How sustainability is impacting IT on the Road to Net Zero
Net zero is a journey where many companies examine their practices, from user consumption to responsible supply chains management and vendor selection based upon sustainability. These are the three major challenges IT must overcome to reach Net Zero. The earth is changing due to carbon emissions. This will have long-term, debilitating consequences. Scientists warn that it will only get worse if carbon dioxide emissions aren’t cut.
National governments have now set a goal to become net zero by 2050. Many businesses are also taking net zero initiatives to help them achieve sustainability by adhering to these common goals. Jonathan Holyoak, policy director and Net Zero program director at Atkins, a global engineering consulting firm, said that “as governments move, businesses move” during a session at CompTIA’s EMEA Member & Partner Conference in London.
What does Net Zero mean for IT?
Net zero, also known as carbon neutrality, refers to a designation that removes as much carbon from the atmosphere as you put in. This neutralizes the environmental effects of the CO2 that is released into the atmosphere. Although the concept may seem simple, it is far more complicated from an IT perspective.
Many believe that technology is more environmentally friendly. Aren’t we creating less waste and using less paper with our digital tools? We are not only reducing our paper usage, but we also produce more plastic waste using our digital devices than ever. We also have problems with data usage and our global energy consumption has increased over the years. Businesses and their clients will not be able to reach net zero on the road that isn’t easy.
Net Zero IT: Challenges
Experts at Net Zero are constantly looking for ways to overcome obstacles and work towards carbon neutrality. Many companies are now examining their practices, from user consumption to responsible supply chains management and vendor selection based upon sustainability.
These are the three main challenges IT must overcome if they want to reach net zero.
It is often cheaper than to purchase new hardware equipment. So users and businesses often end up throwing away old devices and buying new ones. It’s a good deal, and keeps companies at the forefront of technology. However, the environmental impact is significant. We created 53.6 million tonnes of electronic waste in 2019. Only 17% of this electronic waste was recycled or reused, leaving more than 46,000,000 tons in landfills and oceans.
While the pandemic did reduce travel-related emission, there was an increase hardware consumption as remote workers added redundant devices to their work environment.
Data hoarding and energy consumption
The digitization of media and files is causing huge data consumption. We need large amounts of data storage because of massive data loads, multiple iterations of files, historical archiving, and many selfies. Although most users believe this isn’t a problem because there is no physical waste, large data centers are needed to store all this information. Jacqui Lees, director at Atkins, said that data doesn’t feel like it’s being consumed because it’s digital. However, data centers are required to store all this information. “A typical-sized data center can store as many as three hospitals per year.”
A significant amount of electricity is required to charge and power all our devices every day. This contributes to carbon emission. Data networks used 1% of the global electricity consumption in 2021 at 270TWh. Mining cryptocurrency consumes 121.36TWh per annum, which is more than all the country of Argentina.
Technology Component Use
Many of the components that go into creating our technology devices are made from finite resources. A large portion of the global economy is currently facing a shortage of technology products chips. These chips also require gold, which is a finite resource. To ensure that technology components are in constant supply, precious resources should be recycled or reused.
Overcoming Net Zero Obstacles
Given the above challenges, how can we get to net zero? Technology can be part of the solution, even though it contributes to the problem.
Reuse and recycle hardware to reduce waste. Find solutions that allow for the reuse of hardware components. You can also collaborate with suppliers to make sure they are working towards net zero in their production lines or supply chain.
Clean up your data. Regular data cleaning is recommended to reduce redundancies in file storage, and limit the amount you save for the long term.