Sustainability needs its digital heroes

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In our mostly-digital world, brands have countless ways to connect with consumers and engage with them on sustainability issues. However, the process of digital transformation is often forgotten or overlooked.

Any website is leaving a "digital footprint" which can be easily linked to sustainability and energy consumption. If you are planning to revolutionise your brand's identity and messaging, your website and digital footprint must be part of the picture. Sustainability needs its digital heroes too.

We got in touch with Claire Walmsley-Moss, Head of Marketing at sustainability certification body Planet Mark, to discuss the topic in more depth.


Sustainability needs its digital heroes

2021 marked the start of the second year into the UNs ‘Decade of Action’ with the objective to arrest the climate crisis. We work in sustainability, a complicated and often daunting area, and it’s essential that we make it easy and compelling for businesses and people to get involved

In this field, one of the main challenges is to demystify the complexity that surrounds our planet goals, and this is often achieved by being straightforward and honest. There is no point in dumbing it down or sugar coating the situation, as it’s vital for everyone to understand it but still feel empowered to take action. 

Yet how do we achieve this with employees, businesses, industries and government, especially now when our personal interactions are limited? The best shot we have at it is to embrace digital opportunities.

How to drive action through your brand

Firstly, while we advise everyone to share the urgency of the climate crisis, it’s important to bring energy and enthusiasm to the challenge, cheerleading for the cause and focusing on the positive effects of action. The overall goal is to create excitement for the future, so the copy used on the website or across social media channels should reflect an upbeat attitude.   

But to drive change at scale for a thriving planet, companies must recognise that they too must change. This is how our own digital transformation began.

We realised that to create a shared vision and make sustainability more globally appealing and accessible, we needed to communicate a clearer, simpler message. Looking at our digital assets, this was achieved by coming up with a new brand identity based on an abstract planet, with creative inspired by a brighter horizon and fresh beginnings. The updated logo retains our brand colours but has moved to a cleaner and modern abstract form. In addition, a mixture of playful text and illustrations were commissioned to reinforce Planet Mark’s approachable personality. We also built a new domain with a new member page to make it easier for members to engage with their employees and communicate their sustainability journeys transparently, founded on third party verification of their certification.

The changes which helped us might assist you as well in spreading the message across with efficiency. 

With your digital presence, ensure it’s modern enough for people to want to associate with it and desirable enough to attract interest and stimulate supporters to the cause. We must all work together to embrace sustainability, empower people to halt the climate crisis and improve society in everything we do. Collectively, we can. Businesses need a common goal. To concentrate efforts. Harness people's passion. And amplify impact. 

The right messaging to drive action should always be aligned with your values and, based on our research, reflect the following traits: be assuring, speak with calm authority; be collaborative, approachable for any questions and open to working together; be positive, energetic and enthusiastic about the future; accessible, avoiding boardroom speak and using straightforward, everyday words; and be motivational, inspiring change and empowering action.

The Digital Footprint

After you’ve gone through all the branding aspects, take a look at your digital footprint in this whole process

According to Liam Snelling, co-founder and managing director of our certified member DigitalDetox, the internet is currently estimated to produce approximately one billion tonnes of CO2 each year. He says, “This figure is roughly two per cent of all human-produced emissions, comparable with the aviation industry’s greenhouse-gas emissions. This is mostly due to the use of our devices such as phones, laptops and computers, but also the servers and data centres, which need to be powered at a constant rate and cooled frequently. Few of them rely on green energy.”

“We need to consider sustainability when we design and build our websites with some clear principles in mind. The digital and IT industries are a growing concern for climate change, but they also have the power to solve these issues,” Liam adds. 

Ben Clifford, managing director of another certified member, Erjjio Studios, encourages sustainable online behaviour as well, commenting, “We need to take actionable steps as a business. It’s important to choose a data centre that uses green energy if one is able to do it. Try and reduce whenever possible the amount of data that the company is responsible for.”

When it comes to redesigning the website, bear in mind to increase its performance and efficiency for an eco-friendlier experience, but also improved SEO. Specifically, you can consider reducing the number and size of the images, so you cut off the load time and energy consumption. Choose to upload videos only if necessary, at a low resolution and of a shorter length. Embed them into the website under a MPEG4 format and don’t allow them to auto-play unless the user wants to. The same applies for audio as well. Another useful trick is to set the video and audio content to load only when the user scrolls further down the page. This reduces the energy used and allows the website to move at a faster pace. Remove content that’s not useful or is less accessed by the website visitors. Old blog posts, categories, spam comments, broken links etc. will only use up more energy. As long as the users’ journey is improved as much as possible, with a clear navigation pathway, they will spend less time looking for the details they are after. Opt for a simple site design, so it does fewer server requests when accessing items such as graphics, animations and coding. 

Online communication is also important. Have clear-set expectations for the digital rebrand and communicate them from the offset to your team or consultants, so the brief won’t require many emails going backwards and forwards or multiple conference calls. Anticipate the questions you might need to answer or request a list of mandatory guidelines in advance, so you know what information is required. When email exchanges become too confusing, opt for a video call instead as you can better read people.

Change doesn’t come overnight, but excitement can build and drive everyone forward one day at a time. Empower a sustainable culture by calculating the digital carbon footprint, normalising the green procedures through standards and workflows and celebrating success whenever possible. By making use of the channels we currently have available, digital-mostly, we can all share empowering messages about climate action and watch how a brighter future unfolds. 

Claire Walmsley-Moss is the head of marketing at Planet Mark. Header image: NASA on Unsplash


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