What is sustainable digitalisation?
Sustainable IT seeks to be conscious of IT's environmental impact and adopt a strategy of continuous improvement to reduce the environmental and social impact of digital technology.
Following a sustainable IT path presents a real opportunity for businesses, and they don't need to give up any of the advances offered to them by IT.
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Committing to a sustainable IT strategy means committing to:
- Optimising digital tools in order to limit their impact and usage.
- Developing service offers that are inclusive, sustainable, and accessible to all.
- Championing ethical and sustainable digital practices.
- Making digital technology measurable, transparent, and understandable.
- Encouraging the creation of new behaviours and values.
By signing the sustainable IT charter, a company can show their willingness to take up or keep working on a range of measures to reduce their environmental and social impact.
Why adopt a sustainable IT strategy?
To reduce your environmental impact
The environmental impact of the IT sector is sizeable. It's responsible for around 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That's more than civil aviation, and this figure continues to grow exponentially. It could even double in the next five years.
78% of the sector's environmental impact comes from producing IT equipment, mostly because it requires a large number of natural resources. A smartphone is made of an estimated 50 to 60 different metals. Extracting these metals is an additional source of pollution, too. 800 kilos of natural resources need to be extracted to make a 2 kilo laptop, along with 1.5 tonnes of water, 240 kilos of fossil fuels, and 22 kilos of chemical products. Once IT equipment is created, its use alone represents 21% of the sector's environmental impact, consuming 10% of European use-phase electricity.
But with a few simple steps, the environmental impact can be effectively reduced. According to the Shift Project, increasing the lifespan of a laptop by 3 to 5 years would reduce the impact of its greenhouse gas emissions by 37%. Simply taking measures to reduce how frequently devices are replaced is one way companies could make a large difference. Staff could adopt new use habits, such as turning off their devices rather than leaving them on standby, as well as simply looking after it properly and making sure it's kept in good working order, to make sure it works as well as it can.
To stay ahead of the regulatory framework
Today's competitive advantages will be tomorrow's requirements. The European regulatory framework has already begun moving towards a decarbonised economy, through plans such as the European Green Deal or Fit for 55. Currently, a number of regulations have either already been developed, or are in the process of being developed, to help control the environmental impact of IT. Adopting a sustainable IT approach today means you're gaining a valuable competitive edge. You'll avoid having to adapt the entire system you already have in place later down the line, as well as all the costs and different service providers it would require.
A company's access to public funding is more and more dependent on their adherence to sustainable IT principles. In the Brussels Capital Region, having a sustainable IT strategy has become a sine qua non condition for applying for certain calls for tender (notably IT and Transition projects).
To lower your costs
There are financial advantages, too: by adopting a sustainable IT strategy, you can optimise your costs. If you properly assess what your company needs, either to properly function or when designing a new product or service, you'll develop targeted solutions and eliminate any unnecessary features.
An eco-friendly product and service design approach would also allow you to simplify your production and maintenance, eventually improving your sustainability and considerably reducing your upkeep costs. Plus, on the hardware front, extending the lifespan of your equipment or using repackaged equipment can be a great source of savings.