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Sustainability toolkit for the ICT sector

23 September 2013

The Smart 2020 report found that the full life cycle carbon footprint of the ICT industry represents around 2% of worldwide emissions, and is projected to grow at a 6% annual compound growth rate. Although the sector’s emissions are rising, its largest influence is expected to be through enabling increased energy efficiencies and improved environmental performance in other sectors.

A significant challenge for ICT companies is that in enabling better environmental performance elsewhere, the ICT sector is itself taking on significant burdens, at a time when there is greater scrutiny applied to environmental performance, and, often, at much greater cost. As a result, it is important for ICT organizations to use sustainability actions to drive their own business performance, while being more responsible corporate citizens.

There is no shortage of standards, guidelines and tools targeting the sustainability performance of the technology sector. The problem with existing material is that none of it is comprehensive in coverage of all the major activities of an ICT organisation. And most are not practical in allowing the integration of regulatory compliance, good practice and business performance.

As a result, Fronesys worked with the International Telecommunications Union, the UN body tasked with setting standards in the technology sector, to launch an environmental toolkit aimed at helping ICT companies manage their sustainability performance. Over fifty tech companies from around the world contributed to this toolkit. We made a significant contribution of our own: we wrote two of the seven documents in the toolkit, and edited the whole effort.

Toolkit content

The Toolkit on Environmental Sustainability for the ICT sector is an ITU-T initiative which provides plenty of detailed support on how ICT companies can build sustainability into the operations and management of their organizations, through the practical application of international standards and guidelines.

The basic components of the toolkit are a number of individual documents, each covering a separate area, as follows:

Introduction to the toolkit

  • Sustainable ICT in corporate organizations, focusing on the main sustainability issues that companies face in using ICT products and services in their own organisations across four main ICT areas: data centers, desktop infrastructure, broadcasting services and telecommunications networks
  • Sustainable products, where the aim is to build sustainable products through the use of environmentally-conscious design principles and practices, covering development and manufacture, through to end-of-life treatment.
  • Sustainable buildings, which focuses on the application of sustainability management to buildings through the stages of construction, lifetime use and de-commissioning, as ICT companies build and operate facilities that can demand large amounts of energy and material use in all phases of the life cycle.
  • End-of-life management, covering the various end-of-life (EOL) stages, and their accompanying legislation, and provides support in creating a framework for environmentally-sound management of EOL ICT equipment.
  • General specifications and key performance indicators, with a focus on the matching environmental KPIs to an organization’s specific business strategy targets, and the construction of standardized processes to make sure the KPI data is as useful as possible to management.
  • Assessment framework for environmental impacts, explores how the various standards and guidelines can be mapped so that an organization can create a sustainability framework that is relevant to their own business objectives and desired sustainability performance.

Each document features a discussion of the topic, including standards, guidelines and methodologies that are available, and a check list that assists the sustainability practitioner make sure they are not missing out anything important.

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