ICT for Sustainability or Sustainability in ICT? A Review of the Role of ICT in Enhancing Sustainability versus the Need to Enhance Sustainability in ICT
Is ICT a solution to sustainability problems or is it just a greater environmental problem? Throughout their lifecycle, ICT products and services are associated with significant levels of energy consumption and carbon emissions. On the contrary, despite being one of the main contributors to global carbon emissions, the ICT sector has a crucial role to play in boosting productivity and sustainability in many sectors—education, transport, agriculture, business, buildings, health, power, and manufacturing. To improve their efficiency and mitigate carbon emissions from ICT products, producers and end-users of such ICT products should therefore, employ measures that enhance their sustainability. Such measures identified in this article include the use of sustainable manufacturing processes, sustainable procurement/purchasing of ICT products, proper ICT product use, reuse, recycle, and proper disposal of ICT devices that are out of use. In data centres, such measures include virtualisation, recovery and reuse of waste heat, designing data centres to allow free cooling, control of restricted air conditioning, replacement of old servers and processors with new energy-efficient ones, and locating data centres near renewable energy sources. This is because apart from enhancing sustainability in the ICT sector itself, ICT has the potential to enhance sustainability in other sectors through improvement in efficiency and reduction in carbon emissions. This article discusses how ICT can enhance sustainability in the transport, power, manufacturing, and building sectors, which are the major energy consumers and carbon-emitting sectors.
Allen, T. D., Golden, T. D., & Shockley, K. M. (2015). How Effective Is Telecommuting? Assessing the Status of Our Scientific Findings. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 16(2),40– 68.https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100615593273
Boyd, R., Stern, N., & Ward, B. (2015, May 4). What will global annual emissions of greenhouse gases be in 2030, and will they be consistent with avoiding global warming of more than 2°C? [Monograph]. http://www2.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/Home.aspx
Bristow, R., Barratt, M., & Millar, T. (2015). Using videoconferencing and collaboration technology to reduce travel and carbon emissions. Jisc. https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/using video conferencing- and- collaboration- technology- to- reduce-travel-and-carbon-emissions
Capgemini U.K. (2017, August 4). Resourceful with energy in our Data Centres. Capgemini U.K. https://www.capgemini.com/gb-en/resourceful-with-energy-in-our-data-centres/
Carbon trust. (n.d.). Office equipment: Introducing energy-saving opportunities for business. https://www.carbontrust.com/media/13113/ctv005_office_equipment.pdf
Cisco. (2008). Unified Communications: Use Virtual Collaboration to Improve Environmental Sustainability. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:R_jF49a4DfkJ:https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/global/en_uk/assets/pdfs/UC_sustainability.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=firefox-b-ab
EAUC. (2011). Sustainable ICT Procurement for Institutions. http://www.sustainabilityexchange.ac.uk/files/insight_6_sustainable_ict_procuremnet.pdf
Environmental IT leadership team. (2009). Green ICT Handbook: A Guide to Green ICT. https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/media/livacuk/sustainabilitynew/documents/Green- ICT- Handbook.pdf
EPEAT. (2008). Environmental Benefits of 2008 EPEAT Purchasing. https://www.epeat.net/documents/manufacturer- resources/epeatebreport2008(2).pdf
European Commission. (2007). A European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-PLAN): “Towards a low carbon future.” http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2007:0723:FIN:EN:PDF
GeSI. (2012). GeSI SMARTer 2020: The role of ICT in driving a sustainable future. https://www.telenor.com/wp- content/uploads/2014/04/SMARTer-2020-The-Role-of-ICT-in-Driving-a-Sustainable-Future-December-2012._2.pdf
GeSI. (2015). SMARTer 2030: ICT Solutions for 21st Century Challenges. http://smarter2030.gesi.org/downloads/Full_report.pdf
Global e-Sustainability Initiative. (2008). SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age. https://www.theclimategroup.org/sites/default/files/archive/files/Smart2020Report.pdf
