CIO, Canadian companies cut digital tech emissions

CIO, CIO Strategy Council, internet, technology, carbon, emissions

CIO’s Sustainability IT Pledge aims to tackle emissions caused by internet and technology use (Courtesy CIO).

Leading Canadian companies are working together to curb the environmental impact of rising internet and technology use, which could account for eight per cent of emissions by 2025.

While Canada’s transition to a digital economy is bringing about job creation, it is also creating carbon emissions which are, in turn, driving climate change.

Internet and technology uses generate more greenhouse gasses than the airline industry. According to Jens Gröger, senior researcher at the Öko-Institut, every online search query emits approximately 1.45 grams of CO2, which adds up to 26 kgs of CO2 per year if 50 searches are generated per day.

There are 3.1 billion more mobile connections than people on Earth. Roughly four-in-10 people globally owned a smartphone in 2018, and more than a billion devices are sold each year.

Energy consumption from digital technologies is also rising six times faster than the rest of the economy.

The Sustainable IT Pledge is uniting Canadian public and private-sector organizations for the first time to cut emissions created by their IT operations.

CIO Strategy Council is the non-profit organization leading the pledge. Participants include Accenture, ATCO, Bell, Canadian Blood Services, Micro Focus, Microsoft Canada, Oracle, CloudOps, Rockport and others.

“We are proud to add Microsoft Canada to the CIO Strategy Council Sustainable IT Pledge, adding to our continued leadership when it comes to driving down emissions in the sector,” said John Weigelt, national technology officer, Microsoft Canada, in a release. “Last year, Microsoft committed to being carbon negative by 2030 and, by 2050, to remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted since it was founded in 1975.

“We continue to work toward this goal and strive to help our customers achieve their own sustainability goals along with us.”

How CIO’s sustainability pledge will help

“Few of us are aware of the carbon emissions caused by the data centres and networks that our smartphones and laptops run on,” said Katie Gibson, VP of strategy and partnerships at CIO Strategy Council, in the release. “But energy demand from digital technologies is increasing six times faster than the rest of the economy due to the growth of remote working, streaming services and the widespread use of data-hungry artificial intelligence.

“As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear last week, the climate crisis is a ‘code-red for humanity.’ Time is fast running out to act on emissions. . .”

The signatories have pledged to:

– take steps to address emissions from their IT operations by optimizing their systems to reduce data processing volumes; using cloud-based services where possible; and extending service life of devices by refurbishing existing ones instead of buying replacements. It is also preferable to wait four years instead of three to replace a device, which would cut emissions by the equivalent annual emissions generated by the entire country of Ireland;

– set emissions targets for IT operations and publicly disclose progress;

– set sustainability standards for suppliers while supporting Canada’s cleantech industry;

– promote the adoption of sustainable IT practices and consider areas where national standards for sustainable IT could help.

In its March 2019 report, The Shift Project concludes the worldwide effects of the digital transition are highly uncertain; however, with appropriate regulation, digital transition can help reduce energy and raw materials consumption.

The report also determines some environmental impacts can be avoided by implementing “digital sobriety”; buying the least power-hungry equipment possible, changing it less often, and reducing unnecessary energy-intensive uses.

“The importance of us all taking action to protect the environment has never been greater, which is why Micro Focus is proud to sign the Sustainable IT Pledge, alongside our peers,” said Neil Correa, cyber strategist at Micro Focus, in the release. “We are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and to helping our customers and partners address their carbon footprint and adopt carbon-friendly IT strategies.

“Through this pledge, the work of the CIO Strategy Council and our collective efforts, together we can play a part in helping to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”

About the CIO Strategy Council

Accredited by the Standards Council of Canada, the CIO Strategy Council is a non-profit organization bringing together Canada’s leading businesses and public-sector organizations to act on the challenges posed by the digital economy.

The council has pledged to promote Canada’s global leadership in sustainable IT and identify new sustainable IT standards.

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