VW creates more sustainable web experience for its more sustainable vehicles

Who: Volkswagen with Type1 (a mashup of WPP agencies, including Taxi and WundermanThompson).

What: “The carbon-neutral net,” a section of the VW Canada website that showcases the company’s electric vehicles, but with a more sustainable browsing experience that uses less energy and therefore reduces carbon emissions.

When & Where: The special section of the VW.ca is live now, and the automaker said it plans to keep it up for the “foreseeable future.” There’s not a lot of advertising behind it, but the company is using social and search, and recently hosted a webinar with influencers and media.

Why: VW claims to be on a “worldwide journey toward sustainability” that includes a $50 billion investment in e-mobility and launching the all-new electric ID.4. The special browsing experience demonstrates that it is thinking differently about sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.

According to VW, the internet generates about 4% of all CO2 emissions, with the average website generating 1.76 grams of CO2 per page view. All that CO2 adds up in a terrible way, so VW’s special site is created with much less data—effectively lowering the amount of data that is transferred with each click, and therefore the power consumed by each visit.

How: A significantly stripped-down design: all colour and photographs were removed, with images created by ASCII text.

“There was a lot of conversation because it’s completely unorthodox for an automotive brand to launch a site for an all-new vehicle by removing all the colour and vehicle images,” said Allen Kwong, creative director at Type1. “But Volkswagen is ushering in a new era of sustainable mobility, so we wanted to disrupt what consumers are used to in a digital experience.”

The pages are cleaner than 99% of the two million pages tested by Website Carbon, producing an average of only 0.022 grams of CO2 per page view, compared to the 1.76 produced by average pages. But…

Is VW really being carbon neutral? All of the content on the carbon neutral pages is also available on the regular VW.ca site. But it’s not the creation of the pages that causes the carbon problem. “The impact comes from the amount of data that gets transferred when people interact with each individual page,” said Kwong. “By giving visitors the option to browse in a more sustainable way, those who choose that option will be transferring far less data, which significantly lowers their carbon footprint. Our hope is that once there is mass awareness of the internet’s digital carbon footprint, that sustainable web design can become the standard.”

David Brown