions generated from server usage, data transmission, and device power consumption.
By raising awareness of these environmental costs, businesses can encourage more thoughtful and efficient communication practices. This can include reducing unnecessary emails, using more energy-efficient technology, and considering the environmental impact of your digital marketing.
Ultimately, businesses should aim to strike a balance between the benefits of digital transformation and the need to minimize their environmental footprint. This may involve implementing sustainable technology solutions, promoting eco-friendly communication habits, actively seeking ways to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions, and considering sustainability in digital marketing efforts.
Sustainable marketing strategies
Target audience. Conversions. Marketing funnels. ROI. No matter who you are in your company, in which department you work, you know that your business relies on reaching appropriate people who would like to buy from you, order the service, choose your product, read your content, remember your brand, return into it or recommend it to others.
Possibly, your marketing team, hired digital marketing agency or you own has already built a marketing strategy that includes different actions, KPIs, and so on. You measure its ROI to see what brings the most value to your business. The strategy in marketing is designed to achieve your company-specific objectives.
However, no matter how sustainable and eco-friendly your product and service are, you can always incorporate sustainability into your marketing activities and initiatives. Just as you would develop a marketing plan in traditional advertising to differentiate yourself in the market, you can also create a sustainable digital marketing strategy for your business.
Here are some steps to help you create a digital strategy for sustainability:
1. Set clear and measurable goals:
Define what you want to achieve with your digital marketing efforts, whether it's increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, or generating leads and sales. At this point, you can also set a digital marketing budget to help you establish boundaries for the marketing activities regarding its carbon footprint. Putting those limitations can help you stick to things that matter.
2. Understand your target audience:
This is the most critical point because, according to your target audience, you are planning your digital marketing communications, digital campaigns, your tone of voice, and used marketing techniques. Research and analyze your target audience deeply through market research, surveys, in-depth interviews, and creating personas to understand their needs, preferences, and online behavior. Do you need a TikTok profile and content if your target audience is 50> users? Does the academic language of your article fit your customers searching for game entertainment? By investigating who your target audience is, you can tailor your digital marketing strategy to reach and engage with them better and save your resources and time for those actions that really matter.
3. Choose the proper digital channels:
Numerous digital marketing channels are available, including social media, search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, content marketing, and more. Surely, while searching and choosing them, you will probably check their features, compatibility with your needs, and pricing. But when it comes to sustainability, you can find out that some are more polluting than others. Below in the marketing stack paragraph, we will write more about some specific marketing solutions that minimize their carbon footprint and benefits to the planet. By selecting ethical and sustainable channels that align with your goals, you can reach your target audience effectively and create a positive environmental change.
4. Create valuable and relevant content:
The key to successful digital marketing is high-quality content, not simply creating as much content as you can. The approach "quality over quantity" will benefit both your business and the planet. That's why developing high-quality and relevant content that resonates with your audience and provides value is extremely important. Each creation of blog posts, videos, infographics, and social media posts has to be preceded by careful research about its necessity and validity. It also applies to previously created content - when it is not read at all, rethink its SEO optimization or just remove it from your channels.
5. Implement SEO best practices:
It is great to have plenty of articles, but when they are not SEO optimized, they are like time and money wasted on campaigns that reach only your own. Optimize your website and content for search engines to improve your visibility and ranking in search results. This will help drive organic traffic to your website and bring to people who search for what they want to find.
6. Leverage social media:
Is it possible to run a business nowadays without social media channels? It probably is, but the larger players know it is also an important meeting point with current and potential customers. By choosing the most adequate and sustainable social media platforms, you can use them to boost your brand's visibility, engage with your audience, and drive website traffic. Each platform has its own best practices, so tailor your approach accordingly.
7. Measure and analyze results:
Use analytics tools to track the performance of your digital marketing efforts. Measure key metrics such as website traffic, click-through, conversion, and social media engagement. Use this data to refine and improve your strategy over time that will lower your digital carbon footprint only to actions that pay off.
