Addressing sustainability by rethinking… everything
With the Cop 26 conference and global climate crisis news dominating the headlines, it’s clear that we’re living through a crucial point in human history. If the world can change its behaviour quickly – and many scientists believe that means within the next decade – then global warming might be limited to a few degrees and maybe all-out ecological disaster will be averted. So we need to make changes now.
Despite such stark warnings, change has been slow and even agreements on what countries should do next have been hard to come by. Only this week, The Guardian noted that, “Every corner of society is failing to take the “transformational change” needed to avert the most disastrous consequences of the climate crisis.” At a moment when everyone needs to do something, it seems that few are doing anything at all.
Which, we’ve got to admit, is a terribly bleak way to open this blog. While we can’t follow it up by insisting hey, everything’s going to be just fine, we CAN tell you that it’s possible to stop doom-scrolling through Twitter and actually do something about it. We know because we not only did it, we’ve also got the award to prove it.
Manifesto was delighted to recently learn that it’s won a 2021 BIMA10 Award for its work with the Climate Group on building a low-impact, energy efficient website. BIMA was looking to praise ten exceptional projects that are helping to shape our industry and inspire a generation of digital professionals. Manifesto’s entry stood out for its pioneering work in approaching every single aspect of a website design, build and functionality in order to make it as low-impact as possible. Since power consumption isn’t something that many websites have considered up until now, the Climate Group project involved research that, we hope, will be used by others in the future.
“The planet needs to be a stakeholder in all websites,” notes Neil Clark, the environmental lead at Manifesto. “Sustainability has to be a non functional requirement just like accessibility or security and we’re excited to share what we’re learning with the wider industry. Our end users don’t have a say in how much energy a website produces, so it’s up to agencies to lead the way!”
The Climate Group wanted to bring its three websites together in a way that supported its core mission – a goal that put the sustainability of its single new website at the heart of the project. Since information on how to do that simply didn’t exist in one place, Manifesto went looking for the data before predicting that we could decrease carbon emissions from the Climate Group’s website by 60%. As things turned out, we didn’t manage 60%. The Manifesto team came closer to an 80% reduction instead.
How? By looking at each and every aspect of the website in turn. Halving the page weight, for example, not only halved the average load time but also increased the site’s overall SEO ranking. Elsewhere, auto-playing videos were replaced with static images so that energy was used only when a visitor clicks on the video. Even the website’s overall colour scheme was dimmed in the quest to make everything as energy efficient as possible. In explaining why the project stood out so much, Catriona Campbell, CEO of EY Innovations Lab and also one of the BIMA10 judges, said that it, “takes a simple task of integrating three websites into a climate change solution. This could become a new methodology for digital design.”
The Climate Group project was a special one for Manifesto since it was the first time the agency had embarked on an end-to-end sustainable website build using Drupal 9. With the digital industry currently responsible for at least 1.4% of global emissions, it definitely won’t be the last, though.
Nazneen Nawaz, head of media and corporate communications at the Climate Group, said that, “We were delighted with how Manifesto guided us through the process to create a stand-out site presence that not only showcases our global brand but does so in a way that is good for the planet.”
By gathering and analysing data from stakeholders, users and technology research, Manifesto’s insights into sustainable website design helped to make a difference by reducing the carbon emissions of the Climate Group’s website. If you’re interested in gaining similar immediate changes as well as longer-term value, please talk to us about how we might partner with your organisation.