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Reducing technology carbon footprints

carbon footprints

Reducing volumes of data, along with the resources and energy needed to produce and store it can reduce IT carbon footprints.

The growth of Industry 4.0, cloud computing and digital transformation of business is adding to global carbon footprints at an exponential rate.

“Organisations committed to accomplishing net-zero targets must review their current IT processes and systems,” Richard Farrell, CIO at Netcall, urges. “Updating and automating inefficient legacy systems can not only deliver cost-effective and less labour-intensive ways of working but can also cut energy use and reduce carbon emissions.”

It is predicted that 125 billion IoT devices will be in use by 2025, all generating data, all consuming energy and all adding to rising carbon footprints.  The transition towards greater mobile network device traffic over fixed Wi-Fi broadband devices will add further pressure as mobile networks have considerably higher average electricity intensity. 4G uses far less kWh/GB than 3G, and 5G is expected to be more energy efficient still, yet wired networks remain the least energy intensive method of connectivity.

In London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin, MegaWatt power supply to data centres has increased by 72 per cent over the past five years and the sector needs to curb emissions and energy use as demand for data services and global internet traffic continues to grow exponentially. According to IDC, the global volume of data will increase by 530 per cent from 33ZB in 2018 to 175ZB in 2025.

The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact formed by European cloud and co-location data centre providers has expanded to 72 operators and 22 associations, around 90 per cent of the data centre industry in Europe.

Operators have agreed to achieve certain metrics relating to data centre sustainability, supporting the European Green Deal’s aim of becoming climate neutral by 2050. The pact engages operators towards climate neutrality by 2030 with metrics in energy efficiency, clean energy, water conservation, circular economy, and circular energy systems to achieve climate neutrality by 2025 and 2030.

Organisations of all types are discovering that the greatest contributors to their carbon footprints are the services and products they buy. There are increasingly strict laws that limit the use of toxic substances, levels of pollution and even the amount of energy a product can use. EU regulations require major computer and hardware manufacturers to abide by green manufacturing laws that limit the use of toxic substances such as lead and mercury in their products.

Increasingly, technology companies are providing solutions to these challenges by improving carbon transparency in the supply chain, or helping lower the barriers to extended technology life through refurbished, re-manufactured and re-homed tech.

The key to reducing the digital carbon footprint is in taking informed action which includes reducing the use of hazardous materials, maximising energy efficiency during a product’s lifetime and promoting biodegradability of unused and outdated products.

Incorporating IT sustainability to future-proof business requires key strategy principles such as: C-level commitment to incorporate IT sustainability across overall business strategy, goals and objectives. Change must come from the top.

Take ownership by appointing a company sustainability lead responsible and accountable for driving the company-wide initiative. Clarity of ownership is important to demonstrate that sustainability has a specific role within the company.

Be relevant, as sustainability needs to feature in the company’s annual report in a meaningful way. It must be engrained into the company’s DNA.

Create a scorecard to track metrics that matter to you, your company and stakeholders, to your environment, ESG and CSR objectives.

Institute regular reporting of defined, published, accredited/validated KPIs and Scorecard both internally and publicly to facilitate transparency.

Invest in assigned budgets upfront for running green projects, encourage teamwork from dedicated cross-functional teams to carry out objectives and partner with key vendors and enterprises that specialise in sustainability activities, for example in a data centre, as some activities are not a core part of the business.

“The IT industry has a huge opportunity in terms of reducing its consumption and complexity, and utilising assets more effectively to drive down the carbon footprint,” says Vijay Sankaran, director of infrastructure operations at Ford’s

CTS The industrialisation of IT
CTS - Industrialisation of IT
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