Digital sustainability: Manifesto’s journey towards lasting digital impact with the Climate Group

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It is currently very difficult to find data-led evidence and best practice on how to approach a sustainable website build. This makes life challenging for those trying to create positive change by lessening the environmental impact of our digital spaces.

With this in mind, Manifesto is sharing its journey towards best practices around digital impact. In sharing the lessons we are learning and the challenges we face along the way, we hope our network can be inspired to join us in creating a digital industry that is more conscious of its impact on our environment.

The series starts with the website build we did for the Climate Group.

Who is the Climate Group?

The Climate Group is an international non-profit organisation. Its mission is to accelerate climate action, the end goal being to limit global heating to no more than 1.5°C in global warming. To do this, the non-profit brings together powerful networks, both across business and governments, to shift global markets and policies.

Why has the Climate Group partnered with Manifesto?

The Climate Group partnered with Manifesto as its sustainable build partner. It wanted to deliver a consolidated, evolvable and user-centred web presence. That way, it would be better positioned to engage its diverse global audiences, as well as drive rapid climate action and positive change. To achieve this strategy, Manifesto brought the websites around the group’s various initiatives together under one CMS, with a multisite for the RE100 initiative.

From the start, this project was set up with a focus on limiting its environmental impact. It was also supported by an environmental lead, who was assigned to the core team. Their aim was to enable the team, through what knowledge they had already gained, to question usual approaches and invite creative and technical solutions to the environmental challenges posed.

What’s the aim of this series?

We want to share our approach, research and explorations during the Climate Group website build so that other agencies can approach these sorts of projects with more resources to support them.

We’ve found that through our experiences so far, decisions around digital sustainability aren’t always black and white. And with exciting developments come difficult questions and situations. That’s why it’s important these discussions are shared in order to understand the variety of options available for future projects. Because there’s no one size fits all.

Importantly, we want to show that this stuff really isn’t rocket science either. Most of what we’ve done is best practices pulled from other disciplines. We’ve then brought these various practices together to create something essentially greater than the sum of its parts. Since the go-live of the site in November 2020, we project that the RE100 site emissions will drop 91% and the Climate Group site is projected to drop 60%.

It’s with this approach that we want to create a shift in thinking so that these questions become routine in building websites. That responsibility falls to our industry – the ones creating the websites. And, most importantly, we want to be open with our approach so that others can build on and improve it further.

What do we hope to achieve?

The point of this series is not to dictate to our network in order to create a world where the individual consumer is browsing less – although we can’t deny what a massive impact that would have. The focus here is instead on changing habits at the cause – and in this case, it’s those in charge of creating the websites.

“When it comes to sustainability, we don’t see ourselves competing with one another, but competing for the future. If we don’t bring about change quickly, there won’t be a future to speak of.” Tim Brown, Allbirds’ co-founder at The Climate Group.

For that reason, we need to come from a place of vulnerability, to be open and transparent in order to learn. We want to help support agencies who are facing the same sustainability questions. And we should aspire to regain some of the internet’s lost credibility and trust in the process.

Ultimately, we’re here to promote a sustainable approach to all website builds.

What does success look like?

Firstly, we wanted to create a sustainable website for the Climate Group that others can take inspiration from.

Secondly, we wanted to create a place you can turn to that offers new knowledge and shared resource, because we still want to learn from others too.

And finally, we want to provide a place where you can ask questions about sustainable website builds.

Keep an eye out for the first in our short series, Digital Sustainability: Design Elements.

Neil Clark, environmental lead at Manifesto.