Email marketers have been accused of many things, from fraud to spam. But there is one bad rap that they may not deserve -- the destruction of the environment. Still, they are already getting more than their share of the blame for it, despite an apparently limited impact.
For example, French regulators have asked companies to “cut back on email in order to save energy,” Hayley Tsukayama writes in The Washington Post.
Why single out email? Maybe because “the average spam email has a footprint equivalent to 0.3 g of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2e),” as Tsukayama reports, citing a 2010 book: “How Bad are Bananas: The Carbon Footprint of Everything" by Mike Berners-Lee.
Over the course of a year, the impact is like that of driving 200 miles in a car (not that bad, really). The danger to beleaguered email marketers is that this could be the start of a persistent drumbeat on the subject.
It has happened before. Remember when groups like ForestEthics (now called stand.earth) started calling out paper junk mailers and other perceived environmental malefactors?
Then, as now, it was an era of privacy paranoia. It didn’t pay to tell consumers that the answer was in smaller mailings based on smarter use of data -- nobody wanted to hear it. Nor will that work these days, since the energy that goes into data analytics will be much the same, whatever the email volume.
Anyway, this isn’t only about email: A smartphone “has the equivalent energy footprint of a small refrigerator,” Steven Hayward writes on Powerline. And “by conventional green analysis, social media activity is killing the planet!’, he adds.
Add it all up, and digital technology, in toto, could account for 10 percent of the total electricity now being used, by some estimates, Hayward adds.
So should emailers take the hit for every channel and device contributing to our meltdown? No. But they better get ready for the fallout.
For starters, firms geared to Millennials and people worried about the climate should publish environmental policies, as they now do privacy policies.
These would not be only be about the materials used in products, or about an “environmentally friendly work flow,” as ecomdash puts it. They would focus on the use of sustainable energy and companies’ efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.
Too much of a hassle? On the contrary, it could be a branding opportunity. These days, catalogs get points for their use of recycled paper.
Of course, the real answer is in responsible national energy policies, but we may not get them in the years to come. So private marketers will have to cope.
Again, mass emailers will have to keep their noses clean on all the other fronts. Energy efficiency begins at home, and people resent the time it takes to open an irrelevant or repetitive email.
One could hope that this issue will fade away, and it could in the short term. But the unfair animus against email users will not. Sorry to disappoint you, but that cat is already out of the bag.