Almost every major company in Germany has made the issue of sustainability a fixed, key point in its corporate strategy. I’m sure you’re more than familiar with the one at your company.

The school of thought has changed over the last few years, and you can see examples of just how many forms sustainability comes in across every industry, be it the retail trade banning plastic bags, chemical companies focusing on sustainable raw materials or football clubs installing solar panels on the roofs of their stadiums.

The goal is almost always the same in each case: avoid, or at least reduce, emissions, or at least compensate for them where they can’t be avoided or reduced. Many companies have set themselves the goal of becoming climate-neutral within the next few years. In my opinion, one important aspect is often ignored: marketing. In marketing, we talk about sustainability, we educate people and thereby make an important contribution to raising awareness about sustainability. Some argue that even less print media is produced now than was produced a few years ago, but whether this is down to a deep desire for climate neutrality or down to changing user behaviour still remains to be seen. Either way you look at it, the most popular communication channel in marketing is usually found in digital.

This begs the question: what are we doing to make digital touchpoints more climate-friendly?

We only need to take a brief look at which basic set of digital touchpoints every company operates today to understand the leverage of using digital tools:

  • Company-internal digital touchpoints (examples)
  • Microsoft Office applications
  • Intranet
  • Digital signage, for instance in the canteen
  • Digital touchpoints outside the company
  • Websites
  • Apps
  • Marketing measures

Countless employees and customers access and actively use each of these touchpoints hundreds of time every day. However, using digital content always consumes energy, no matter whether it’s for supplying the computing power that the processors need, generating the light that terminals emit or allowing devices to receive radio signals. As is so often the case, it’s not the individual uses that reveal how much energy is being consumed, but the sum total of all of them.

In the many conversations I’ve had about sustainability over the last few months, I’ve had to learn the hard way that a lot of people aren’t aware of how using these touchpoints can and must contribute to transforming the organisation into a climate-neutral one.

What can we do to make digital touchpoints more sustainable?

At adesso, we summarise the three most important aspects of digital sustainability under the umbrella of ‘adesso Green Digital’: green user experience, green coding and green tech stack, which I will explain to you in more detail below.

Green user experience

There are a number of any aspects that we’re familiar with from the user experience help to actively save energy. If you can enable users to reach their goal or find the information they’re looking for more quickly, in other words, with fewer clicks, you save on receiving and displaying unnecessary information. Reducing the number of images will also save loading times. And people who use ‘dark mode’ – a feature found on most smartphones – can also save on electricity.

Of course, these examples are only first steps. But they do an excellent job of demonstrating how simple it can sometimes be to act in a more climate-friendly way, even in the digital world.

Giving users the choice seems like the best solution to me: do you want to make working energy efficient by using dark mode? Do you want to save electricity by not watching videos that take a long time to load?

But there are also aspects of sustainability beneath the surface that we should take a look at. These include:

Green coding

Applications are often based on things called frameworks. These frameworks are code libraries that allow you to implement features that already exist without needing a long development cycle. So far so good. As the term ‘library’ suggests, you’ll most likely find several hundred features rather than just one or two. Although the vast majority of features are rarely used at all, they are still loaded and sometimes processed as well. As you’ve probably already guessed, this also consumes unnecessary energy.

Putting the little extra bit of effort into the programming pays off: the applications are faster, lighter and sometimes not as complex. Applications that require a lot of computing power are already a pain for users as they are usually sluggish and cumbersome to use, but you should pay attention to conscientious software development, especially from an energy efficiency point of view.

Last but not least, the choice of technology is also a critical factor.

Green tech stack

Cloud technologies that allow us to scale based on demand while using energy efficiently without keeping operations at maximum load all the time are worth noting in particular. We focus on platforms with a sustainable technology roadmap and services that are consistently geared towards sustainability. This allows us to design long-term and holistic digital touchpoints with sustainable concepts and ensure economical operation.

Each aspect in itself – whether green user experience, coding or tech stack – offers valuable opportunities to align digital touchpoints in a way that conserves resources.

My appeal is therefore directed at everyone who is planning to relaunch a digital app: demand concepts that take sustainability aspects into account! It’s up to you to lay the foundation today for a sustainable digital touchpoint tomorrow.

And of course, it’s also easy to offset the emissions generated by a website, mobile app or intranet. However, it’d be even better to consume as little energy as possible right from the start.

Conclusion

No matter whether you work in IT or marketing, whether you’re responsible for social media or digital marketing or whether you’re a UX designer or software developer, we can all contribute to making digital touchpoints sustainable. And it’s now up to us, to me and from now on to you as well, to raise awareness of this.

Sustainable conception, design and programming are now a matter of course for many projects at adesso and we would be happy to share our knowledge of the many possibilities with you. Just get in touch with me!

Would you like to learn more about exciting topics from the world of adesso? Then check out our latest blog posts.

Picture Jens-Michael  Blümel

Author Jens-Michael Blümel

Jens-Michael has been designing the digital experience of tomorrow for over twenty years. At adesso, he heads the User Experience and Brand Strategy departments. Together with his 65-strong team of concept developers, interface designers and software engineers, he ensures that the latest scientific findings and heuristics find their way into the solution concepts of our customers. They are currently focusing on the urgent issues of sustainability and accessibility.

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