Like many foundations of modern-day living, email has a carbon footprint. But unlike many of the other culprits, email’s true impact often gets overlooked. Perhaps this is due to the feeling that paperless = eco-friendly, or that comparatively, email is not the biggest polluter, or maybe it’s because email is so integral to our lives that we simply can’t imagine a life without it.
So what’s the impact?
The carbon footprint of a single standard email is 4g CO2e, whereas an email with large attachments could be up to 50g CO2e (Carbon literacy, 2020). It doesn’t sound much when you think about it on a singular basis, or compare it to other pollutants – but when you factor in the number of emails you send and receive in a day this quickly adds up.
What’s the scale?
According to Statista, 319.6bn emails were sent worldwide per day in 2021, and it’s predicted that this will increase to 333.2bn emails in 2022.
That’s a huge digital landfill that’s growing bigger every day.
What can we do?
Email practices aren’t going to transform in the near future, it is such a core part of modern communication. Like most areas of our life that need to become more sustainable, awareness, evaluation, and small consistent steps are the only practical way forward and can still lead to significant improvement.
We wanted to look into steps that can be taken to reduce or mitigate the environmental impact of email marketing, and also reap other benefits. And once you’ve committed to taking steps, how do you ensure that your sustainability practices are interwoven into your communication in a way that is authentic and complementary?
This almost feels too simple to be written down, but it’s a core tenet of our overall belief in meaningful marketing, and its value goes beyond sustainability.
The batch and blast approach to marketing that many brands still rely on doesn’t take into account the consequences on the environment, or on their consumers. We know that being bombarded by generic emails isn’t an effective approach and doesn’t lead to good engagement. When we surveyed 2000 US Fashion consumers we found that 49% of them felt overwhelmed by marketing emails at least once a week. So the message is clear, over-messaging is not only bad for the planet it’s also bad for business.
If every email counts, there’s no better time to think about the volume you’re sending, who you’re sending it to, and whether they want to receive it. Better analysis of the data you have, more segmentation and targeted personalization will enable you to dial up the efficiency of your email marketing, both from an environmental and a commercial perspective, removing the need to over-send. At Ometria, we power a wide breadth of retail marketing, including email, one of the largest, most widely adopted marketing channels. We have proven time and again that fewer emails can deliver better returns when they provide a meaningful consumer experience. Our Co-Marketer, the first of its kind data science model trained on over 300bn retail data touchpoints, can analyze a retailer’s CRM performance and surface actionable insights that help CRM leaders take a more targeted, data-driven approach to their entire marketing strategy, including email.
The vital importance of thoughtful email frequency is one of the reasons that Ometria has developed cutting-edge technology that enables retailers to better predict the exact send frequency that’s optimal for their consumers at an individual level. We’ll be sharing more information on this capability when it launches soon.
Bringing your consumers into your approach not only builds goodwill and inclusivity with your brand but also holds you accountable for the changes that you want to make. If a local sustainability initiative or program is viable, why not offer your consumers the opportunity to support your project in person? Or if grassroots isn’t a fit for you, you can direct to other resources, offer a charitable donation, or even virtual participation?
Mahabis communicate inclusion right from the subject line ‘It’s almost Earth Day, want to get involved?’ They get the balance between sharing how their community can get involved (directing people to earthday.org) and communicating their own sustainability practices just right.
Earth day communications should not be confined to email if SMS is also a channel you also use regularly. This is an SMS promotion we spotted on a great Attentive round-up of texts they love for Earth Day. It’s a compelling, timely example of how you can weave in a % donation to green initiatives with purchases during Earth Day.
Sustainable retailer Pangaia’s belief that ‘every day is earth day’ is at the core of their brand values. Earth day is a great opportunity for the brand to remind their customer base of their total commitment to sustainability. This year, they have released two new capsules on Earth Day to emphasize their ‘mission of creating an earth positive future’ and underline governmental actions that could bring about real change.
Offsetting isn’t cheating. As we mentioned before, many modern-day consumer and business practices won’t go green overnight, so incorporating an offsetting initiative can be a way to be more sustainable when the option to reduce or avoid is not possible. There are plenty of organizations out there that can help you offset some or all of your carbon footprint (we worked with sustainable business advisory organization Positive Planet to become carbon neutral). Equally, you could look to other areas of your business to internally ‘offset’ your marketing footprint, for example at Ometria we take a remote-flexible approach to work, which not only benefits our team by offering flexibility in how you work but also serves to reduce our overall footprint.
Across the board, consumers care more about the environment and making sustainable choices than they ever have before. In a 2022 global consumer survey by Yotpo, over 84% of respondents said they are more inclined to buy from a brand with values that align with their own. And this figure increases when you look at future consumers, with over 90% of global Gen Z respondents basing their brand loyalty on shared values. So whether sustainability has always been a core tenet of your brand and is something you’re known for, or it’s something you’re working toward, you want to make sure your consumers don’t have to search high and low to find out where you stand.
Where relevant, you can mention your credentials in your welcome email, communicating your ethos straight away. Make sure that this message is woven in naturally so that it feels authentic and seamless. A great example of this comes from Lick, a DTC paint, wallpaper, and decorating supplies company that has a strong environmental focus that spans their products and packaging. The section below was mid-way down the email body.
Another way to ensure your message is getting across consistently and in a timely manner is making sure that you communicate on relevant key dates, not just Earth Day. There are plenty to choose from, the key point is relevant here, for example, World Oceans Day (8th of June) might be applicable for a beachwear brand, whereas World Bee Day (20th May) probably isn’t. We found a comprehensive calendar of environmental awareness dates here.
There’s no quick fix when it comes to sustainability, but every step in the right direction makes a difference. Creating and sharing meaningful marketing with your community (eschewing batch and blast) that communicates your environmental credentials in earnest and encourages them to join you is a great place to start.