Everything we do at work has a carbon footprint. Data centres packed with servers full of web pages, apps and databases, which we use daily without thinking, create emissions, as does using the internet, which releases around 300 million tonnes of CO2 a year - as much as half of the fossil fuels burned in the UK.
Even ‘spam’ or unnecessary messages like those single line ‘thank yous’ we all send - generate 0.3g of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per email, and research shows that 64 million unnecessary emails are sent every day. It all adds up.
Should this be a concern for SMEs? Can we make a difference? Our answer is yes.
Understanding the impacts of work on the environment isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for business too. Clients and customers are increasingly conscious about environmental impact and will check environmental credentials before buying from or choosing your company, so it makes sense to consider some simple changes.
1 Implement Remote Working
The pandemic taught us that we don’t need to ask our team to commute into a central office every day. Our remote working systems and processes means we are no longer creating emissions from travelling into work or running a city centre office. SMEs should consider if they can go fully remote or reduce the amount of time staff needs to be in the office, and engage tech specialists to help set up efficient and effective remote working systems.
2 Upgrade Existing Systems
Running systems off older technology has negative implications for the environment. Making small changes in this area can create a BIG impact, even though the changes will be barely noticeable on a day-to-day basis. Take PHP, one of the most popular programming languages in the world. Many web pages and apps still run on PHP 5. Yet upgrading just 50% of servers from PHP 5 to PHP 8 would save $2billion in energy costs per year, as well as avoiding billions of kilograms of CO2 emissions. Put simply, keeping systems up-to-date will save energy, save on costs and reduce emissions.
3 Use Process Automation
At first this may seem a bit counter-intuitive. The development work that goes into creating platforms that automate day-to-day processes involves the use of servers and communication via email. However, the long-term outcomes can more than offset that carbon impact. When Mashbo creates a software product or web app, we run it on one server, alongside several others, rather than our clients running it off an individual server - see it as digital carpooling of sorts. There’s still an impact, but it’s greatly reduced. Quite often as well, automating processes can have other positive outcomes as well, such as greater productivity, efficiency and profitability.
4 Carbon Neutral Your UX
When looking at your app or website’s UX (user experience), you should consider and apply Sustainable Interaction Design - the premise that sustainability must be at the heart of all digital interaction design. This means that a few easy design changes (like removing that huge video from your homepage) and greater consideration about content in apps and on websites, could easily slash your carbon footprint.