Life through a green lens

  1. chevron left iconLife through a green lens
Esther DonatzJanuary 10, 2023
  • Digital Asset Management
  • Product Information Management

Esther Donatz, censhare CEO, reveals that sustainability success can come from starting – and staying – focused on the small things.

“Please consider the environment if you’re thinking about printing this email.” I have to admit, it has been many, many years since I have felt the need to print out an email, especially since they can be viewed and shared on almost any device, from laptop to mobile and even watch. But I still often see this disclaimer included in the footer of some of the many emails I receive in a day.

It's interesting that the senders should think the most anti-environmental thing I could do would be to print their email.

Digital content does give the impression of being more sustainable than other methods – no transportation, no printing, no paper, and lower energy consumption than, say, broadcast or print media. In reality, email and digital media as a whole are responsible for a huge volume of carbon emissions, and we could all be doing so much better to reduce our footprint.

The average, brief email is estimated to produce about 0.3g of carbon dioxide (CO2). This rises to 17g if it takes longer to read and write (three seconds and 10 minutes respectively), and 50g if you add an attachment. It drops to 0.2g if you read the email on a mobile, and it only takes up 0.03g if it gets sent straight to Spam. These figures come from the magnificent How Bad Are Bananas?, a guide to the carbon footprint of everyday items and activities and written, most appropriately, by Mike Berners-Lee, the brother of the father of the internet, Tim.

For example, a glance at my desktop toolbar shows in excess of 10,000 unread emails. These are emails that I have been too busy to read or I judged irrelevant when I received them but didn’t take the time to delete. But these emails are still sitting in a server somewhere, using up storage space and energy. And pumping carbon dioxide out into the atmosphere. According to the calculations above (and the assumption that none of these are Spam), there are three kilos of wasted CO2 just sitting in my inbox.

The reason for bemoaning my environmentally-unfriendly email habits is to point out that it’s not just the grand gestures such as cutting all business travel in favor of Zoom calls or installing solar panels and wind turbines that will make a lasting difference to climate change. Certainly these are also needed. At censhare, our energy contract is 100% green source, and the company parking lot has EV charging points. That already puts us ahead of many companies, but we can always be better.

As a provider of technologies such as digital asset management (DAM) and product information management (PIM) systems, we often talk about using these tools to promote efficiency. For example, by centralizing its digital materials, European tourism and trade conglomerate, REWE, found it could make its ad production 75% more efficient. With everything in a single system, it meant the company didn’t need to send as many emails, or print as many assets. There were fewer production mistakes, meaning fewer do-overs.

This is great for employee satisfaction and the bottom line, but also fantastic for the environment. Digital waste is as toxic as physical waste. Businesses and individuals alike should be doing as much as they can to reduce both.

But, as you are no doubt aware, it isn’t easy being green. A simple trip to the supermarket can lead to complex mental gymnastics as consumers try to work out whether the green beans imported fresh from Africa are better or worse than those grown under artificial light and heat at home. Trying to understand which behavior is better or worse than another in a work environment risks analysis paralysis.

This is why an ‘efficient equals sustainable’ strategy works as a rule of thumb. By adopting an efficiency-first mindset, companies will automatically find themselves at least greener than they were. But, it doesn’t hurt to view your activities through a green lens too. “Is this email I’m about to send strictly necessary?”; “Do I need to send a photographer halfway across the country to take a picture, or can I repurpose an existing one?”.

You don’t need a sophisticated carbon calculator to know that taking, processing and storing fewer product shots is beneficial to the environment as well as revenue. This is just one of the many efficiency/sustainability-first actions companies can take, simply by making the best use of technologies like DAM and PIM. Across the wider business, the possibilities are endless.

This is our philosophy at censhare, too. We have some ambitious goals around our whole environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments across 2023, but it’s a specific strategy that we’ve begun in early 2022. We know we are not perfect, but we are progressing in the right direction. By making small changes, we fully believe that, together, we can make a big difference.

Esther Donatz
Esther Donatz is CEO of censhare GmbH and has successfully managed the business since 2020. Esther previously headed the company’s sales and professional services teams as Chief Sales Officer. Before joining censhare, Esther Donatz held various leadership positions at international SaaS and cloud companies and was distinguished with the "IT Woman of the Year 2018" Gold Award.

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