8. Stay updated on digital marketing trends and sustainable practices:
The digital marketing landscape constantly evolves. So do sustainability practices. Stay informed about the latest trends and advancements in sustainable and ethical digital marketing to ensure your strategy remains relevant and effective.
By following these steps, you can shift to a sustainable digital marketing strategy that helps your company stand out in the digital marketplace and achieve its marketing goals, showing at the same moment the responsibility and care about the future of the next generations and the planet.
Shift to a sustainable digital marketing stack
In an age where environmental consciousness is becoming increasingly important, we are searching for every possibility to lower our carbon footprint. In the case of businesses, as we already demonstrated in other articles from the sustainability field, we have also become more and more aware of the impact of digitality on the environment. Companies are shifting towards sustainable practices, including them in their digital marketing strategies. It appears that you can not only design and develop a sustainable website and choose green hosting for your site, but also integrate sustainability into your digital marketing through the selection of suitable tools.
The shift to a sustainable digital marketing stack involves using tools and platforms that prioritize energy efficiency and minimize carbon emissions. This may include using tools run on renewable energy sources, reducing energy consumption, and implementing strategies to mitigate digital waste. Those tools can also represent socially responsible action (CSR) by moving towards ethical data collection and privacy practices to reduce their environmental impact.
By adopting a sustainable digital marketing stack, businesses not only reduce their carbon footprint but also align with the values of their environmentally conscious consumers. This shift may also lead to cost savings in the long run, as energy-efficient practices can result in lower operational expenses. Overall, this transformation in digital marketing is a step in the right direction towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly business landscape.
Sustainable digital advertising
No matter how sustainable products and services you provide to your customers, besides this fact, you can still promote them via digital advertising using less polluting tools and sustainable practices. Digital advertising offers a variety of options that can help minimize environmental impact. For example, you can rethink the way you promote your products and services and your chosen target audience. It includes, for example, revising if the ad is focusing on the proper people or if it appears to them when they have already purchased an item and generates unnecessary messages.
Furthermore, optimizing ads for mobile devices can also reduce environmental impact, as mobile devices generally require less energy than traditional desktop computers. You can also check the energy efficiency of chosen tools and websites for your digital advertising using tools such as Scope3 that help you measure the carbon footprint of every advertising, publishing, and tech platform.
You can also check out companies such as:
- Good-Loop - An organization that creates unique ethical formats of ads (ad viewers unlock charitable donations based on view length and engagement) and distributes them across the web or supports positive actions related to the ad worlds.
- Check My Adds - A nonprofit organization committed to combating hate speech and disinformation within the ad tech industry through a membership-based approach.
- Or Clean Creatives - A nonprofit organization committed to eliminating greenwashing in the fossil fuel sector and assisting advertising and public relations agencies in severing connections with fossil fuel companies.
If you work on paid advertising, rethink the proper way of SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and SMM (Social Media Marketing) that, if targeted and settled down, is addressed to the appropriate audience and is based on proper market and keyword research. Think of it also in terms of ethical marketing, not doing marketing for blind conversion but seeing customers as humans. That means that it respects them by not misleading them with dark patterns, exclusive, complicated language, using pressure tactics, and baiting them to buy things they don't need at all. It is also about putting honesty and transparency in all promotional activities.
Check out some good practices in sustainable advertising, such as reducing the number of transactions in the bid stream, using compression, minification, and modularization of content and code, which are mentioned, for example, in the Sustainability in Digital Advertising Guide prepared by IAB Technology Laboratory Australia.
Overall, if only your company represents a sustainable product or service, leveraging digital advertising to promote sustainability can minimize the environmental footprint of marketing efforts and promote positive actions in the business.
Sustainable SEO and content marketing
Sustainable SEO means that you don't take a shortcut to become visible on search engines and treat it seriously, rather as a long-distance run where you think from a broader perspective and are aware that you have to put a lot of effort into becoming an authority in the field. Sustainable SEO involves a comprehensive keyword strategy and research approach, ensuring the content is optimized for relevant search terms.
