6 best practices to reduce the carbon footprint of your CRM strategy

6 best practices to reduce the carbon footprint of your CRM strategy

Why are we bringing up the subject of the carbon impact of CRM strategies ? Although the pollution generated by the digital sector is not directly seizable, its carbon impact is nonetheless real.

Email pollutes: myth or reality?

Let's look at the numbers. A studyof  ADEME (the French Agency for Ecological Transition) indicates that the digital sector is currently responsible for approximately 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, or as much as the aviation sector. But it is above all a sector that is growing exponentially and whose footprint could double by 2025.
Within this 4%, the distribution of emissions is as follows: about 25% of emissions are due to storage in data centers, 28% to network infrastructures and 47% to equipment (PCs, smartphones, screens, etc.). When it comes to digital technology, it is the manufacturing of your terminals that carries the most weight!

What about emails? While the carbon impact of email is certainly the most talked about...the statistical reality is that email accounts for about 1% of the digital sector's emissions overall. And how much is 1% of 4%? We let you do the math.

So it's not just the fact of sending emails that should be questioned but rather the multiplication of our digital uses as a whole and their global relevance. To better understand this subject, we recommend you to read Sami's article on this topic: "Carbon footprint of an email: myths, realities and solutions".

And much more than their conservation in time, it is the whole chain of creation of an email that has an impact: from the writing of it on a terminal, to the storage, through its reading or its transport from the sender to the recipient. Tips exist to limit the weight of each of these phases. We share with you our tips for a better thought-out CRM strategy.

1. Limit the number of email recipients

Too many cultural and sports venues still send a monthly or weekly newsletter to a large base of recipients built up over the years, without taking into account their commitment and responsiveness to these mailings. Among these recipients, there are too many contacts who no longer open these newsletters.

The first essential good practice consists in setting up an inactive contact management policy that can be implemented at regular intervals or continuously in an automated way. This involves identifying contacts who no longer open their emails (generally for 6 months). A last email aiming at re-engaging them can be sent to them before putting aside all the contacts who did not react.

This mechanism is implemented by Arenametrix customers. In addition to the environmental impact, a good management of inactives has an economic impact (reduction of the number of email credits necessary for each sending) and a certain impact in terms of performance with an increase of the opening rates of the next sending which can reach 5 percentage points in certain cases.

2. Design lighter newsletters

A lighter newsletter is also a newsletter that is faster to design and less expensive to store. You can play on several levers to reduce the weight of your emails:

  • the weight of the images : reducing the weight of your images will have a direct impact on the overall weight of your emails. In addition to the carbon impact, properly optimized images have a better chance of passing through email clients that increasingly cut off emails that are too long. The number of images obviously also plays an important role in the overall weight of your email.
  • the size of the email :  beyond the image, the length of your email will also play a role in determining its carbon impact. Moreover, the longer your email is, the less it will be read by your recipients. Designing short emails therefore has a double interest: reducing their carbon impact while keeping your contacts interested.
  • use of GIFs  : animated GIFs represent a sequence of several images. If they can be of real interest to increase the interactivity of your emails, they should be used with moderation because they weigh more than a simple visual.
  • use of specific fonts : the font used in your emails can also influence the carbon cost of your email, a common font will have less impact than a specific font stored on one or several servers.

In general, optimizing the weight of emails is an objective to achieve in any CRM strategy and this, in a triple interest: deliverability, engagement with your recipients and reduction of the carbon impact of your campaigns.

3. Rationalize the use of video across all your channels

Online video is a great communication channel for the cultural and sports sectors...but its use is not carbon neutral. Here are 2 interesting figures:

  • Video is responsible for 60% of the world's data flows.
  • Every minute of video has a carbon cost. As an example, a short email will emit 4 grams of CO2 while an hour of video will emit about 400 grams.

Whether it is in your newsletters or on social media, video must be used wisely. Do not integrate it systematically but only when it is the most relevant media to get your message across.

4. Opt for SMS

Email has a definite carbon impact but the good news is that it is not the only communication channel in your CRM strategy . There is in particular a communication method that uses much less energy than email: SMS.

An American researcher, Mike Berners-Lee (his brother Tim is known as one of the main inventors of the Internet), has addressed the issue of the carbon impact of communication methods in his book How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything.

It compares the impact of an email and an SMS. While a short email would produce 4g of CO2, the SMS would have a carbon footprint of 0.014 grams or nearly 300 times less. The main reason for this difference? SMS use telephone network technologies and not internet. Be careful with the content: the calculation is based on the example of an SMS of 160 characters without multimedia content.

Last minute information to send to your visitors? Not only will the SMS have almost an 100% opnening rate, but your action will also have a lower carbon cost.

In general, many uses of email can be replaced by a communication channel that is less carbon-intensive: for example, have you thought about human chat or chatbot to engage with your audiences?

5. Extend the life of your terminals

We mentioned it in the introduction: half of the carbon impact of digital technology comes from the manufacturing of terminals. Beyond the cost of storing an email, it is the computer equipment you use as part of your digital strategy that has a carbon impact (its construction, its depreciation, and the energy needed to operate it).

In this context, several good practices can be implemented within your organization:

  • multiplication of uses per equipment (e.g.: the tablet used to collect data only a few days a year during an event could certainly be used for other things or simply replaced by QR codes)
  • equipment life extension, maintenance, repair.
  • policy of purchasing reconditioned computer equipment (in principle 4 to 5 times less emissions than new equipment).

6. Communicate the best practices you put in place

As an email campaign issuer, you have the power to act by speaking to your recipients to make them aware of the carbon cost of digital technology.

For example, you can add a statement at the end of your campaigns in which you can encourage your recipients to delete your emails once they have read them. And make unsubscribing easy and visible to those who no longer wish to receive your communications.

You can also support innovative initiatives to limit the carbon cost of email, for example by joining the companies that support the "email expiration date" project, whose idea consists in automatically deleting commercial emails from receiving mailboxes after a certain storage time. Indeed, commercial emails usually have a very short life span, and yet billions of them are stored for life on servers around the world! To learn more about this project, you can visit Zero Carbon Email.

Reducing the carbon impact your CRM strategy

Digital technology has a significant and growing carbon impact. Everything must therefore be done to limit its impact as much as possible. Too many emails are still sent to people who do not read them, without their environmental cost being taken into account in the implementation of campaigns.

The above tips are not exhaustive and may be amended in the future. Do not hesitate to send us your suggestions. You want to go further and better understand the impact of digital technology? We invite you to read "The hidden face of digital" from ADEME which summarizes in 11 pages the issues behind this topic.


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Solène Jimenez

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Apolline Locquet

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