Change is upon us
There is no denying that we face an environmental crisis. The scientific community has made it clear that human activities are warming the planet and degrading our environment to the point where, if no action is taken, we face dire consequences. The situation is so serious the UK Parliament declared a climate emergency in May 2019 and the Secretary-General of the UN has said that action to tackle the environmental crisis ‘is the only way to ensure a liveable planet for this and future generations’.
The good news is that there is still time to mitigate the worst effects of the crisis and major tech organisations are starting to lead the way by setting targets to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. The latest example is Google, which has gone carbon neutral and has used carbon offsetting to compensate for all of its historic carbon emissions. This follows on from Microsoft’s pledge in January to become carbon negative by 2030 and remove all of the carbon it has emitted since the company was founded in 1975. Apple has set itself the target of being carbon neutral across its entire business and manufacturing supply chain by 2030 and Amazon has committed to be carbon neutral in 2040. Others are sure to follow.
The digital contribution to carbon emissions
An individual interacting with a given digital product or service will result in a small amount of carbon emissions. However, given the prevalence of technology in people’s lives, the cumulative emissions that are built up are significant. For example, watching online videos accounts for 1% of global carbon emissions, which is the equivalent of Spain’s carbon footprint. On a broader scale, the energy consumed by our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them account for 3.7% of global carbon emissions (more than the aviation industry) and this is expected to double by 2025 and rise to 14% by 2040. Given the need to achieve net-zero carbon emissions at a global level, it’s clear that this trend needs addressing.
Reducing the carbon in your digital footprint
The increasing carbon footprint of technology isn’t all bad news. The use of technology can help reduce carbon emissions, e.g. replacing travelling to face-to-face meetings with remote video calls and moving to paperless documentation. However, it is still important that anyone involved with creating digital products and services is mindful of the environmental impact they have.
Fortunately, there is plenty of advice online about how individuals and organisations can measure and reduce their carbon footprints. To stimulate thoughts on how to do this, questions you can ask yourself include:
- What’s the carbon footprint of our organisation?
- Is our website hosted on servers powered by renewable energy?
- How can we reduce the time needed by customers to complete tasks on our app?
- Do we need to use videos on our website?
- Can we send customers links to online documentation rather than send them email attachments/physical copies?
As well as the environmental benefits that come from actively managing the carbon emissions of digital products and services, there are other gains to be had. For example, consumers are starting to switch to brands that are focused on sustainable business practices and are increasingly likely to boycott those that don’t. Other reasons for acting more sustainably include better operational efficiency, keeping up with your competitors and responding to changes in regulations, such as the government’s 2050 net-zero target.
So, reducing the carbon footprint of your digital products and services helps your business stay relevant to your customers, be successful and save the planet! Why would any individual or organisation not want to do that?
Already ahead of the game?
Bunnyfoot sponsor the UXUK Awards and next year a new award will be given for the ‘Best Sustainable Experience’ to acknowledge the efforts of organisations making a positive effort to balance the needs of their business, customers and the environment. If this sounds like something you’re working on, why not enter?
You can also read more about how Bunnyfoot is promoting sustainable digital products and services in our blog post about Sustainable UX and Service Design.