Web Sustainability Guidelines (WSG) 1.0 at a Glance

Draft Community Group Report

Latest published version:
Latest editor's draft:
Alexander Dawson
Tim Frick (Mightybytes)
Neil Clark (TPXimpact)
GitHub w3c/sustyweb (pull requests, new issue, open issues)


This page provides a paraphrased summary of the Web Sustainability Guidelines (WSG) 1.0. For the normative technical specification, see https://w3c.github.io/sustyweb/.

It aims to be a helpful entry point for individuals and stakeholders who have an interest in digital sustainability and the work undertaken by the Sustainable Web Design Community Group.

While this document does provide a quick summary of numerous key aspects of the WSG specification, it must be established that it in no way should be used as a replacement for following the guidelines and success criteria as laid out in the complete, long-form specification. Reasons for this include that this summary is neither intended to be in-depth nor feature-complete. Therefore, its role as an overview to help orientate stakeholders to the specification's purpose in no way provides conformance to Web Sustainability criteria.

Help improve this page by sharing your ideas, suggestions, or comments via GitHub issues.

1. Introduction

This section is non-normative.

1.1 Context

The digital industry is now responsible for between 2-5% of global emissions [ICT-IMPACT] [EUC], more than that of the aviation industry. Since the Paris Agreement, average web page sizes have increased by over 70% on desktop and 140% on mobile [PAGE-WEIGHT]. Between 2015 and 2021, internet visitors increased by 60%, whilst internet traffic increased by 440% [DATA]. In essence, if the Internet were a country it would be one of the top five polluters. [COUNTRY]

1.2 Summary

The Web Sustainability Guidelines (WSG) 1.0 explains how to design and implement digital products and services that put people and the planet first. The guidelines are best practices based on measurable, evidence-based research; aimed at end-users, website creators, product owners, stakeholders, tool authors, educators, and policymakers. The guidelines are in line with the Sustainable Web Manifesto [MANIFESTO].

1.3 Highlights

Knowing where to start, especially with a document as long and dense as the WSGs is quite a challenge. You may wish to scan through a supplement such as our quick reference which provides a checklist-based overview of every guideline. Or if you just want a couple of important tasks you can dive right into them. If so, consider the below as a few of our highlights (though please note, that this doesn't reduce the importance of the others).

Show / Hide highlights by category.

The below will have a high impact on your product or service's digital sustainability:

User Experience Design
  • 2.2 - Assess and Research Visitor Needs
  • 2.6 - Create a Frictionless Lightweight Experience by Default
  • 2.29 - Incorporate Compatibility Testing Into Each Release-Cycle
Web Development
  • 3.7 - Rigorously Assess Third-Party Services
  • 3.17 - Manage Dependencies Appropriately
  • 3.21 - Align Technical Requirements With Sustainability Goals
Hosting, Infrastructure and Systems
  • 4.1 - Choose a Sustainable Hosting Provider
  • 4.2 - Optimize Browser Caching
  • 4.3 - Compress Your Files
Business Strategy and Product Management
  • 5.1 - Have an Ethical and Sustainability Product Strategy
  • 5.5 - Estimate a Product or Service's Environmental Impact
  • 5.12 - Implement Continuous Improvement Procedures

2. Overview

The guidelines should be seen as a starting point in a sustainability journey; they cover the following:

2.1 User Experience Design

Covering research and ideation, journey design, content and assets, and quality assurance.

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In relation to research and ideation, make sure you:

In relation to journey design, make sure you:

In relation to content and assets, make sure you:

In relation to quality assurance, make sure you:

2.2 Web Development

Covering development approach, code minimization, code coherence, and code security.

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In relation to the development approach, make sure you:

  • Identify indicators and metrics that will encourage sustainable development approaches, and use sustainability as a success criterion of your technical requirements.

In relation to code minimization, make sure you:

In relation to code coherence, make sure you:

In relation to code security, make sure you:

2.3 Hosting, Infrastructure and Systems

Covering environment commissioning, minimizing environment and data, and minimizing human disruption.

Show / Hide available guidance.

Make sure you:

2.4 Business Strategy and Product Management

Covering reporting, disclosure, strategy, and policies from both an organizational and website / product level.

Show / Hide available guidance.

In relation to organizational level reporting and disclosure, make sure you:

In relation to organizational level strategy and policies, make sure you:

In relation to product or website-level strategy policies, make sure you:

A. References

A.1 Informative references

Internet - growing to surpass television - should be powered with clean energy. David Pomerantz. 05 August 2013. Informational. URL: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/internet-growing-to-suprass-television-should-be-powered-with-clean-energy/
Data Centres and Data Transmission Networks. IEA. 11 July 2023. Informational. URL: https://www.iea.org/energy-system/buildings/data-centres-and-data-transmission-networks
Questions and Answers: EU action plan on digitalising the energy system. EU Commission. 18 October 2022. Informational. URL: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/qanda_22_6229
The real climate and transformative impact of ICT: A critique of estimates, trends, and regulations. Charlotte Freitag, Mike Berners-Lee, Kelly Widdicks, Bran Knowles, Gordon S. Blair, and Adrian Friday. 10 September 2021. Informational. URL: https://www.cell.com/patterns/pdfExtended/S2666-3899(21)00188-4
Sustainable Web Manifesto. Tom Greenwood, Tim Frick, Mike Gifford, Andrew Boardman, Jack Amend, Matt Hocking, Jack Lenox, René Post, Chris Adams, James Christie, Jerome Toole, Chris Butterworth, Josh Stopper, Alex Hughes, Pete Markiewicz. 01 May 2019. Informational. URL: https://www.sustainablewebmanifesto.com/
Page Weight. HTTP Archive. 29 August 2023. Informational. URL: https://httparchive.org/reports/page-weight?start=2015_12_01&end=latest&view=list