Google is changing the way it ranks the websites that you see in your search results if you do a search on your mobile phone or tablet. In the future, it will prioritise sites that are mobile-friendly, i.e. sites that reorganise the content so it is easier to view and navigate on a small screen.

Why is this relevant to players in the sustainability area? Because many of the environmental and human rights organisations, and small businesses working in this space are losing one of the primary benefits that the online sphere offers them.

Websites and social media offer organisations the potential to reach a vast audience, quickly, easily and relatively cheaply. This provides non-government organisations (NGOs) and small businesses enormous potential to raise awareness of their organisations, engage communities and encourage social action.

These organisations generally have constrained budgets, and prior to social media they would not have had the resources to undertake the range and size of activities required to reach such a large audience. Websites and social media also attract the attention of the traditional media, which further promotes and increases the reach of small organisations. This helps to reduce the “influence gap” between NGOs and small businesses and wealthy companies that have the resources for large scale marketing and promotion.

Changes that dominant online companies make, such as Google and Facebook, require constant monitoring and resources to respond to. This is moving the use of online tools back towards mainstream marketing, which can be better utilised by organisations with larger budgets. This puts pressure on NGOs’ and small businesses’ scarce resources, potentially reducing their visibility to the broader community, and diminishing what they’re able to achieve.