BKM Marketing was recently featured in FORBES with our CEO Bruce McMeekin at the helm discussing the many reasons for assessing and reducing our agencies’ carbon footprint.
It’s no secret that global warming is real and that BKM Marketing generates millions of direct mail pieces for our clients every year--usually supported by electricity-dependent digital marketing. As a Boston-based sustainable direct marketing agency, BKM is not only committed to having a ZERO Net Carbon Footprint, but strives to inspire other Marketers to do the same. As a leadership member of Forbes Agency Council, Bruce McMeekin leads the charge by advising other Marketers in how they too can calculate and reduce their carbon footprint.
Research from NASA shows that 19 of the hottest years on record have all occurred since 2000. Just count how many times you hear the phrase “climate change” today. Have you wondered if your agency is part of the problem?
Like nearly every other industry, advertising contributes to the internet’s carbon footprint. Although we often assume that the cloud is a harmless, invisible entity, digital technologies make up about 4% of greenhouse gas emissions. Imagine all the servers, routers and other devices required to connect us to our customers and each other. However, it is not just the physical aspects of the internet that drive up emissions. The CO2 it takes to fuel email (and especially attachments) is comparable to that of the diesel cars on our roads.
In addition to digital technologies, traditional methods such as direct mail also take a toll on the environment — though not as much as we often believe. For example, a four-page direct mail piece generates 28 grams of CO2, which can be less than that of an email that has been forwarded along, reopened, deleted and so forth.
Because of these impacts — and the fact that only 12% of our energy sources were renewable in 2020 — finding more sustainable marketing strategies should be a priority.
Why Focus On Your Marketing Footprint Now?
There are many reasons for assessing and reducing our agencies’ carbon footprint, but one of the most compelling is that consumers are keen to see change. They are surrounded by the negative effects of climate change: forests burning, people gasping for breath, species dying. Many consumers expect the businesses they frequent to help. In fact, two-thirds of North American consumers prefer brands that support environmental issues.
What’s more, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that nature reacts when we slow down. It proved that change is possible, and it gave many of us hope for the future amid a seemingly hopeless situation. However, it is a hope that generates more questions than answers.
These factors caused my agency to ask some important questions: How can we determine how much our business contributes to climate change? How can we calculate the carbon impact of our marketing activities? How do we reach net-zero impact? We engaged a class of MBA students to help find the answers, and I’m eager to share what we learned.
INTERESTED IN HOW BKM REACHED NET-ZERO IMPACT?
How Can Marketers Calculate And Reduce Their Carbon Footprints?
We know that consumers are looking to agencies to lead the way, which is why it is important to critically analyze your carbon footprint. Our group found that these are the best places to start:
1. Calculate your company’s direct CO2 footprint.
Direct carbon is the footprint of all the CO2-emitting activities your agency controls directly. This could include business trips and commuting, office supplies, marketing collateral, utilities such as gas and electric, shipping, computer servers and more. Gather data from all of these sources and feed them into a carbon footprint calculator (like Terrapass) to determine your carbon impact. Do this at least once a year.
2. Estimate the indirect impact of your client work.
Your indirect impact includes any CO2 emissions created by others in the making and delivering of your products or services. It is more complicated to calculate than your direct footprint, but essentially, it is any CO2 that comes from your supply chain.
If you are primarily a digital agency, think about the CO2 emitted to deliver the multitude of impressions, social posts, emails and landing pages you create. If you create direct mail, consider the CO2 contributions of transporting paper to the printer, from the printer to the mail shop and from there to the postal facility. Ultimately, always ask where things come from, what happened to them and how they got to where they currently are. Then, use a carbon footprint calculator to determine the carbon cost of your secondhand processes.
3. Reduce your impact with bold changes and offsets.
Once you break down the ways your agency contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, you might feel overwhelmed — but you have made positive action possible. You now have the power to make changes to how your business functions, decrease your environmental impact and show consumers that you understand their concerns and share their values.
What could you do today to offset one of those carbon-emitting activities on your list? Could you divert more production to vendors with sustainability programs? Could you improve your use of eco-friendly products such as green paper and soy-based ink? Could you invest in activities that encourage others to reduce their environmental impact, such as starting a blog dedicated to green practices?
There are many effective programs to help your agency manage and offset its carbon footprint, so there is no reason to wait. You might be surprised how good it feels to start making changes — however small they are.