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#ZeroCarbonEmail: Report of the #emday19 ... what do we do now?

22/05/2019

As others have already said, this year's email marketing day was a great success, both in terms of organization (an absolutely fantastic venue), and the content of the conferences and workshops!

This year, Badsender offered a 45-minute workshop on the theme: " What if we created a ZERO CARBON initiative in the emailing sector?" . The desire to bring this theme to emday came from our own internal reflections on what we could do more ecologically in our work. We didn't really see the workshop as a risk... but we had no idea if we were isolated on the subject, if others were asking these questions... would 4 or 5 of us discuss it during the workshop, or would many people want to take up the subject?

Obviously, it was the right time to bring up the subject! From the first intervention, Yves-Marie Le Pors-Chauvel highlighted the carbon savings of redesigning CCM Benchmark's inactive management strategy.

And in many other sessions this impact on the carbon emissions of our industry was cited.

We were therefore surprised to welcome about 30 people during this workshop. The debates were very interesting... and we could have easily continued to exchange for another 2 hours. It's only a postponement!

Zero Carbon Workshop: Summary of Part 1

We started the workshop with 10-15 minutes of reflections before starting the discussion. Here is the presentation that was used, followed by a short transcript.

To start, Fabien and I insisted on the fact that this workshop is an initiative of Badsender, but that the result of the reflection and the actions that will have to be taken afterwards belong to the community, to the industry, and more widely to all #emailgeeks.

Some figures

For starters... figures on email CO2 emissions are scarce... and old... and not always consistent. Nevertheless:

Sending an email would cost 19 grams of CO2 (source Ademe), according to the SNCD, in 2018, our industry would have sent 131.1 billion emails. Per year, that would be "at least" 2.5 million tons of CO2 emissions for our industry! That is the carbon footprint of more than 200,000 French people (Eurostat)... and that is only the cost of the email in the recipient's inbox, not all the marketing logistics to send it!

The consumption of the digital world is... astronomical:

416.2 terawatt hours of electricity world's data centers used last year was far higher than UK's total consumption"
- The independent - January 2016

The consumption of the corporate world is... astronomical:

A company of 100 people generates 13.6 tons of CO2 equivalent each year just from its e-mail, which is the equivalent of 14 round trips between Paris and New York (ADEME).

Whether they are right... or not... who cares about numbers? We have to move forward, that's all!

Our first internal reflections

Before coming to emday, Fabien and I sat down to think about the different avenues we could take. We classified these into 4 main categories:

  1. The recipient's inbox (not to mention our pro boxes): it's all the energy spent to store and display emails after their shipment.
  2. Marketing solutions (and hosting): it's all the energy spent before and during sending emails to recipients (data, creations, ...)
  3. The human resources of email marketing: this is the energy spent by humans working on email marketing campaigns
  4. Carbon offsetting: let's not fool ourselves, it will be difficult to become truly carbon neutral. This is why it may be necessary to use compensation mechanisms.

One topic we didn't address during the emday workshop was the purpose of our marketing campaigns. Basically, some people will consider (not entirely wrongly) that marketing means generating non-existent needs. This incitement to consumption could only generate pollution. This is a very interesting and relevant subject for debate. But that we preferred not to approach for the moment. The risk being that this debate takes all the place, without leading towards concrete tracks. We will perhaps come back to it later.

The results of our micro-survey

Two weeks ago, we launched a survey in order to ask you some questions about your vision of this debate, about the opportunities, about the priorities. Beware, these are only some indicative figures, as participation was... limited 😉 Here are the results.

