Volkswagen switches off its website for Earth Day

The automaker renews last year's campaign with a move that will cut digital carbon emissions even further.

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You might notice something a little different about Volkswagen’s website today.

The automaker has powered down its usual site as part of its “Be the Change” CSR initiative, instead replacing it with a landing page featuring ASCII text coded specifically to look like its upcoming all-electric ID.Buzz, which arrives in Canada in 2024.

It calls the stunt “Day to Zero,” and if it sounds familiar, that’s because it is – the automaker previously promoted its ID4 all-electric crossover using a similar strategy in its widely-recognized “Carbon-Neutral Net” campaign. Both campaigns are based upon the same insight: humankind’s combined online activity, including site visits, search and video streaming, is responsible for 4% of global carbon emissions.

But what’s different this year is that instead of paring down the data on the website by replacing images with ASCII text, Volkswagen is shutting the website off completely, replacing it with a simple landing page explaining the move, as well as the automaker’s broader environmental commitments.

The “Carbon-Neutral Net” page was 99% cleaner than over two million other websites measured by digital carbon emissions calculator Website Carbon, and Volkswagen says that the “Day to Zero” page will generate 93% less emissions than its standard site.

“We’re powering down our entire site to raise awareness about the internet’s digital carbon footprint, while also reducing ours,” said Lynne Piette, head of marketing at Volkswagen Canada, who also noted that the automaker is partnering with One Tree Planted to plant a tree in Canadian soil for every Canadian visitor to its website. Volkswagen has set a goal of planting 100,000 trees.

The initiative is part of Volkswagen’s larger ambition to become a carbon-neutral company by 2050. It is supported by social with images being shared across Facebook and Instagram, as well as a CRM component featuring an email designed to educate consumers about the importance of reducing their own digital carbon footprint.

Type1, a dedicated Volkswagen unit from Taxi and other WPP agencies, led the campaign.