Digital sustainability, which entails the use of technologies in common business applications to solve climate-related challenges and enhance Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) results, has the potential to play a significant role in combating climate change.
With the global sustainable movement on the rise, digital sustainability has emerged as the primary issue of discussion in 2022. You may have heard about excellent sustainable website hosting providers who reduce their carbon footprint in their data centers. Perhaps you’ve already chosen a Green Credit Card to offset your carbon footprint with every gas purchase. Digital sustainability takes these concepts to a broader variety of sectors.
What Is Digital Sustainability?
Digital Sustainability is the art of using digital resources in everyday business applications to address climate-related problems and improve ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance outcomes.
The contemporary movement has gained pace as people all around the world attempt to limit the environmental impact of digital technology and sustainability.
In other words, tracking and measuring sustainability progress, reducing the carbon footprint, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and becoming more conscious of how we use our resources while transitioning to a more circular economy is known as digital sustainability. It is also a part of the GreenTech meta trend. However, the global success rate for digital sustainability initiatives currently sits at only 4%. Though this number is forecasted to grow to 35% in the next few years.
Solar panels, for example, are a type of Green Tech that emits no greenhouse gasses because the sun supplies more energy than we could ever need. Alternative fuels, plastic highways made from recycled materials, and plant walls that work as natural air filters are some other examples of Green Tech.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation activities account for almost one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Green Tech’s fuel-efficient engines and electrical power are two environmentally mindful solutions to cut car emissions.
Green technology, in essence, tries to repair the damage we’ve already done to the environment and maintain our natural resources through scientific research (atmospheric science, agriculture, material science, and hydrology).
Strategies to Boost Digital Sustainability
- Renewable Energy
Electricity is necessary for modern enterprises, from headquarters to data centers to servers. That’s a lot of energy, and it’s usually derived from fossil fuels. But this does not have to be the case. Solar and wind power are examples of sustainable energy sources that can power data centers and servers. It’s easy to see why solar and wind power are the most popular renewable energy sources. They are a safe and efficient technique to generate renewable energy. And the best way to tap into these energy sources is to install solar panels and turbines practically anywhere.
- Green Computing
Server virtualization is an environmentally friendly computing solution that decreases the number of physical servers required. As a result, energy usage and the amount of electronic trash produced are reduced. Another technique to be environmentally friendly in computers is to use recycled components. When selecting software, choose green options whenever feasible. Green software is intended to be more efficient, requiring fewer resources and leaving a lower carbon imprint.
- Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance
Businesses must consider the environmental and social consequences of their operations. This is where environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) comes into play. ESG refers to a set of principles that assist firms in making environmentally and socially responsible decisions. Include digital sustainability in your ESG guidelines and ensure that your entire team understands the value of sustainability.
Employee education on energy conservation can go a long way toward lowering total usage. Employees consume more energy, therefore it stands to reason that they should be a priority when it comes to energy saving. The most efficient strategy to reduce staff carbon emissions is to provide training on how to correctly use energy-saving technologies. Turn off the computer if you are not using it for more than 2 hours to save electricity. When not in use, printers, scanners, and other devices should also be turned off.
Digital Sustainability’s Dual Role
There are two important roles digital technology can play in improving sustainability outcomes and addressing issues such as climate change. The first role is that of an enabler, in that digital solutions can be deployed to address. Professor Pan gave the example of the Internet of Things (IoT) and applications such as smart buildings, electricity grids, automation initiatives and supply chain/smart transport logistics. Digital technology can play two major roles in enhancing sustainability results and tackling concerns such as climate change.
Another example of digital sustainability in this capacity is the use of artificial intelligence, which has a major emphasis on many firms’ digital transformation efforts. “We are increasingly accessing more and more data, and we now have the capability of analyzing this huge data and then using technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence to not only make sense of what that data means but also to consider predictions and potential consequences.”
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Digital Sustainability and Climate Citizenship
Another issue examined is climate-conscious citizen science, which discussed the need for “citizen scientists” employing digital technology to come up with innovative approaches to alleviate the effects of climate change. “Local citizens can now participate in a broader and more effective way in addressing issues that are important to them and that they want to see changed thanks to digital technologies.” Technologies have given people the ability to organize, respond to changes in their local environment, and drive policy action to effect significant change.
Platforms are one technology solution that has aided citizen scientists in their own digital sustainability initiatives, and it is critical to design better platforms that allow for greater stakeholder participation. “So, how do we incentivize participation so that people are driven to engage?” “While digital platforms can give unprecedented chances for eliciting wider public participation, we still observe people who are unwilling to devote their time and energy to contributing to the greater good.” Therefore, this is an important area for future research.
