Volkswagen makes its electric car’s website carbon-neutral

Making everything sustainable, not just the car itself, will inform the marketing approach for the ID4 electric vehicle.

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Excessively surfing the web can be a waste of time, but is it a waste of energy too?

By some estimates, tech gadgets, the web and the systems in place to support them account for approximately 4% of global greenhouse emissions, roughly equal to that of commercial aviation. That’s because 54% of the global population, around 4 billion of us, use the web. Despite this, digital carbon footprints are still left out of carbon reduction conversations.

It’s the reason Volkswagen Canada is making its web browsing experience more energy efficient as part of how it positions its new ID4 all-electric crossover vehicle through an initiative called “The Carbon-Neutral Net.”

Volkswagen is reducing the amount of data embedded in the pages of a web experience around its sustainability efforts – stripping them to their bare bones, with black and white text only and images recreated using ASCII text. The pages are designed so that less energy is required to transfer the information, thus reducing their digital footprint.

“Education is key,” says Lynne Piette, director of marketing at Volkswagen, noting that even she was surprised to learn how much energy a typical webpage consumes. According to a Maru/Blue survey of 1,500 Canadians, 73% of consumers are unaware of the web and its impact on the environment.

When asked about how web best practices will inform future creative, Piette says the brand will “try to do as much as possible” regarding making its marketing of the EV carbon neutral. She says the brand will work with its agency partners, Type 1 and Touché!, to further examine how it can support its sustainability commitment across other executions, including print and OOH. 

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The brand announced its commitment during a carbon-offset webinar on Jan. 28, co-hosted by Type 1 and UK web design agency Wholegrain Digital, which created the site Website Carbon for more information about how to quantify the impact of web traffic and how low carbon websites compare with standard sites. The carbon footprint of the presentation itself was offset courtesy of the reforestation charity, One Tree Planted.

Piette tells strategy that Volkswagen has heard more from consumers about the importance sustainability than even prior to the pandemic, and for the brand, that means staying the course: “We know it’s still topical for Canadians and a key focus of ours.”

“I don’t see other automotive brands doing something like this,” she says, even ones with a large focus on EVs.

For the new vehicle, ID4 SUV sustainability is at the core of its messaging beyond digital footprints.

Piette says Volkswagen is partnering with Electrify Canada, which is building fast electric vehicle direct current charging infrastructure in order to broaden these services. “We are democratizing charging and making it accessible to everyone,” she says, which means supporting not just Volkswagen drivers, but anyone who drives an electric vehicle.

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