There are two primary concepts at play at the intersection of sustainability and communications:
- Sustainable content: Minimizing the greenhouse gas emissions from the storage and transfer of digital information
- Sustainability communications: Communicating to key stakeholders about an organization’s sustainability, often in alignment with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or other environmental, social, and governance (ESG) targets
While both are important, sustainable content underpins sustainability communications. My mother was right: It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.
Data has an environmental impact
The accelerating wave of digital content is increasing the energy demands on an already overextended planet. The energy costs for our digital lives can be steep; the world has almost doubled its energy consumption since 1980.
If every byte of data is nothing more than energy, and energy has a carbon cost, then we can directly measure the emissions impact of our websites, emails, podcasts, and video meetings.
I’ve developed formulas to calculate the carbon impact of digital projects. They can be applied proactively to understand the carbon cost of new content, and retroactively to measure the impact of content governance. Keep these numbers in mind when deciding what needs to be communicated, and how.
Where can I learn more?
In addition to my upcoming speaking engagements, you can learn more from my peer-reviewed articles:
- First, Do No Harm: Ethical Considerations Surrounding the Environmental Impact of Our Digital Content. AMWA Journal. 2022.
- Technical Communication, expected publication Q1 2023.
In late 2023, I will also be publishing my first book, Sustainable Content, through A Book Apart.