It’s difficult to think that an email has a negative environmental impact. We’ll explain how emails have a carbon footprint and provide eco-friendlier marketing software alternatives for your business!

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In 2021 it looks like email is still the bedrock of most private sector marketing with 60 percent of consumers still choosing to subscribe to a business’s email list rather than social media accounts.

Although luring customers is a non-negotiable part of running your business, the eco-friendliness of your email marketing software is.

Digital marketing software is no different from any other web service in that it relies on data storage, which consumes lots of electricity.

Roughly 1.25 percent of the world’s entire energy consumption is for data storage!

In this article, we’re excited to show you the email marketing software providers that are helping businesses to drive sales while reducing the web’s carbon footprint, as well as those that lack clear policies on their Net Zero journey 

What is email marketing

Email marketing software makes it simple for businesses of any size to keep in touch with their customers, either through one-off campaigns or automated email.

A complete marketing package, it’ll usually have ready-made email templates, options to tailor-make emails specific to customer demographics, data storage, as well as analytics to see how well your marketing campaigns are going. 

But this invaluable software comes at a carbon cost. 

An estimated average of 4 grams/CO2e per email means that the worldwide total number of 320 billion daily clicks on the send button produces 1.2 million tonnes/CO2e every day.

That’s 27x the annual emissions of Starbucks’ global operations.

Not so harmless after all.

Where do the emissions come from?

These days almost all email marketing software is cloud-based.

The technical term for this is ‘software as a service, or SaaS, and simply means that the software is available to use over the internet, without the need to download it locally to your own computer — just like streaming a film on Netflix.

Cloud infrastructure is a network of physical servers connected via the internet. It could be as small as a couple of servers housed in a company’s office, or a series of international warehouse-sized data centres all inter-connected over the web. 

The cloud on which a digital marketing company hosts their software likely belongs to a cloud services provider

It’s cheaper for a marketing company to rent space on somebody else’s server rather than to own and operate a data centre themselves. 

Questions are still being asked, but this modern way of computing has been proven to be environmentally friendlier, which research conducted by Microsoft backs up. 

The Microsoft report explains all of the technical nitty-gritty, but in a nutshell, cloud infrastructures are designed to share workloads over multiple server locations, and to also only run at higher capacities when needed. 

This is unlike a traditional data centre which will run at the same capacity at all times. 

The cloud-services market is dominated by three big players, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud, and two of these, Google and Microsoft, run carbon-neutral data centres. 

They’ve achieved this through the use of renewable electricity and carbon offsetting schemes.

This doesn’t mean that Google and Microsoft don’t use fossil-fuel power. They’re still reliant on it, but they do use less and offset their remaining carbon emissions through renewable energy credits

Microsoft and Google aren’t transparent about their true renewable energy consumption stats, but both claim it to be around the 60 percent mark.

*Renewable energy consumption:

Image credit: Pexels

Sustainable email marketing software providers

Leaving the cloud behind, let’s move on to the software providers!

We’ve included all of the household names, as well as a few underdogs. But be warned, there’s a frightening lack of action being taken by many of these companies to improve their environmental impact. 

Software 
Provider
Sustainability policy
(Minimal)
Sustainability policy
(Comprehensive)
Renewable energy powered
(at least some business activities)
Employee initiatives
(cycle to work, work-from-home etc.)
dotdigital
AWeber
*work from home
Unknown
MoosendNo policyNo policy Unknown
BrontoNo policyNo policyUnknown
KlaviyoNo policyNo policyUnknownUnknown
MailchimpNo policyNo policyUnknownUnknown
OmnisendNo policyNo policyUnknownUnknown
ConvertKitNo policyNo policyUnknownUnknown
GetResponseNo policyNo policyUnknownUnknown
ActiveCampaignNo policyNo policyUnknownUnknown
Constant ContactNo policyNo policyUnknownUnknown
EsendexNo policyNo policyUnknownUnknown
DripNo policyNo policyUnknownUnknown

The good

These are the providers who’ve made the big changes!

