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Can marketing do more to help tackle the climate crisis?

Climate action





Ian Baksh

Climate action
Can marketing do more to help tackle the climate crisis?





Ian Baksh

Do marketers have a responsibility to take climate action? Read our Head of Marketing's thoughts and discover his top tips for reducing your marketing function's carbon footprint.

Over 6 months into my role as Head of Marketing for climate fintech brand Cogo, I have found that I have consciously and subconsciously changed the way I live my life and make personal decisions. 

I eat less red meat (cue stern looks from my numerous vegan colleagues), drive around less and buy more preloved stuff - having learnt very early on that every £1 I spend has a CO2e output. So I am trying to walk the talk. Or am I? The impact my work has on my personal life is clear. But what about the impact my work has on my work life?  

Everything we do at Cogo is centred around our mission of creating a fairer and more sustainable world. From who we partner with to how and where we work. We work remotely to help save on travel emissions and all the paraphernalia associated with it. We’re paperless, we repurpose equipment rather than buy new. We even offer extra days of holiday for those who can travel via train or bus, rather than fly. So the company is doing its bit. But am I doing mine as Head of the Marketing function? 

Well, I’m trying. But upon deeper investigation, I have found the situation for my profession is more severe than I had first imagined. A typical digital ad campaign emits 5.4t CO2e - about half the average UK person’s annual emissions! Successful ads further our unabated consumerism and can add as much as 28% to each of our individual footprints. Digital technology now emits more CO2e annually than some whole European nations. While that last one is not all Marketing’s fault, it’s enough to bring on a bout of eco-anxiety given most of my operations happen online. 

Once my head had stopped spinning, I realised I must try harder to live the Cogo way and adopt some much needed CO2e reducing processes and strategies so my team could be more green. The 6 tips below are all methods I’ve put in place at Cogo and are having a marked impact on our output. 

#1 Avoid greenwashing campaign ideas

This is a no-brainer and a personal hatred of mine when I see it. Too often, I see campaigns on billboards, online and at events where brands try to make out they are on their way to net-zero by 2030 (!), but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. I won’t name offenders here, but I could. Loads. 

Greenwashing should be avoided at all costs because the cost is more than just financial. It’s killing our planet and is damaging to brands too. 

#2 You can manage what you can measure

We’re all about measurement at Cogo. We help people measure, reduce and offset their emissions. I think marketers should do the same with their campaigns. 

There are some great carbon tracking tools out there that all marketers should know about. AdGreen’s carbon calculator allows marketing teams to measure the potential footprint of their ad campaigns. If ads are out of your range, you must have a website. That has a carbon footprint too. Website Carbon Calculator allows you to measure your carbon footprint. Measure what you can, reduce what you must! 

#3 Make those assets sweat

I’m a frugal person by nature, so this one makes common sense to me. Try to avoid creating one-off assets designed to be used in one-off campaigns. 

Production is where a lot of the one-off emissions come from, be it materials, electricity usage or location. Just like our app suggests to our users, repurposing, reusing and recycling as much as you can is good for the planet. Your marketing collateral should be treated the same. Minimise the CO2e set-up costs by planning content which can be amended over time. TVCs can be cut down into vignettes for use on other channels. Your events can reuse the same branding if you’re clever about it (or if your boss calls you from the event to ask if she should take home all the branding on the Eurostar!). 

#4 Do you really need to send that? 

All marketing activity creates massive wastage. I know it, you know it. So think! Is this piece of activity going to make a difference? If not, don’t send it. 

Even emails have a significant impact on the climate, so if you can cut the emails you send via your CRM, be smarter in targeting your DMs, or even pull back on a campaign, you’ll be helping cut your marketing emissions. 

#5 Size matters 

For digital purposes anyway. Digital marketers know the negative effects of web latency, but do they know that reduction in file sizes also helps reduce emissions? 

In our web development, we use SVG files instead of JPG or PNGs to make sure the load speed is increased but also the download requirement for the user is reduced. The same applies to online ads too, which have a startling footprint all of their own!

#6 Strategise with a green lens

Easier said than done but when conceptualising your next campaign, think about how it can also help the climate. There are planning tools out there to help with this, like The Sustainable Marketing Compass which places sustainability at the heart of your plans. 

Using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a base, the compass forces marketers to think more critically about how their campaigns can be a force for good as well as a force for commerciality. At Cogo, all our content is focused on helping to increase carbon literacy and educating people on how to be more sustainable, meaning the SDGs are at the forefront of our planning. 

While these tactics are helping me run a more carbon-efficient team, we’ve still got a ways to go to achieve the fabled ‘net-zero’. As we all become more carbon literate (and Marketing must play a part in this, too!), more and more initiatives and ways of working for CO2e reduction will surface and become standard across the industry. I look forward to learning these and implementing them across the next 6 months of my tenure at Cogo. 

Be On The Right Side Of History.
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