Each work on SEO by default is a good start for implementing sustainable practices in digital marketing. However, in its more conscious, sustainable version, you should create high-quality, well-researched, and well-written content that responds to users' search intent. It reduces carbon emissions, makes your content valuable and visible, and helps users reduce their carbon footprint while searching, showing them the proper answer to their queries.
Sustainability applied to SEO efforts means also reviewing existing content and updating it to maintain its relevance and quality. It applies as well to images and video. For example, check out if you can optimize used images by lowering their weight (for example, using TinyJPG Tool) or resigning from videos uploaded in 4k and 8k resolution (which is quite unnoticeable for the human eye).
Creating quality content on websites doesn't happen overnight, so we need to regularly review it, check the performance of the content, its visibility and validity, improve internal linking, and remove toxic ones.
Doing SEO for good means helping search engines analyze and index the most valuable content more quickly. It can be done, for example, by utilizing metadata correctly and including files expected by search engines, such as sitemaps, favicon, robots.txt, sitemap.xml, meta titles, and meta descriptions that help improve the visibility and accessibility of the content.
By consistently following these practices, websites can enhance their search engine rankings in a sustainable manner without resorting to black hat tactics or short-term optimizations. It also means avoiding or preparing informative error pages or redirecting whenever needed. Sustainable SEO focuses on providing value to users and meeting their search intent, ultimately leading to more organic and long-term traffic growth. It is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and refinement of strategies to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of search engine algorithms.
To do sustainable SEO, you can use several tools that help you analyze keyword research and plan valuable content. In each of these tools, you can choose the most sustainable version, for example, by reviewing its sustainability claims and policies that show its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. For example, you can see such claims and reports on the Semrush tool that writes about its sustainability mission.
Overall, by implementing eco-friendly SEO, you provide a good user experience on the website, logical navigation that shortens the way to the searched content, does not mislead the users and doesn't trick search engines to artificially boost the ranking.
Sustainable social media
Sustainable social media refers to using and managing digital platforms to minimize environmental impact and promote ethical and inclusive practices. This includes reducing the carbon footprint generated by data centers, servers, and the energy consumed by devices accessing social media. It also involves promoting meaningful interactions and content that contribute positively to society rather than perpetuating harmful or divisive narratives.
Every click, shared post, posted video, link, and image - each of those activities has its own digital carbon footprint. As we already investigated in the article "Choosing Sustainability: The Power of Sustainable Social Media Marketing in Business," social media have a significant environmental impact.
Based on the further findings by Brightly in the same article, we can find out that the carbon emissions produced by social media platforms are equivalent to the annual emissions of millions of cars on the road.
Yes, it may be frightening, but conversely, since our business depends on marketing to showcase its products, we recognize that social media is a vital platform for creating a community and connecting with our existing and prospective customers. If we cannot give it up, then let's approach it intelligently and mindfully. How to minimize its carbon footprint and find a more sustainable way to use social media?
- Think about your target audience where you can find it. Do you really need to manage and keep alive all social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and so on? Maybe your target audience doesn't visit some of those social media platforms at all. Rethink it carefully and choose those that matter.
- Create a smart social media strategy. Publishing cute puppies and funny memes indeed will result in thousands of likes and views - but is it relevant to what you want to achieve with your business? Don't focus on the quantity of likes and shares but on the quality of engagement of your target audience. Instead of viral memes, focus on creating valuable posts, messages, images, and infographics consistent with your content strategy and overall business goals.
- Rethink the chosen social media platforms in terms of their carbon footprint. You can analyze them, for example, on the website Scope3, analyze the most polluting with Compare the Market, and select those whose environmental impact is the lowest. Moreover, look for their commitment to sustainable values by checking their sustainability policies and reports and reviewing if they connect with and support green energy.
