What it really means to reconcile digital and sustainability.

Our team talks about the importance (and the challenge) of reconciling the digital & sustainability communities.

As digital pollution continues to be a key challenge, the importance of connecting the digital and sustainability communities is more important than ever. Yet building an interdisciplinary digital-sustainability practice is no easy task. Zoom in on why.

To illustrate the challenges, and share a bit about who we are, we asked Elisa Boivin, our Managing Director with deep experience in the digital industry, and Juan Sotés, our Impact Director and former carbon analyst at the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, to tell you how they got to meet (and work) at the crossroads of science.

Elisa, coming from the digital world and industry which has a severe lack of awareness of its environmental impact, how did you initially learn about the digital world’s impact on the environment?

Elisa Boivin: In 2020, I was appointed the first Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) Director of the Labelium Americas region. Since then, I have been working with a very committed team of change-makers within Labelium on the different dimensions of ESG (more about our work here). It is in this role, which I still hold today, that I came across the realization that would lead to the beginnings of footsprint a year later. Indeed, in 2021, we underwent the process of measuring our greenhouse gas emissions at regional company level; we went through a thorough data collection & measurement process to assess our scope 1,2 and 3 emissions. 

When our results came out, we were shocked to discover that our digital activities were not being accounted for – as a digital native agency we felt this meant serious underestimation of our true impact. After challenging our measurement partner and other players in the market, the response was unanimous: there was no established framework in place to measure the carbon footprint of digital activities.  

Juan, as someone from the sustainability side working in carbon measurement and GHG protocols, what was your perspective?

Juan: As crazy as it seems, things weren’t different on this side! I’ve been interested in protecting the environment since I can remember. I specialized in natural sciences in high school and graduated from University with an environmental sciences degree. 

Since then, for over 10 years, I’ve been working on climate change mitigation in different countries and organizations, measuring the impact of everything you can think of. Surprising to me, analyzing digital emissions had never even crossed my mind. It seemed minor – we were not talking about fuel and our transportation systems, saving our forests or powering our cities. It never occurred to be that Digital emissions could be a big problem.

Elisa, what do you think was the reason behind the lack of awareness and the missing frameworks for measurement?

Elisa: I quickly came to realize that the key reason behind this was the difficulty in reconciling two distinct types of sciences: sustainability science – traditionally a long-haul, post-mortem methodology, and digital performance – a real-time science relying on speed of insights and optimization. However, as a performance agency, measuring everything we do is part of our DNA, and this particular challenge motivated us… so we started digging!

We quickly realized that the need for change was more critical than we thought: Digital pollution already surpasses civil aviation and is expected to account for 8% of global GHG emissions by 2025. We also felt that the current gap in today’s ESG methodologies revealed a market need for a new type of services, focused on empowering our clients to transition towards less carbon-intensive digital practices. 

Juan, you work now as Impact Director at footsprint. What motivated you to join the digital industry?

Juan: I would lie if I said that when Elisa first reached out to me with the idea of developing a digital sustainability agency, I immediately jumped into it. At that time, I was working for an organization tackling climate change from every angle, and was under the impression that digital emissions were not a pressing priority. 

Additionally, I was weary of the risk of greenwashing (more on that in a future blog post). 

But when I started reading, I was very surprised to learn that digital emissions are already higher than the aviation industry. Not only did we have this blind spot in the climate community, but the risk of digital’s climate impact increasing is very high if we don’t do something about it now. 

There is a lot to explore and I’m still learning, but tackling digital emissions started to feel more and more like a challenge worth taking.

As awareness on the topic has since started to grow, we mainly focus on the need to mitigate emissions. However, the latest IPCC reports have been clear: more than reducing the negative impact of our digital activities, we need to have a positive impact on the planet and its people. What are your thoughts?

Elisa: This is exactly what footsprint is about. The project is deeply personal, for our team and for the Labelium Executive team. We see this as a commitment to push beyond the boundaries of business as usual, to act on our values and to drive change. 

These commitments are reflected in our business model, as 10% of our margins are redistributed through partnerships such as Ecologi and 1% for the Planet. 

But most importantly, the underlying vision we share at footsprint is that of a world where digital is a force for good, respecting the boundaries of our planet and contributing to becoming a more equitable and inclusive society. This starts with redefining digital performance across financial, social and environmental metrics, and holding ourselves accountable. 

Juan: Coming from the environmental, not-for-profit world, finding purpose and meaning was very important to me, and remaining true to my values was critical in my decision to join the company. Elisa was (and still is) very understanding of this and didn’t try to convince me, just said “come and find out for yourself.” I’m very glad that I did.

Elisa, to conclude, what does "working at the crossroads of sciences" mean for your clients?

Elisa: It means the footsprint team is atypical, composed of seasoned professionals from very different fields of practice, from carbon measurement and GHG protocol to media consultancy and web development.

This enables us to have a deep understanding of our clients’ day to day realities, and the agility to create change management programs that are tailor-made for them. And most importantly perhaps, we have the hopeful pragmatism to walk our clients through this journey enthusiastically.

Elisa Boivin

Managing Director at footsprint.

Elisa joined Labelium 7 years ago and focused as a Media Director on accompanying large, fast-growing brands specializing in the Luxury, Fashion and Beauty industries. In 2020, she joined the Labelium Americas Marketing & Consulting team as Program Director, overseeing large international RFPs for the agency and developing new services for the region. In 2021, she was named ESG Director for the region spearheading Labelium’s first ESG materiality analysis and uncovering a gap in today’s ESG auditing methodologies in measuring the carbon footprint of digital advertising.

Juan Sotés

Impact Measurement Director at footsprint.

Throughout his more than 10 years of experience in environmental sciences and global warming, Juan has worked in both private and public sectors, and more specifically for the Toronto Atmospheric Fund as carbon and co-benefits analyst. He joined footsprint in order to help the industry accelerate the transition towards digital sobriety. His expertise in carbon measurement and GHG protocols will contribute to develop and strengthen industry frameworks.

you might also be interested in:

Check out our monthly selection of 5 sources from newsletters to workshops, streaming platform and more dedicated to environmental topics.

Learn more about climate emergency & digital pollution as our environmental expert Juan Sotés answers 8 common questions on the topi

Discover the results of the first Canadian carbon footprint study of corporate websites.

Meet footsprint, Labelium’s new digital sustainability agency.

don’t miss our latest news and market insights.

footsprint is part of the Labelium group.
Labelium is an agency specialised in international digital performance. We are based in Frankfurt, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Mexico, Miami, Milano, Montreal, New York,  Paris, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney, Toronto, Wien & Chicago
Privacy policy and legal notice

© “footsprint” All Rights Reserved
don’t miss our latest news and market insights.

footsprint is part of the Labelium group.

Labelium is an agency specialised in international digital performance. We are based in Frankfurt, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Mexico, Miami, Milano, Montreal, New York,  Paris, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney, Toronto, Wien & Chicago




Privacy policy and legal notice

© “footsprint” All Rights Reserved