Global e-Sustainability Initiative. (2010). Evaluating the carbon-reducing impacts of ICT. http://www.sustainabilityexchange.ac.uk/files/evaluating_the_carbon_reducing_impacts_of_ict_1.pdf
Global e-Sustainability Initiative. (2012). Using ICTs to tackle climate change. https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu- t/oth/0B/11/T0B1100000A3301PDFE.pdf
Gov. uk. (2014). Government buying standards, Procurer Note: Office ICT equipment. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/341540/GOV.UK_GBS_ICT_procurer_note.pdf
Green data house. (2016). Green Data Centers | Green House Data. https://www.greenhousedata.com/green-data-centers
Guerin, T. (2017). A demonstration of how virtual meetings can enhance sustainability in a corporate context: Quantified benefits of virtual meetings through video conferencing. Environmental Quality Management, 27, 75–81. https://doi.org/10.1002/tqem.21515
ICAX. (2018). Owen Square Community Energy Project Easton Bristol | Solar Powered District Heating Network | Decarbonising Heating | CEPRO | ICAX | Eunomia | Solar Heating. http://www.icax.co.uk/Owen_Square_Community_Energy_Project.html
International chamber of commerce. (2010). ICTs and environmental sustainability. https://cdn.iccwbo.org/content/uploads/sites/3/2010/10/ICC-discussion-paper-on-ICTs-and-environmental-sustainability-1.pdf
Kidney, S. (2010). Towards a High-Bandwidth, Low- Carbon Future. https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu- t/oth/06/0F/T060F0000090024PDFE.pdf
Kramers, A., Höjer, M., Lövehagen, N., & Wangel, J. (2014). Smart, sustainable cities – Exploring ICT solutions for reduced energy use in cities. Environmental Modelling & Software, 56, 52–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsoft.2013.12.019
Laitner, J. A., & Ehrhardt-Martinez, K. (2007). Advanced Electronics and Information Technologies: The Innovation-Led Climate Change Solution. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.566.6008&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Microsoft. (2017). Sustainable Devices and Packaging Fiscal Year 2017. https://www.microsoft.com/en- us/CMSFiles/FY17_Sustainable_Devices_and_Packaging_Report.pdf?version=d2a3ce5e-307c-4c57-f00d-c71e40e7e07f
O’Neill, M. (2010). Green IT for Sustainable Business Practice: An ISEB foundation guide. BCS, The Chartered Institute.
Pazowski, P. (2015). Green computing: Latest practices and technologies for ICT sustainability. 1853–1860.
Pflueger, J., Gibson, S., & Normand, C. (2016). The Sustainability Benefits of the Connected Workplace. http://i.dell.com/sites/doccontent/corporate/corp- comm/en/Documents/telecommute-study.pdf
Ponette-González, A. G., & Byrnes, J. E. (2011). Sustainable Science? Reducing the Carbon Impact of Scientific Mega-Meetings. Ethnobiology Letters, 2(0), 65–71. https://doi.org/10.14237/ebl.2.2011.29
Rawte, R. (2017). The role of ICT in creating intelligent, energy-efficient buildings. Energy Procedia, 143, 150–153.
Shuaib, M., Seevers, D., Zhang, X., Badurdeen, F., Rouch, K. E., & Jawahir, I. s. (2014). Product Sustainability Index (ProdSI). Journal of Industrial Ecology, 18(4), 491–507. https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12179
Tebbutt, D., Atherton, M., & Lock, T. (2009). Green IT for dummies. England: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
U.S. Department of commerce. (2007). Short Takes News from the International Trade Administration. https://www.trade.gov/press/publications/newsletters/ita_1007/shorttakes_1007.asp
U.S. Department of energy. (2016). Sustainable manufacturing. https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2016/07/f33/AMO_Sustainable%20Manufacturing%20Workshop%20Report_compliant.pdf
Verdantix. (2011). Carbon Disclosure Project Study 2011 Cloud Computing – The IT Solution for the 21st Century. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:VlqRr8ncmE8J:ericksonstrategies.com/wp- content/uploads/2014/06/2011_Cloud-Computing-The-IT-Solution-for- the- 21st- Century.pdf+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=firefox-b-ab
WWF. (2008). The potential global CO2 reductions from ICT use Identifying and assessing the opportunities to reduce the first billion tonnes of CO2. https://www.wwf.se/source.php/1183710/identifying_the_1st_billion_tonnes_ict.pdf
Copyright (c) 2021 Dorcas Wambui Kariuki, PhD
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.