Carbon net-zero is a big deal not only in the physical world but in the digital, too. Brands globally are looking to embrace sustainability and ensure their brand is doing all it can to transition to a greener way of operating.
Reducing your CO2 emissions is more important than ever before. From disrupting weather patterns and causing temperatures to change globally, to increasing natural disasters and more, climate change is disrupting our environment and our way of life.
This is nothing you haven’t heard before, but the good news is that there’s heightened awareness around ways in which companies can positively impact climate change and function more sustainably. It’s important to note that there are companies out there that will greenwash their actions. For brands to truly be sustainable, they need to demonstrate a true, lasting change in their behaviour.
Digital carbon footprint: what is it and how much impact are we talking about?
There’s a lot of information out there on the digital side of sustainability. With this in mind, as an Elite partner, we made an inquiry with HubSpot – the CRM platform we work with to build websites for our clients – to see what their take on it was. We came to find out that building a high-performing, sustainable and equitable company is one of HubSpot's six strategic objectives. Our team had a very enjoyable meeting with HubSpot's sustainability team, where we discussed our shared interest in digital carbon footprints and what they were doing to grow greener as a company.
And aside from the fact that climate change is a growing concern for people and businesses alike. Research shows that there’s a growing interest in this area, with websites such as Website Carbon Calculator that enable users to measure a website's carbon footprint, and organisations such as Green Software Foundation, which brings folks from the digital industry together to further knowledge and initiatives to reduce carbon.
But what is a digital carbon footprint? A digital carbon footprint refers to the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) produced by digital technologies, such as devices, tools, and platforms. This includes websites. If you’ve never heard of a digital carbon footprint before, this might all seem a bit odd – it’s easy to understand the emissions caused by the likes of burning coal, running engines, or deforestation because they’re all physical acts that are widely discussed. Video streaming? Not so much.
Digital carbon footprints are not something to be swept under the rug. Think of it like this – every question typed into a search engine, every new piece of tech that’s created, every video that’s streamed, every song that’s played or piece of data that’s stored requires energy.
It’s relatively easy to factor climate change contributors into your daily lives (think: your recycling habits, the packaging on products you buy, or the vehicle you choose to run), but digital sustainability, that’s a little more difficult. That’s why many brands today are striving to reduce their website’s carbon footprint and reach carbon net zero.
Some websites or apps are better than others when it comes to CO2 emissions. Let's explore what it is that causes a worse carbon footprint.
When it comes to data hygiene, a data management dashboard is one way of keeping on top of your CRM housekeeping. Take a look at this free guide to ensure you’re managing your data correctly.
What causes a worse carbon footprint contribution?
Essentially, the more complex a website is, the more energy it requires to load and function, and so the greater its climate impact will be. An old website or one with larger images, for example, will run slowly. If it’s taking longer to generate the website’s content, it will require more energy to function.
Things such as autoplay, animations, and large or lots of images will all contribute to the sustainability of your website. Essentially, it comes down to data that’s transferred over the wire when a web page is loaded. So the data on your website, the traffic it experiences, and your website host will all contribute to your overall carbon footprint.
Related read: 3-Step Framework to Improve Your Data Management
According to Website Carbon, an online carbon calculator, the average website produces 1.76g of CO2 for every page view. This means that a website with 100,000 page views per month emits 2,112kg of carbon dioxide every year – that's over two tonnes or more than your average vehicle on the road weighs.
To become carbon net-zero, companies and organisations can reduce their carbon footprint and their greenhouse gas emission by:
- Limiting the number of images that feature on each web page
- Opting for SVG graphics instead of formats like JPEG, PNG and GIF
- Swapping custom fonts for system fonts
- Taking out unnecessary moving backgrounds or animations that never actually won you any new business
- Using cloud and hosting companies that run green infrastructure
NB: If you have very old websites that you aren't using, you can help reduce your digital carbon footprint by deleting or taking them down.