- Optimize the content for social media. By using compressed images and videos and limiting social media ads, you can reduce loading times, as well as the energy consumption of the end users.
- Promote your sustainability across different social media channels. It doesn't have to be your totally new product or service. You can simply share your business's eco-friendly practices on different levels - even with conscious use of social media. Research shows that sustainable brand values are essential for building brand authenticity and responding to consumer value.
A study conducted in 2023 found that information shared on social media has a positive relationship with green consumption among the younger generation. However, the sheer increase in the production of online advertising has boosted the industry's carbon footprint to the point of eliminating the environmental gains of its resource efficiency.
That means you can't include sustainability in marketing strategy by simply creating the desire for sustainable brands and their offer. We can build a loyal customer base by deep care about sustainability in each step, from the office suppliers, ethical and sustainable policies, and sustainable marketing to the end, an eco-friendly offer. By embracing sustainability across the entire company and making responsible choices in sustainable social media, you can create a more mindful and impactful digital space for individuals and communities.
Sustainable email marketing
Creating a sustainable marketing strategy also should focus on email marketing. Collecting a database of subscribers and sending them your offer and newsletter can be a great way to promote your brand's sustainability, green practices, and values and keep your audience engaged and informed about your products and services.
Most businesses treat digital marketing techniques like email marketing seriously, as it helps to stay in contact with their audience and keep their customer informed. Contrary to social media strategy, it is more flexible and scalable, has much higher ROI, and is more likely to drive sales. Overall, we can't deny that email marketing is a crucial component of a successful marketing strategy for businesses of all sizes. Especially when you work on posting valuable articles and other content, you want to be sure that nobody engaged with your brand will miss it. However, we should be aware that no matter how quality content you provide and send to your subscribers, it has its carbon footprint:
Sending a single email that is solely text-based emits 4g of CO2e, as every single one requires electricity to be sent. Spam emails cause just 0.3g of CO2e, but this impact increases to 50g for emails with multiple attachments. Storing emails on servers also contributes to the carbon footprint of email marketing.
While resigning from email marketing and newsletters is not a solution, you can look for new, more sustainable methods to stay in touch with your audience.
Here are some tips for implementing sustainable email marketing:
1. Use an opt-in approach:
Instead of purchasing email lists, adding people to your list without their consent (what a bad practice!), and forcing you to subscribe to get a free ebook, focus on building a database of subscribers who have actively opted in to receive emails from your brand. This approach not only helps in complying with data protection regulations but also ensures that your audience is genuinely interested in your content.
2. Use eco-friendly email service providers:
Choose email service providers that prioritize sustainability and use renewable energy sources to power their data centers. Look for providers that offer features like email templates, automation, and analytics to streamline your email marketing efforts. For example, Eco Send is a more conscious alternative to Mailchimp, which offers a carbon calculator for your email campaigns and offsets their carbon footprint by planting trees.
3. Optimize email content and fill it with valuable information.
You don't have to generate heavy PDFs, including them as attachments to your emails, fill out newsletters with GIFs, and embed videos to support the message you want to send. As a broken record - less is more in terms of email marketing. Create engaging content that educates and inspires your subscribers about your product and services and sustainability. This can include compelling guides, tips, case studies, analysis, and sharing stories about your brand's sustainability efforts, providing tips for living a more sustainable lifestyle and highlighting eco-friendly products and initiatives.
4. Encourage sustainable actions and promote sustainable solutions:
Are you doing your best to minimize your email marketing carbon footprint? Inform your readers about it. Use your emails to encourage subscribers to take sustainable actions, such as reducing waste, supporting ethical brands, or participating in environmental initiatives. This can help foster a sense of community and purpose among your audience.
5. Measure and optimize your email campaigns:
Use analytics to track the performance of your email campaigns and make data-driven decisions to optimize your content and strategies. This can help you improve engagement, conversion rates, and overall effectiveness of your email marketing efforts.
