In our previous article, we explained to you that we can’t ignore the emergency regarding the carbon emissions of our companies anymore. In the fight to preserve the environment, we are hearing more and more about Green IT. It’s defined by BpiFrance as the technologies aiming to reduce the ecological, environmental and social footprint of information and communication technologies (ICT). Let’s first see why the digital sector gains so much attention regarding the preservation of the environment, and which concepts are comprised in Green IT before examining more precisely the initiatives available to us.
The ecological and environmental impact of the digital
It’s good to mention that digital technology plays an increasingly important role in global pollution. Indeed, according to Hello Carbo, it represents today 4% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), and this number should soar to 8% by 2025. In France, the digital represents 2% of GGE, and should represent 7% of them by 2040. Where do these emissions come from?
A major portion of these emissions are created by the manufacturing and transportation of IT devices. For example, for a 2kg PC, 600kg of raw material is used and 103kg of C02 is emitted by the fabrication alone. When we consider the natural resources depletion provoked by the collection of raw materials, it isn’t surprising to learn that the manufacturing and transportation of IT devices represent 47% of GGEs in the digital sector. The second biggest pollutants of the digital are network infrastructures, which represent 28% of the sector’s GGEs.
Finally, the remaining 25% corresponds to the data centers. There are 4,500 data centers spread out across 122 countries, and most of them operate thanks to fossil energy. Their ecological and environmental impact should worsen, since the amount of data generated worldwide is exponentially increasing.
In response to the ever-growing impact of digital technologies on the environment, the notion of Green IT developed until reaching the importance it has today.
Green IT and its evolutions
GreenIT.fr explains that the term Green IT emerged in 2009. Green IT first focused on responsible digital conception, which entails the consideration of the social and environmental performance of a digital product or service as early as its conception.
After that, the notion of Green IT integrated the reduction of the companies’ carbon footprint using ICTs, which are thus put in the service of the organization’s CSR strategy.
Finally, Green IT integrates today the continuous improvement procedures, like ecological breakthrough innovations, which rely on ICTs to modify an economic/behavioral model. Among them, we have economic mutualization, also called collaborative economy (flat sharing, carpooling, cloud computing), and management by exception, which consists of collecting and analyzing environment data to adapt following actions. For example, a company can adapt the lighting on its premises with motion and light sensors, thus reducing its carbon footprint.
In parallel with Green IT, there is the concept of digital sobriety, which simply consists in limiting one’s digital usage.
We have just seen that digital technologies play an increasingly important role in the fight for the preservation of the environment, but we’ll see in our next article that inside the digital sector, data is a growing pollution factor.