Why email and digital activity is not always the greener option

When it comes to measuring the carbon footprint of quantifiable marketing activities, such as advertising in newspapers or catalogue production, it’s relatively easy. Most marketers have experience of the production process, from tree to paper and from print to post, and instinctively try not to waste paper and recycle where possible.

At UniFida we talk to many marketers about this subject and find that most are uncertain about the relative carbon footprint of digital media channels. And for those with no way of measuring it, there is a common misconception that digital marketing is greener and more efficient than non-digital (offline) channels.

Sending one direct mail letter does arguably have a larger carbon footprint than sending one email. However, since email is seen as a cheap and effective channel, the volumes of emails being sent are rising significantly – whereas companies tend to be more cautious about ramping up costly direct mail.

Budgets shifting

Nevertheless, with marketing budgets shifting from offline media (such as TV and radio) to email and digital marketing, there will come a point when the carbon footprint of increasing volumes of online activity exceeds the footprint of offline spend.

Making digital and email activity the biggest part of the marketing footprint is likely to create some surprises. This is illustrated in the case study below.

C02 Carbon Count for marketing activity graph

In this example, offline spend such as TV, Press and Radio, although still significant, has dropped to 45% of the marketing budget. Digital spend (across mainly Display, PPC and Social) is 52% of the budget and the remaining 3% is split 2.5% to direct mail and door drops and 0.5% to email.  In terms of efficiency, typically offline media has a higher Cost per Sale, followed by printed direct marketing and digital activity, with the lowest cost per sale being email.

However, driven by the sheer volume of email activity, the carbon footprint per sale for email (Kg CO2 per Sale) is more than the printed direct marketing activity.  More surprisingly, for digital activity (driven by the volume of impressions, PPC bidding and social posts), the carbon footprint per sale is much higher than all other channels.

Where do emissions come from?

Some of the digital footprint comes from CO2 emitted on customer devices and their Wi-Fi networks, but most of the footprint is from the data centres and vast servers creating, storing and distributing the content.

Let’s think about this. A single printed direct mail piece does have a higher carbon footprint than an email.  But as there are so many emails being sent out, when we look at the sales coming in through email, the CO2 per sale through email is greater than the CO2 through direct mail.  Although the cost per sale is good, the high CO2 per sale is an indicator that many emails are being sent that are not generating sales.

So, for a channel where it is possible to target by individual and even predict response, shouldn’t we be aiming for less wastage from email?

In our example, for each sale through digital activity, we see the carbon footprint is very high and exceeds even offline activity – warning again that there is likely to be wasted effort, both in the marketing budget and in carbon.  Focused analysis of the customer journey attribution paths will be able to confirm where the wasted effort is, so that something can be done about reducing the carbon footprint and, in turn, improving cost per sale further.

As budget custodians we are right to focus on a lower cost of sale but, as our case study indicates, it may be that our carbon footprint can help to point out further wastage across channels.

So, apart from the obvious reason of saving the planet, carbon counting our marketing activity is a win for the budget too. If we are more targeted and more probing of our marketing results, we can eliminate more wastage in the budget – and reduce the carbon footprint.

UniFida CO2 Counter

In January this year UniFida launched a CO2 Counter so that companies can measure and understand the sustainability of their marketing activities.  It provides an understanding of the carbon footprint of each activity and helps businesses reduce carbon emissions from their marketing.

Find out more >

 


UniFida logo

UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed. Our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.


UniFida launches CO2 Counter for ‘greener’ marketing

Marketers can now accurately measure the sustainability of their marketing campaigns

 

January 25, 2022, London – UniFida, a provider of technology that helps companies measure marketing effectiveness, has launched a CO2 counter in the UK that enables companies to gauge the environmental impact of their marketing campaigns.

The new CO2 Counter supports ‘greener’ marketing, where companies focus on the sustainability of their marketing activities. It calculates the amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) released while setting up a campaign via any marketing channel and reports on the amount used once a campaign has been completed.

Big companies will soon be legally required to commit to, and report on, sustainable business models, but the onus of responsibility will rest with all companies spending significant amounts on marketing communications, both online and offline.

Julian Berry, Director, UniFida said: “Given the increased global focus on carbon offsetting, especially following the COP26 conference, there is increased demand for sustainable marketing. With UK marketing activities expected to have released around 350 million tonnes of carbon in 2021, the CO2 Counter is an essential online tool. It enables companies to measure the environmental impact of their marketing activities across online and offline channels.”

There are two areas of the marketing process where the CO2 Counter can bring benefits:

  • Before launching a campaign, the counter can show how much carbon will be produced, giving marketers the opportunity to offset or plan a different approach
  • With historic marketing activities, marketers can evaluate each campaign and channel’s performance and how much carbon has been released for what benefit. This can help steer future ‘greener’ marketing initiatives.

Marketers can access the CO2 Counter online and, for example, use it prior to catalogue production, inputting the number of pages, size, print colours, paper type and quantities. Or for an email campaign, they can input the number of recipients and whether the email has a video attached. Carbon usage is then calculated and the results displayed.

The CO2 Counter – a cloud-based technology– has been developed by Trinity P3 in Australia and is being distributed in the UK by UniFida. Trinity P3 has used a large number of data sources to develop the counter, with much of its work reviewed by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

For more information on the UniFida CO2 Counter email [email protected] or call + 44 203 9606472.

looking up through tree canopy


UniFida logo

UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed. Our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.