By incorporating sustainability into your email marketing strategy, you can promote your brand's values and sustainability initiatives and build a loyal and engaged audience that shares your commitment to environmental and social responsibility.
Sustainable events and sponsorships
Event marketing strategy is a great way for marketers to promote a brand, product, or service through in-person or real-time engagement with their audience. It is a great way to build brand awareness, increase customer engagement, generate leads, educate prospects and customers, and upsell customers. Unfortunately, as we can suspect, those venues generate a considerable carbon footprint.
Research shows that the average conference attendee creates around 176.67 KG of CO2 emissions and produces 1.89 KG of discarded waste per day - of which 1.16 KG will end up in the landfill. This means that a three-day, 1000 person conference will result in 530 metric tons of CO2e and will produce a total of 5670 KG of waste, 3480 KG of which will end up in the landfill.
Does it mean that all on-site conferences are bad and we should go online? No, it does not mean that all on-site conferences are bad or that we should only go online. Each type of conference has its own benefits and drawbacks, and the decision of whether to hold a conference on-site or online should be based on factors such as the nature of the event, the needs and preferences of participants, and logistical considerations. Both on-site and online conferences can be effective in different circumstances. Nevertheless, virtual events generally result in a reduced environmental footprint compared to in-person events.
However, we acknowledge that we cannot give up in-person events. We understand that even despite conducting digital business, it is crucial to have in-person interactions. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of direct, face-to-face meetings with others. Meeting project stakeholders in person remains advantageous for business. It's important to recognize that both offline and online events have their own environmental impact, which can be reduced through responsible practices.
One way to reduce the carbon footprint of the on-site marketing event is to reconsider the transportation methods of the participants, promote more environmentally-friendly options, and arrange for public or group transportation. Another way to minimize the event's negative impact is to decrease waste, such as printed materials and gadgets. Instead of printing materials, we can create digital versions of agendas and tickets and select eco-friendly promotional products made from recyclable materials, or forego them altogether by donating to charity. Additionally, event organizers should ensure that catering or food purchasing is mindful of the participants, including offering vegetarian and vegan options to lessen the event's carbon footprint.
When it comes to online conferences or webinars, it's important to also minimize their environmental impact. According to a report from MIT News, simply turning off the camera during a video conference can reduce the meeting's environmental footprint by 96 percent.
Producing more eco-friendly events requires careful planning and the establishment of sustainability objectives, selecting a venue with a robust sustainability policy, minimizing waste, and integrating environmentally-friendly initiatives. To establish sustainable sponsorships, companies can locally and ethically source any materials related to the event, ensure efficient energy usage, and make event sustainability a requirement for sponsors and partners. By organizing sustainable events, companies can showcase their dedication to eco-friendly solutions and attract more participants who value their efforts to prioritize event sustainability.
Sustainable analytics and data analysis
It is crucial for businesses to utilize web analytics in order to comprehend their digital footprint, monitor user actions, and base their decisions on data. Nevertheless, it is important to also take into account the environmental consequences of web analytics, since it adds to the overall carbon emissions of the internet and can contribute to the increased weight and pollution of your website. This applies not only to tracking scripts but also to all external elements incorporated into the code, including services, plugins, widgets, feeds, maps, carousels, and so on.
According to a Solarwinds company 2018 study, the average load time for the top 50 websites was 9.46 s with trackers and 2.69 s without. This additional load time is energy consuming. The same study found 298 individual trackers, out of which 225 (75%) were associated with online ads to the website. On average, news sites have 41 different trackers and 42% of sites loaded with 30 to 49 trackers, highest having 85 (Solarwinds, 2018). The News category of sites has the highest number of trackers (Englehardt and Narayanan, 2016). Each tracker increases websites download time and total payload.
That means each added script to your code naturally increases its carbon footprint. So what should we do? Should we resign totally from web analytics? Not at all! Finally, web analytics can help us make more sustainable decisions based on user visits to our website. By analyzing which pages are the most popular, where users spend the most of their time, and which websites are redundant or should be better optimized in terms of SEO, we can make a better-informed decision and allow our website content and design to respond to our visitors' needs.
