THURSDAY 8 DEC 2022 2:11 PM


It is estimated that 3.8% of the world’s CO2 is generated by the internet, an unnerving statistic given how inextricably it is woven into our everyday lives. Kardo Ayoub, experience design director at The Team agency, argues that businesses need to pave the way for change by ensuring that digital sustainability is embedded into brand strategy.

In just a few decades, the internet has taken over our lives to such an extent that it’s now impossible to imagine a world without it. With vast amounts of information at our fingertips and the convenience of online banking, shopping - you name it. To become a disconnected world again feels impossible.

But, this high-speed connection and rapid progress comes at a heavy cost, both financially and environmentally.

When we consider climate change, our attention tends to turn to energy consumption, travel and recycling plastic packaging. Few of us consider the impact our digital habits have on the environment, but we should. 

For years we’ve been told that the web is greener than traditional, paper-based communications. While still true, the web is not as innocent as it seems. 

For every app refresh or web page you visit, CO2 is generated. Collectively, it adds up to a significant amount. 

In fact, some research suggests that if the internet was a country, it would be placed 4th in the world for CO2 emissions. Others estimate that around 3.8% of the world’s CO2 is generated by the internet. 

Let that sink in. Unsurprisingly, there isn’t a quick or easy solution. 

What does this mean for brands?

To be digitally sustainable, brands need a shift in mindset. Digital sustainability must be part of the wider brand strategy, mission and values. It must also be embedded internally, with everyone rallying behind it and making it happen.

Take a sustainable, digital-first approach

So far, brands and designers have largely focused on creating great brand experiences for users. This is of course still key to any successful brand, but it doesn’t have to come at a cost to our planet. 

Human and planet-centric design don’t have to compromise each other. On the contrary, they go hand-in-hand to create great user experiences without compromising on sustainability. 

You can still have an amazing looking brand, a beautiful website and great user experiences, but you must lay the right foundations upfront. 

Where to start? 

Keep it simple

Start with a simple, digital-first brand. Keep it minimal when it comes to visual elements and media types. For example, flat colours and illustrations can have greater impact than gradients and a ton of pictures, videos and other forms of heavy media. 

Focus on the foundations

Beginning with the foundations - such as design principles and guidelines - means you ensure that designers stay true to the brand and its mission. Simple and intuitive user journeys, site architecture and accessible design support users in performing tasks quickly and efficiently, without wasting energy looking for information. 

Create user experience patterns

By creating user experience patterns and design systems, you enable users to complete tasks more efficiently and effectively. This can also be reused and applied across all digital platforms. 

Be code efficient

Being code efficient during development, optimising assets and hosting with green and sustainable providers will also have an impact on the CO2 generated every time a user loads your site. 

We must stay focused on creating a more sustainable web so that we can continue to stay connected in all the ways we’ve now come to expect, without significantly contributing to climate change.