To make large companies aware of the tangible impact of pollution on their website, the footprint agency – which belongs to the international digital performance group Labelium – has ranked the 60 companies in the TSX according to the CO2 emissions generated by its website. . With this ranking, first in the Canadian market, the agency’s main goal is to raise awareness of the environmental impact of the digital sector.
Although still little discussed and underestimated, the environmental impact of the digital industry is already greater than that of civil aviation and is on its way to becoming one of the great challenges of the climate crisis. The latest IPCC reports leave no doubt about climate change: to reverse the trend we need to reach zero net in all our sectors, including the digital sector. While recognized as a potential accelerator in reducing emissions globally, the impact of digital on the planet has been greatly underestimated to date. However, it is already important, with annual CO2 emissions higher than those of civil aviation and even from a country like Canada (3.5%).
If a click on a website consumes on average less than one gram of CO₂e, the real problem is a volume issue. Counting the aggregate impact of clicks a website receives over a year, the footsprint study shows that the toll amounts to more than 300,000 tons of CO₂e in Canada alone. This is the equivalent of the annual energy consumption of 70,000 households. Globally, with more than a billion websites now, with nearly 250,000 new sites up and running every day, the impact is huge and growing.
The annual CO2 emissions generated by the digital sector in Canada.
The annual CO2 website traffic consumption in Canada: the equivalent of the energy consumption of 70,000 homes in one year.
A complex issue where significant performance gaps indicate the need for governance and standards.
Each website was assigned a score between 1 and 100 (100 is the best score, rewarding the most environmentally friendly websites). This reflects the environmental performance of the website taking into account the emissions from servers, telecommunications networks and terminals (for more details, see the full methodology here). In this study, TSX60 scores range from 12 (lowest score) to 81. Please note that to make a fair comparison, traffic was not considered. However, it is in the “Lifecycle Emissions” column. In case of a tie, the ranking takes into account the emissions generated per page visited.
Among the TSX60 companies, the podium of the most responsible places does not paradoxically fall to groups linked to technology and communication, but to the energy and financial sector. At the top of the ranking, CDN Natural Res is the undisputed winner, with less than 0.07 gCO₂e issued per page visited. At the bottom of the rankings, with a total score of 12%, Kinross emits more than 2 g of CO₂e per page visited. Among the IT sector, Shopify ranks fifth, just ahead of CGI (6th) and Open Text (7th). Power Corp. dominates the financial rankings in 2nd place, ahead of Sun Life (9th) and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (10th).
Things get even more interesting when you add the traffic volume dimension, observing the impact throughout the life cycle of the website. Here we can see that TD and Rogers stand out as the main pollutants in terms of total emissions, with 384 and 345 tonnes of life-cycle CO₂e emitted respectively. For high-volume sites like these, the issue of improving energy performance is therefore more crucial. For example, in the case of TD, a reduction in emissions per page of 30% (or only 0.1 gCO₂e / page) would reduce its emissions during the life cycle of the site by 112 tons, the equivalent of energy consumption. annual of 27 tons. households over one year old.
From server choice to data transfer: the key emission factors.
Many websites today proudly display the “green hosted website” tag. However, recognizing a truly responsible host turns out to be a very complex issue: there is so much more to consider than just choosing a “green host.”
Two of the main factors to consider when choosing a host are the energy efficiency of the server (the relationship between the energy required to run the servers and the total energy required to run the hub) and the its location. Although on average almost 40% of the energy consumed by a data center is used for ventilation and cooling of the system, choose a data center located in a cold region (for example, in northern Quebec ) can drastically increase energy efficiency. Similarly, the carbon intensity of electricity can vary greatly from one country or region to another, thus directly affecting the environmental assessment of the site.
Data transfer is another key factor in carbon emissions. In general, the more data is transferred, the greater the power consumption required to secure the transfer. In the field of web development as in many others, we are constantly looking for performance and power, which leads to an increase in associated energy demand. If we create more and more elaborate websites with a better user experience, they also consume more and more energy. HTTP Archive research shows that a website today is 4.5 times heavier than a website in 2010. Therefore, a significant part of the efforts to reduce the carbon impact of a website is ‘should focus on reducing the weight of the page. Therefore, the ecodesign approach differs from traditional web development in optimizing efficiency rather than effectiveness. The two are not contradictory, but on the contrary, a more efficient place will necessarily be more effective.
In general, as for other sectors, the short-term priority is to improve the energy efficiency of existing sites, by implementing new standards of responsible development. However, a real transformation will not be possible without the integration of the sustainable dimension as an integral part of the website and software development process, from ideation to deployment.
Beyond the environmental aspect, ecodesign presents important economic challenges for companies.
Designing and deploying lighter, more efficient websites improves SEO performance, upload speed, and user experience by reducing friction points and thus helping to increase your conversion rate. A lighter website will also be accessible to more people, allowing uploading from geographic areas where the connection is limited or even poor. In addition, hosting costs can also be optimized by implementing good practices to lighten the server load.
By working hand in hand with technology and environmental experts, footsprint supports companies to improve the performance and user experience of their website while reducing their green footprint.