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As Earth Day creeps up on us, marketing teams will deploy sustainability campaigns, journalists will scorn the greenwashers, and events small and large will take place around the world.

Earth Day is a time to come together to drive change for the sake of protecting our planet. Fittingly, this year's theme has been deemed "invest in our planet," a call to all sectors of society—businesses, governments, and citizens—to come together and take action.

For marketing teams, the holiday usually centers on highlighting a sustainability initiative their brand has undertaken or communicating a related milestone with their audience. Yet, the simple act of marketing (even digital) can have a significant environmental impact.

Assume your team sent 1 million emails over the last 12 months.* The CO2 emissions could range upward of 215kgs, which is equivalent to charging your phone 26,230 times—or, if you charge once a day, 72 years of charging!

Marketing teams themselves can enact a variety of operational changes to make a positive environmental difference. For primarily digital businesses, creating sustainability initiatives won't be as obvious as it might be for experiential and in-person marketing agencies. That's where creativity, collaboration, and a whole lot of research come into play!

Understandably, setting out on your journey to be more sustainable can be overwhelming. Here are a six actionable steps your team can take to start.

1. Define your goals

Take stock of your energy output, waste, and travel practices to assess where you are as an organization. That can be done with the help of external consulting agencies or internal environmental champions.

As the world returns to the office, events and activations become a reality again, and business travel picks up steam, your organization's current state will be a major consideration for defining your overall goals. Guides such as the Oxford Offsetting Principles—a set of standards that need to be met when approaching offsetting to ensure you reach net zero—can serve as a helpful framework and guiding light for your organization.

2. Talk to your team

Touch base with your team about where you are as an organization and ensure that your goals align. Cross-reference your previous stock check.

Collaborating and opening the floor to feedback will help identify overlooked points and find viable solutions that fit your organization. Transparency and collective participation are major assets in such an undertaking.

3. Work with like-minded partners

Vetting vendors' and partners' sustainability practices is another way to integrate your sustainability goals through every arm of your organization. That can be as obvious as switching to vendors that use recyclable materials or as subtle as switching to Cloud platforms that use renewable energy and sustainable computing practices.

Finding partners that share your mission will expedite how quickly you reach your organizational milestones and ensure that every facet of your business is accounted for. In turn, you will help your clients reach their goals by becoming sustainable inside and out.

4. Go dark

Considering the amount of time spent online in our everyday workweek (and exacerbated by the pandemic), it's safe to say that we're using a lot of energy. Going from light to dark mode can save 39-47% of battery power, ultimately reducing power consumption, a study by Purdue University found.

Of course, going dark won't save the planet, but it's an actionable step your team and clients alike can take to inch a bit closer to sustainability best-practices.

5. Consider carbon offsetting

Using tech emits carbon. That is a reality that, at the marketing level, is simply beyond our control, and it's where most carbon is emitted. What we do online is one part of a larger chain of energy-burning electronics. In layman's terms, that means everything is connected, and online activity—AKA our livelihood—results in using excesses of computing energy.

Not all hope is lost, however. Partnering with an organization (especially one that aligns with your values) to offset emissions is a great entry point to counteract those emissions, give back, and make a measurable impact.

6. Explore certifications

Just as the Oxford Offsetting Principles serves as a guide, working toward a certification such as ISO 14001 can help keep your organization accountable to standards and provide clearer progress benchmarks.

* * *

Consider the ways your team can make an impact this Earth Day—and not just in the way you market it for yourselves or your clients. By implementing some of the tips in this article, every email, SMS push, and display ad will get your team and clients closer to achieving their sustainability goals.

Committing to becoming carbon-neutral, although often debated, is still one step toward a more sustainable future. Together, important changes can help your team achieve the more arduous goal of eventually becoming net-zero.

* Example calculated using Microsoft Azure's sustainability calculator.

More Resources on Sustainability in Marketing

Sustainable Branding: Why Leading With Green Misses the Mark, and What to Do Instead

How B2B Brands Can Use Purpose to Win in the Marketplace

The Benefits of Green B2B Branding

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Six Ways Marketers Can Achieve Sustainability Instead of Just Talking About It

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image of Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw heads up all things technology, security, and deliverability at dotdigital. He has 20 years of experience in building software and leading tech teams.

LinkedIn: Steve Shaw