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Real commitment to sustainability essential as we emerge from current crisis

22 April 2020
As efforts are made to restart the global economy, it is important that we do not forget the ongoing climate crisis
Real commitment to sustainability essential as we emerge from current crisis

As the world slowly emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, sustainability will return high on the agenda of marketers in the IT industry. As efforts are made to restart the global economy it is important that we do not forget the ongoing climate crisis, and the IT-sectors contribution to it. Data centers have been revealed as the vital infrastructure that not only store your selfies, streams movies and delivers your social media likes, but facilitates working from home and remote access to thousands of corporate systems. But we must remember they consumed 1-3% of the world's power and contribute 1-2% of carbon emissions before the crisis changed the way we all work, communicate and socialise. Estimates made before the crisis predicted that within 5-10 years these figures could increase to 20% of global power consumption and 5.5% of carbon emissions – in our new world they could be much higher.

Understandably, sustainability has been incorporated into the marketing of more and more organisations – and as this crisis fades, I expect that trend to return as they seek to burnish their green credentials. But with so many brands jumping on the bandwagon, how can marketers ensure that they are not only differentiated, but credible? The charge of ‘greenwash’ is frequently levelled at those seeking to hide less than ideal environmental performance behind a veneer of green messaging.

As a company that provides the digital infrastructure behind some of the biggest brands, including those behind online services used by billions of people around the world, DigiPlex is at the heart of the issue. Like many in the industry we could have chosen to avoid the ‘difficult’ questions about IT’s “dirty little secret” – the environmental impact of data centers. Instead, the company made the bold decision in 2016 to put sustainability at the heart of its marketing and communications. It is a decision that we stick by today and which we believe should lead to positive change across the industry.

Not a message: THE message
Fundamental to our sustainability messaging is that it is not a message: it is THE message. Since 2016 all of our marketing has been dedicated to communicating, educating and providing insight on the importance of environmental sustainability for data centers. The company overhauled its website, social channels, PR and marcoms outreach to focus on this one issue.

Not only did these changes deliver significant business results and awards, but they have changed the way the industry regards sustainability. DigiPlex saw 366% increase in brand awareness, twelve-times increase in sales leads, 2,300% increase in media and 6,500% in social media reach as a result of these campaigns.

We have won numerous awards for this work, including Gold at the 2020 Corporate Content Awards and Silver for Best Creative Strategy at the 2020 Transform Awards. In addition, I was recognised by Data Cloud Europe as its first Marketer of the Year. DigiPlex has also been shortlisted for Best CSR activity/programme to support or develop a corporate reputation at the up-coming Corporate Engagement Awards.

But more important than all of this has been DigiPlex’s unflinching determination to lead the industry and initiate discussion, action and change towards environmentally sustainable solutions. The company has commissioned research, written reports, presented and spoken at events across the Nordic region and internationally, constantly reiterating the need for cleaner, greener data centers.

When we embarked on this journey in 2016, our own research showed that environmental performance was bottom of the list of purchase considerations. Two years’ later it had become the 4th most important consideration. Further research last year found that 69 per cent of consumers wanted digital service providers to minimise their environmental impact

Leading sustainability since 2004
Sustainability is not only central to DigiPlex’ marketing, but to the operations and mission of the company overall. In 2016 we were among the first to talk about these issues but had already built a strong track record that provided a credible foundation for what we wanted to say. Whilst many are just now addressing sustainability, we have been using 100% renewable energy since 2004. We have invested in innovations that reduce the carbon footprint of its facilities and contribute to more sustainable communities. For example, 15,000 apartments in Oslo and Stockholm will be heated using ‘waste’ heat from our nearby data centre (watch the video).

Good for the planet and good for business
The bold decisions of 2016 have paid off. Not only does DigiPlex consistently win awards for its sustainability, but we have seen our brand awareness grow from under 12% awareness among c-level audiences to over 56%. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, which is one reason why I am pleased to see so many others in the sector add sustainability to their marketing campaigns. More importantly however, is that the whole industry is now waking up to the importance of this issue and joining us in talking about and acting upon this topic with their stakeholders.

Now, as we emerge from one global crisis, it is more important than ever to refocus on the enduring climate crisis. We need more than words and more than marketing. DigiPlex will continue to put sustainability at the heart of our corporate purpose and operations and continue to advocate for more to be done. We have experienced how business, governments and citizens can work together to effect real change in a time of crisis. Now we want to see that same spirit of cooperative action applied to ensure that our emergent economy is greener and more sustainable than ever.

Article written in celebration of Earth Day 2020 by Fredrik Jansson - Chief Strategy & Marketing/Communications Officer

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