A related issue is the quality of data generated by such platforms, as many judgments about the effects of climate change rely on accurate data. “When you engage with several stakeholders with diverse aims, the quality of data may get diluted.” So, how can we preserve information quality at the scale required for participation? That is something that research in information systems can look into.
What Increases Your Carbon Footprint?
Taking efforts to lower your digital carbon footprint can help you save money in the long run. It will boost your reputation, and become more environmentally friendly. It seems obvious, but where do you begin?
Data centers are enormous structures that store electronic data and are becoming more frequent as our society gets more digital. While data centers are critical to our economy, they have a major environmental impact. The bad news is that data centers already consume 1% of global electricity.
This is a concerning figure, given that data centers are likely to grow in size and quantity in the coming years. Despite all of this, there are steps you can take to lessen the environmental impact of data centers.
The vast amount of data that we generate every day—from streaming films to sending emails—consumes a significant amount of energy. This usage has the potential to have a substantial influence on both our personal and business footprints. Minor changes in your employees’ internet usage might have a major impact.
When firms change their technology, the old gadgets are frequently discarded. This is known as e-waste, and it accounts for 2% of all rubbish in landfills in the United States. However, e-waste is far more hazardous than other types of waste. It includes dangerous substances that can leach into the soil and water. As a result, e-waste accounts for 70% of harmful trash in the United States.
It is as simple as finding a better way to dispose of your old electronics, such as recycling or donating them to charity, to reduce e-waste. However, the greatest strategy to reduce e-waste is to avoid purchasing new products that are unnecessary. By doing so, we may help safeguard the environment from the harmful consequences of e-waste.
Power and Cooling
Using renewable energy sources to power gadgets is one technique to improve efficiency. Solar and wind energy can be used to generate electricity, which is then used to power the cooling system. Another technique to boost efficiency is to use natural ventilation. This can be accomplished by positioning the gadget in a well-ventilated area or by employing a fan to circulate air around it.
Video is one of the most popular online activities. It’s an excellent approach to providing critical information to your employees. However, video streaming and downloading consume a lot of energy. In fact, global video traffic emissions alone are enough to power the whole country of Spain. One reason for all of that energy use is that video files are large and require a lot of bandwidth. So, if you want to help lower the carbon footprint of your internet, watch movies in normal definition rather than HD, or avoid watching entirely and read the transcript instead. One of the most popular online activities is watching videos.
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Companies are Taking Note that Digital Sustainability is in High Demand
Given that 70% of US consumers already consider sustainability when purchasing a product, the widespread shift toward thoughtful corporate practices comes as no surprise. When we add that 88% also say they would be more loyal to a brand that implemented sustainable principles, it’s easy to see why the GreenTech meta trend has exploded in popularity. Indeed, the worldwide GreenTech market is expected to increase at a 27.2% CAGR through 2028.
Olam International, a worldwide agribusiness corporation with approximately $27 billion in annual revenue, launched AtSource, a pioneering digital sustainability platform. To help the agriculture field fulfil its ambitious goals of lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing waste, and improving farmer livelihoods. AtSource enables customers to track the origin of their products, measures the environmental and social impact of supply chains, and provides insights on how to change them for the better. Customers can track the trip of more than 20 ingredients from source to factory over more than 60 supply chains. In many cases, they can trace crops to specific groups of farmers, calculating the environmental impact of a single crop by volume, origin, and destination.
Digital Sustainability Solutions
Among the many creative ideas, IoT, AI, and cloud computing are the fundamental technologies driving the rise of the digital sustainability movement. According to McKinsey, employing green AI to reduce food waste could save corporations $123 billion per year by 2030.
To create a sustainable digital future, all aspects must be managed. That is the only way to use digital resources to produce innovative and collaborative sustainability solutions. Which we require now while also recognising and managing the risks digital may represent in the future.
As more people demand change, the urgency to decrease human impacts on the natural environment grows by the minute. Digital sustainability provides solutions for managing our environmental footprint, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Also, making better use of our resources, and adopting a more eco-conscious mindset in many aspects of our daily life.
IoT, AI, and cloud computing are components of the Green-tech revolution, which promises to propel humanity toward a clean global economy, raise worldwide awareness of multiple environmental challenges, and revolutionize the way we produce and consume.
Image Source: theenvironment.in