  • Do you think that companies (whatever the sector) must make efforts concerning the environment? 100% = yes!
  • What are your priorities?
    • 79% - Using Carbon Neutral Data Centers
    • 43% - Suggest to the recipient to clean his mailbox
    • 43% - Regularly clean/archive data on servers
    • 43% - Home office transportation for emailing workers
    • 36% - Energy Efficiency in Business Buildings
    • 36% - Implementing carbon offset mechanisms
    • 29% - Create lighter emails
  • Do you think advertisers are willing to pay (slightly) more to choose providers with greener practices?
    • 70% = yes
    • 30% = no
  • What would be your ideas on the subject? (open-ended question with some answers below):
    • "The "no" to the previous question, even if it is based on a strong conviction, does not necessarily mean defeatism. We can also change habits by encouraging users to target better. It's less emails sent (therefore a reduced "footprint"), it's less costly for them, it brings better results and maintains the reputation of the sender (by respecting good practices). In the end, for the router, it's also beneficial: certainly, less mails sent is (often) a reduced turnover (in the current model), nevertheless, it's also more satisfied customers and an optimized router reputation. So everyone wins, without having the unpleasant impression of an ecology that only works in "punitive" mode. My 2 cts."
    • "To be honest, I don't have any more than that because I don't know the real ecological footprint of our activity. But doing a "forced" cleaning or archiving in the case of non-commercial emails in the mailboxes would certainly be the most radical solution, but the most effective from my point of view.
    • "Reduce mailings: focus on efficiency and quality, rather than quantity of promotional messages. This is a good practice anyway in a general way...For transactional mailings, why not go as far as limiting to text format? I think this is often sufficient.

Time for debate: summary of Part 2

As said above, most of the workshop was dedicated to a debate between all the people present. The goal was to mix our brain juices to see what we could put in place COLLECTIVELY!

To facilitate the reflection, we started from the 4 categories presented above and let the room discuss.

Emission/reduction sources

  • Recipient's inbox:
    • Suggest to the recipient to clean up their email box
    • Create lighter emails (weight, colors, image compression, ...): these are recommendations that could be integrated into campaign management solutions.
    • Organize a better information of the general public (but also of the professionals) on their responsibility at this level
    • Design a button to clean up stale emails in email client interfaces (e.g. based on promotion end dates in email metadata)
    • In the email client interface, add indicators of CO2 consumption and the potential for reduction if the user cleans up his emails regularly.
  • Marketing solutions:
    • Use carbon neutral data centers
    • Clean/archive data regularly
    • Introduce ecological criteria in calls for tender
    • Improve customer knowledge and targeting to avoid sending unnecessary emails
    • Tell advertisers their carbon "weight" in dashboards and campaign reports: this would encourage them to have better practices (which are also close to the objectives of the work on inactives)
  • Email marketing human resources:
    • Commuting to work
    • Energy efficiency of company buildings

We also discussed the mechanics of carbon compensation. We also discussed financing, some people saying that it was a false debate insofar as whatever happens we must move forward as quickly as possible on these subjects.

What to put in place collectively? How to move forward?

This was something we were keen on, getting ideas on next steps!

Track 1: create a discussion space!

It's done. We have opened a Slack available at this address: https://zerocarbonemail.slack.com/

This is a provisional discussion place, we will see if it is the best place to discuss or if it is necessary for example to join the slack of the #emailgeeks (in this case, it will be necessary to discuss in English).

To request to join the Slack #zerocarbonemailIf you want to be added to our mailing list, feel free to fill out the form below, and we'll add you (you won't receive any email from Badsender when you sign up, we didn't even put an optin box). If the form doesn't display, disable your Adblocker 😉

Track 2: Design a charter for email professionals

No concrete exchanges at this level yet, the idea is to list and freeze certain tracks and to allow some to commit to developments. To be developed.

Path 3: Create an information site for the general public on these questions

This would allow advertisers, for example, to educate their audiences about the impact of "unlimited" email retention. To be developed.

Track 4 : Creation of a reliable study on the carbon expenditure of email

This is a subject that has been widely discussed (outside the workshop as well, by the way), the figures are varied... and not very fresh! It would be interesting to work on a specific study for our sector... which would also allow to define which actions have the most important impacts. To be developed

Track 5: Design specifications to add CO2 spending information to campaign reports

This is a particularly relevant way to objectify the carbon impact of campaigns. A global methodology for the sector could allow marketers to work their marketing strategies with this indicator in mind. Also to be developed 😉

In conclusion: let's get moving!

If these debates have been interesting, let's not wait for 36 workshops (even if some people love it) to move forward. Some initiatives can allow us to move forward quickly (migration to carbon-neutral data centers, increase in teleworking, reduction in the weight of emails) while waiting to move forward on more structural tracks. Let's each set an example on our side while continuing to discuss common and concerted actions.

We look forward to seeing you!

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Badsender also animates a training on the subject of HTML development of an email !

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