They’re cloud-hosted, implement in-office sustainability practices, as well as encourage staff to be more eco-friendly. To top it all off, these guys also donate to offsetting schemes. 

dotdigital

From email to SMS, dotdigital provides solutions across the entire marketing spectrum. 

They take sustainability seriously and have audited their operation using several schemes:

Entirely hosted on cloud platforms which themselves use renewable energy and offsetting schemes, dotdigital is now only responsible for emissions due to office use and staff commutes.

However, the company has achieved carbon neutrality by offsetting its remaining emissions through a number of different schemes, including:

Too much to discuss in this article, Dotdigital does a fantastic job of informing the public on their sustainable tactics! 

Their dedicated sustainability page summarises these actions, but it’s their blog posts ‘Sustainable Marketing For a Greener Futureand ‘ Working Towards a Sustainable Future’ which hold all the details, so make sure to read those!

In summary, dotdigital has an impressive understanding of corporate environmental responsibility and has made impactful, and more importantly, replicable changes.

And that’s it. Out of all the digital marketing platforms we looked at, dotdigital was the only one with a comprehensive environmental policy…

The not so good

These email marketing platforms have made some changes (mainly moving to cloud hosting) but whether they were made for sustainability reasons is unknown. 

More importantly, they have done something (even if it was for profit sake), and that’s better than nothing. 

The bad

These companies all have one thing in common…reducing carbon emissions is not on the agenda. This is a shame, as these are some of the most widely used marketing services out there.

With websites containing zero information about changes to their operation, staff sustainability initiatives, nor affiliations with offsetting schemes, you should take your business’s marketing needs elsewhere. 

*Many of these providers are cloud-based. However, their websites don’t have any details about which cloud service they use, or they use cloud services which don’t run on renewable energy. 

Recommended email marketing software 

We recommend that small businesses purchase email marketing software from dotdigital as they blow away all competition in terms of sustainability!

The company has an array of environmental policies, as well as a clear understanding of how their product affects the planet, and they still vow to do more.

Image credit: Pexels

Where we find the information

Our main reference point for each of the listed companies has been their own websites.

We feel that if a company is doing something in a more resourceful way then they’ll want to share it — especially now that sustainability is at the forefront of consumer priorities.

Despite this, for one reason or another, a company may choose to not publicly share any environmental policy (such as being cloud-based) that they have, giving the impression of doing nothing when in fact, they may be doing something. 

This is why communication is so important, as it is impossible to make an informed decision without transparency.

We encourage every business to have an environmental policy that clearly states what they’re up to, and areas they may struggle with.

Only through this communication can we avoid both Green Washing and Green Hushing

A note on cloud service providers

The sustainability agendas of leading cloud service providers are murky.

Although the industry leaders have pledged to be carbon zero by 2030, these same companies build machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) software for fossil fuel companies to extract hydrocarbons more efficiently. 

Greenpeace exposed this in 2020 and Google has since claimed to have cut AI ties with the oil and gas industries. 

Amazon and Microsoft, however, continue to undermine themselves by working with big oil and gas. 

We support cloud-based marketing solutions because of the renewable energy being used to power major cloud data centres. 

But, we also recognise and condemn that these corporations are actually helping fossil fuel companies to extract hydrocarbons more easily. 

Hypocrisy at its best. 

No environment, no sales

It’s time for email marketing to communicate a green agenda en masse and make an industry-wide switch to sustainable energy.

However, whilst the majority of providers continue to run off fossil-fuel power, and the increasing number of people using the internet shows no signs of slowing down, it’s vital that your SME uses an eco-friendly digital marketing platform! 

The key takeaway here is to ensure that your email marketing software is, at minimum, hosted on a cloud system from a provider who’s committed to increasing their use of renewable energy (Google, IBM and Microsoft). Speaking with marketing software providers will help you find out this information.

By running your business’s marketing through the eco-friendlier provider that we recommend, or any other that’s truly concerned with carbon emissions, you can help the planet without compromising your leads and sales.

Make the switch to energy-efficient email marketing today!

More info

Want to learn more about cloud storage?

Who’s the greenest cloud service provider?

Electronic direct mail carbon emissions

Alan Palazon
Author: Alan Palazon

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