It’s important to note, however, that a greener website design doesn’t have to compromise on aesthetics. A website that’s sustainably designed and built should be better for both the planet and your brand, in that it’s faster loading and provides an enhanced user experience.
There are loads of calculators out there, here are some
Knowing that a digital carbon footprint exists is one thing, but calculating the carbon emissions created by your website is another. Being aware of the energy consumption of digital media is the first step in ensuring that your website is as sustainable as possible.
Here are several website carbon calculators you can use to get started:
- Website Carbon Calculator (this website carbon calculator has been created by Wholegrain Digital)
According to Website Carbon Calculator, HubSpot’s website is cleaner than 51% of web pages tested. Let’s take a look at some of the initiatives HubSpot is exploring to reduce its carbon footprint.
If you haven't updated your website for a while, you may want to think about refurbishing or optimising it, as keeping a website fresh and up-to-date can reduce your digital carbon footprint.
HubSpot’s initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint
HubSpot’s goal is to reach net-zero carbon by 2040 and is focusing its efforts on reducing its carbon footprint as part of its commitment to science-based targets. In October 2022, HubSpot submitted its near-term science-based targets and long-term net-zero carbon target for validation by the SBTi (Science Based Targets initiative) and expects to receive approval by July 2023. In order to achieve its goals, HubSpot is tackling environmental impact from all angles. This includes, among many things, making its buildings sustainable, supporting employees to reduce their travel footprint through awareness, education campaigns, and policies & procedures, and working with its suppliers to achieve a low-carbon economy.
It’s essential for any company wanting to be truly sustainable to work closely with its partners and supply chain. Having a clean operation yourself and then finding out everything you buy has a significant carbon footprint simply deteriorates any progress you made towards working sustainably.
One of HubSpot's major suppliers is AWS. AWS has brought forward its plans to switch to 100% renewable energy from 2030 to 2025 and is accelerating its journey around becoming carbon net zero.
HubSpot is also adopting a variety of global standards as part of its decarbonisation journey. It includes using TCFD (Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures) to understand & quantify the risks and opportunities of climate change. Additionally, HubSpot is implementing the ISO 14001 environmental management standard for its key operations.
In terms of the digital, HubSpot has been working with its engineering team to analyse its product portfolio and explore what can be done to introduce sustainability measures.
Awareness is essential when it comes to ensuring you’re as sustainable as possible. HubSpot is creating a playbook for its sales team and partners like BabelQuest. The aim of this is to provide a pulse check on what HubSpot is already doing so that partners and the HubSpot team can share information with customers, enabling every party to be as informed as possible when it comes to working for a greener future. Recognising that employees are key to advancing sustainability efforts, HubSpot has also introduced a range of educational resources to promote awareness and build expertise around sustainability, such as quarterly employee engagement campaigns and learning and development materials, with the aim of fostering sustainable behaviour among employees and facilitating progress towards goals.
Sustainability + social value: what HubSpot is doing in its social space
Aside from its goal of becoming as sustainable as possible, HubSpot engages in social impact initiatives such as giving back to local communities, helping start-ups, and helping young entrepreneurs get off the ground. This is about creating a groundswell of interest in job opportunities within like-minded industries as well as the social value of creating a pipeline for entrepreneurs and start-ups.
Similar to its focus on quantifying and then addressing its carbon footprint, HubSpot is now turning its attention to social impact. It’s doing this by participating in B4Si: a recognised methodology for calculating the financial contribution of inputs, outputs, and outcomes for social investment activities.
You can find out more about HubSpot’s sustainability work by visiting HubSpot's 2023 Sustainability Report
Do you feel it's time to update your website to help with your digital carbon footprint? At BabelQuest, we offer a CMS website building service where we can create your perfect modern website that not only improves UX and lead generation but is better for the planet, too. Find out more here: HubSpot CMS: Build a Website That Grows Your Business.