Remodelling the Climate Group’s digital carbon footprint

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It’s easy to forget what the internet runs on. While we don’t see it, the world is home to millions of physical servers in data centres, which run on power sources that emit carbon dioxide. As a result, the digital industry is responsible for at least 1.4% of global emissions, putting it on a par with the aviation industry.

That’s why the Climate Group, an international non-profit organisation driving climate action, has partnered with Manifesto, a digital experience, technology and strategy agency, to reduce its digital carbon footprint.

Placing sustainability at the heart of the project

The non-profit was conscious of selecting the right build partner to ensure sustainability was placed at the heart of its website overhaul. This meant Manifesto’s approach had to be insight and research-lead, sharing its skills and own best practices to set the Climate Group on the road to future success.

Previously managing multiple websites that inform people of their initiatives, the Climate Group decided this would be the focus for reducing their digital impact. That is, it wanted to bring these websites together under one single CMS. This also brought with it the additional benefit of allowing the Climate Group to cross-pollinate content across the initiatives, helping reduce siloed working, with the RE100 initiative acting as the exception, being set up as a multi-site.

Emissions (kgCO2e) caused by Climate Group websites

The below table and graph show the emissions (kgCO2e) caused by each of the Climate Group websites over the course of the year, between August 2019 and August 2020.

To give the figures some more context, sequestering 2.86 tonnes of CO2 would take around 286 broadleaf UK native trees one year. The emissions are the same as driving over 10,000 miles in an average UK petrol car. But to offset this amount would cost just £6 through Ecologi.

In the same way that every gram of CO2e matters, Manifesto approached the Climate Group’s web build as if every byte counts.

It was important for the team at Manifesto to consider both page weight and page views to emissions. Fascinatingly, two pages from The RE100 website were responsible for 62% of emissions from the entire web estate. Reducing those two pages alone would reduce emissions by around 50%.

Decreasing emissions by 91%

The new websites for the Climate Group and the RE100 initiative launched on 9 November, and while there isn’t a metric by which Drupal measures sustainable websites, we believe this will be a first for a fully end-to-end sustainably managed Drupal 9 project, with emissions caused by The RE100 site projected to drop 91%, and the Climate Group site projected to drop 60%.

Average page weight has reduced by 55%, supported by a number of best practices, from optimising site images to code compression to drastically reducing calls to third party sites.

The Climate Group editors are also supported by a Pattern Lab, allowing them to easily follow the best practices around site content.

A sustainable website fit for the future

Overall, the project has delivered a consolidated, evolvable and planet centred web presence. This allows the Climate Group to engage more effectively with its diverse global audiences.

Nazneen Nawaz, head of media and corporate communications at the Climate Group, says: “Our mission is to drive climate action, fast. So it was really important for us that sustainability was at the heart of our recent website overhaul project.

“We were delighted with how Manifesto guided us through the process to create a stand out site presence, that not only showcases our global brand, but does it in a way that is good for the planet.”

You can read more about the design and technical elements behind how Manifesto and the Climate Group achieved this in our series of sustainability articles, coming soon.

Neil Clark, environment and service lead at Manifesto, concludes: “When we buy new electrical goods we can look at the energy efficiency rating. When we go into the supermarket we can buy the unpackaged veg or the seasonal produce; we might not have enough choice, but we do have some.

“With websites, we don’t have any environmental related choice. Therefore, we rely on the owners and builders of the websites to be doing things the right way. I am very grateful that the Climate Group embraced this challenge with us and I am extremely proud of the design and development teams at Manifesto who saw reducing emissions as a positive challenge, not a negative constraint.”