As global leaders arrived in Glasgow late last year for COP26, the world’s focus turned to tackling the climate emergency and working towards a Net Zero future.
Businesses and organisations have long known about the need to operate more sustainably. And, as the climate crisis has moved higher up the media agenda, consumers have responded by demanding action from their favourite brands.
Research from Zurich found that environmental concerns are now a top priority for one in five consumers when making purchasing decisions, and people are less likely to buy from brands which are not taking sustainability seriously enough.
But, despite the clear commercial need for brands to work towards a more sustainable future, many business leaders continue to scratch their heads wondering how they can cut or offset emissions ahead of the UK’s 2050 deadline (2045 in Scotland), without impacting their bottom line and ability to form closer and deeper relationships with customers.
Digital services are typically a sensible (but often overlooked) place to start, particularly as a large proportion of UK businesses have stepped up their digital transformation initiatives during the pandemic. A sensible first step involves considering where carbon can be stripped internally – such as transitioning to a green energy supplier (which can be especially impactful if they’re running an on-prem data centre), transitioning to cloud-based services, or contributing to the circular economy when purchasing or disposing of IT equipment.
Once initial steps have been identified, business and IT leaders should lead from the front and start evaluating their current IT providers’ environmental credentials to identify areas where carbon can be cut from their digital supply chain. With supply chains accounting for, on average, around 90% of emissions for businesses operating in the UK, it’s vital leaders ensure they are doing all they can to think in more sustainable terms when evaluating their current suppliers – including digital and tech.
Much has been written about responsible content management systems (CMS), and how cloud-native platforms underpin a leading marketing strategy. True, a cloud-based CMS can boost productivity through integrating third party services to better maintain brand consistency, enhance marketing spend, or enable businesses to rapidly expand their online presence during a major launch. But, more importantly, it also provides a pathway for organisations looking to make the shift towards Net Zero across their digital assets.
By tapping into the cloud-based platforms – such as Google Cloud or AWS – modern content management systems can strip carbon out of a business’s digital supply chain. For example, Microsoft’s Azure platform, which our CMS currently utilises, has been 100% carbon neutral since 2012; by 2025 it will use 100% renewable energy. While this still generates emissions elsewhere (for the time being), it provides businesses with a genuine way to reduce carbon from its IT and marketing supply chain. It also provides environmental reporting which is becoming increasingly attractive to businesses looking to offset or reduce emissions.
But can a CMS ever be truly Net Zero? Currently, it would be a difficult undertaking for a business to commit to running a Net Zero website as there are lots of processes and activities that go into running a modern, responsive website – from creating content to facilitating orders or scaling the site ahead of a major product launch. It can be done, but it will require all suppliers and/or stakeholders to collaborate to implement their own sustainability initiatives with a shared goal of making digital assets carbon neutral or even Net Zero.
For organisations looking to start the journey to Net Zero, it can seem like a confusing place to start, but you’re not alone. As an industry, we need to come together to challenge the status quo to help make the UK’s ambitions a reality.
Ultimately, there’s no silver bullet to hitting the UK’s 2050 deadline; it will take a concerted effort across organisations to reach the goal, and every department will have to adapt processes in some way, shape or form. A company’s website and digital assets may not seem like an important place to start, but it can be an impactful way of identifying carbon in a business’s supply chain, whilst simultaneously improving a company’s ability to create more engaged, profitable relationships with customers. What marketer wouldn’t want that?