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What is the carbon footprint of a website?

The BFO for Sustainability

What is the carbon footprint of a website?

Our strategic partner has developed a unique solution to determine the carbon footprint of websites. The Budapest Festival Orchestra is the first entity of Hungary’s cultural scene to use the tool to analyze its website. We spoke with György Huszics, managing director of CRANE and CARBON.CRANE.

Where and how is the carbon footprint of an organization’s online presence produced, and how would one communicate in a more environmentally friendly manner?

First: it is important to recognize that there is, indeed, a carbon footprint. I want to highlight this because I often encounter surprised faces when this topic comes up. There appears to be a notion out there that online surfaces have no carbon footprint. One step closer to reality, but still rather far from it, is the idea that for websites, server parks utilizing sustainable energy (green hosting) result in zero carbon dioxide emissions.

The thing is that green hosting only reduces the carbon emissions of a website by 9%. This is because you must still consider the infrastructure through which the content of a website travels to the user, as well as the footprint of the device which displays that information, be that a laptop, telephone or desktop computer.

Based on our calculations methodology, the key to cutting such emissions is to rein in the size of the components which make up the website - e.g. images, texts, fonts, programming code etc. The smaller these are, the lower the emissions.

What made you want to develop the carbon monitor? Why is this important for you?

We have worked, and still work, with data and marketing; it was in connection with this that we came up with the idea of wanting to measure not only the effectiveness of a communications tool or campaign, but also its carbon emissions.

More specifically, the question we formulated was whether it is possible to achieve the same results in terms of operations with lower carbon emissions. And, while we were there: is it possible to improve efficiency? Taking a closer look, we realized two things. The first is that it is, indeed, possible; the second is that this is important not only to us. According to global surveys, 80% of consumers would prefer to buy products, where the manufacturer takes action in support of the environment, and 84% of employees prefer to work for such employers.

What makes the Carbon.Crane methodology unique, as you assess the environmental impacts of the online presence of an organization?

According to general practice, they calculate the carbon footprint for the preceding year; and, in fact, in some cases, this is more of an estimate. Our goal was to provide committed carbon-conscious users with a tool which can help their work by providing specific and up-to-date data. Because it is not possible to reduce emissions retroactively, and even if you know what you should have done differently a year earlier, the content on your website may already have changed.

Our solution tracks websites’ carbon footprints constantly and in almost real time; changes are visible immediately, and we also show which components of a website - images, texts, programming code etc. - account for the most carbon emissions. This makes immediate intervention possible to reduce emissions. It also helps formulate operating rules which help prevent higher carbon emissions.

The feedback so far has been quite encouraging: in addition to the BFO, companies such as Mastercard and E.ON have used our greentech technology, launched in 2022, to reduce their digital carbon footprint. The results Mastercard achieved on its website were recognized with a special award in 2023 by Greengage Awards. Since June 2023, the tool is also included in the World Media Group list of solutions supporting sustainability.

What is your vision for the road ahead: what is your timeline for carbon-conscious marketing solutions to become known or even the norm?

The first phase was about raising awareness and sharing information. Our point of departure was to make people aware of the carbon footprint of digital surfaces. Today, the focus is more on education and on ways to reduce emissions.

Our partners are clearly open to incorporating a carbon viewpoint in their work processes. Additionally, we will soon launch a joint information program with international advertising organizations, and we hope it will significantly expand the circle of carbon-conscious entities in the field, already in the short run.

Why was the BFO the first cultural client of Carbon Monitor’s? What were the antecedents?

We have a special relationship with the BFO. It was almost like a fated encounter, when we launched our CRM solution specifically for cultural entities. We saw the kind of openness, innovative energy and professionalism in them which we ourselves always strive for. We became strategic partners. When we created our carbon monitoring system, unique in the world, there was no question that we would show it to them. We did not need to do too much explaining. It was a great feeling to understand each other completely and thoroughly, and we found another field which was important for us both. It was another opportunity to think and work together.

What were your experiences during the audit of the BFO website, and what changes did you recommend?

Like other program-centric websites, the BFO’s website tends to see fairly rapid change, and also includes archive content. Another one of its features is that rich visual material is used to present the BFO’s events, which generally translates into a larger carbon footprint. At the same time, our experience is that for the same reason, it is actually possible to reduce the footprint without sacrificing quality. And, in fact, this reduction translates into smaller sizes, faster loading and a better user experience.

Based on the specific values, the BFO’s website is one of the smaller-sized ones in the cultural sector. While minimizing carbon emissions was not a consideration when the website was launched, it is possible to change this footprint significantly through day-to-day operations. As a result of our measurements, we were able to formulate several recommendations which can help reduce the carbon footprint of the website, and keep it to a minimum, when adding new content.

“The BFO for sustainability” - in partnership with CARBON.CRANE