However, choosing carefully all the scripts and plugins is crucial, examining their carbon footprint, which will be added to our website. For example, you can analyze chosen tools by pasting them in Are my third parties green? which tests websites for hosting (green or grey grid), data transfer, effective caching, and carbon impact.
In our article "5 Best GA4 Alternatives for 2023 - Sustainable Website Analytics Tools," we have already discussed how sustainable web analytics can improve your website's efficiency, speed, and user experience while prioritizing user privacy.
Some sustainable web analytics tools include:
- Statsy: A privacy-focused, GDPR-compliant web analytics platform that offers real-time carbon footprint analytics and help to monitor web health and performance.
- Plausible: A sustainable alternative to Google Analytics that is lightweight, fast, and user-friendly, reducing the digital carbon footprint of websites.
- Cabin: A web analytics platform that prioritizes privacy and sustainability, offering a planet-friendly approach to website monitoring.
- Fathom: A digital analytics platform focusing on sustainability and privacy, providing tools to measure and improve website performance without compromising user privacy.
- PIWIK Pro: A web analytics platform that offers a range of features, including real-time carbon footprint analytics and privacy-focused tracking.
- Micro Analytics: simple, clean, user-friendly website analytics tool, fully compliant with GDPR, PECR, and CCPA.
- Simple Analytics: No cookies web analytics with the highest data protection, allowing quick smartphone checks.
Do you question whether this is worth thinking about? Is the contrast between the tools you are currently using, such as GA4, and other tools so noteworthy that it is worth engaging in this challenge? To determine the answer, imagine this: The Google Analytics script has a weight of 17kb. The smallest scripts suggested in our prior article on alternatives to GA4 have a weight of less than 1 kB. Therefore, it is simple to calculate that using these scripts is a beneficial initial move towards creating a website that is lighter, faster, and more sustainable.
Sustainability as a digital marketing value
Sustainability has become an increasingly important value in digital marketing as businesses recognize the need to minimize their environmental impact and operate socially responsibly.
More recently, the ‘2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report' (Ries, Edelman et al, 2019) showcased that 64 percent of consumers are now belief-driven buyers, choosing to switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues. Consumers expect brands and leaders to act – believing that brands can be a powerful force for change and their wallet is their vote, with ethical drivers proving to be three times more important to engendering trust in a company than competence.
According to the report above, 75 percent of customers expressed their desire to purchase items that align with their values. In comparison, 73 percent agreed that a company can make decisions that boost profits and enhance the well-being of the communities it serves.To illustrate it, just check out the success of eco-friendly brands such as Patagonia, Beyond Meat, Who Gives A Crap or Green Toys. Those companies incorporated eco-friendly strategies into their marketing efforts, reducing their environmental impact and attracting environmentally conscious consumers who increasingly prioritize sustainable practices in their purchasing decisions. This approach is extremely important, especially with the rise of e-commerce and online advertising.
As our websites, mobile apps, social media platforms, and other digital communication become undeniably the most significant touchpoints with our customers, the digital marketing industry has the potential to significantly impact sustainability efforts. From using eco-friendly packaging for products to implementing energy-efficient scripts on our website, there are various ways in which digital marketing can contribute to sustainability.
To sum up, incorporating sustainability into digital marketing strategies helps companies appeal to a growing consumer base that prioritizes environmentally friendly and ethical practices. Digital marketers can build a strong brand image and foster trust with environmentally conscious consumers by promoting sustainable initiatives and showcasing a commitment to corporate social responsibility. Ultimately, embracing sustainability as a core value in digital marketing not only benefits the planet but also helps businesses stay relevant and competitive in an increasingly eco-conscious market.
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Mignano Jenna, Van Paris Calin, Firman Tehrene, “Is Our Obsession With Social Media Harming the Planet?,” Brightly, 2023