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The ICT Sector’s Steps Towards a “No Carbon” Environment

By Savitha Chinnadurai and Kiran Nandavarapu

In our previous blog entry, we described what exactly is  carbon footprint and the growth of carbon footprint from the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. Now, let us discuss what vendors and environment preservation associations are doing to reduce GHG emissions, or to move towards a “no carbon” environment. We are certain that carbon and its equivalents exist at every stage of the ICT product lifecycle (manufacturing, operations, maintenance and disposal). As the demand for products increases, so does the need for important initiatives and measures to reduce the overall carbon footprint at each stage.

For many ICT vendors, there is a great importance placed on creating a more green and sustainable environment. Many players, such as the Apple Inc., have created initiatives and implemented them as their part in reducing the carbon footprint and moving towards a “no carbon” environment.

Steps Taken By Vendors to Reduce the Carbon Footprint at Each Lifecycle Stage

During the manufacturing process, companies are primarily concentrating on reducing the amount of raw materials used and manufacturing products that can last longer. Simultaneously, they are providing patch updates for users, so that they can upgrade to new technologies using the same device. They also are taking back the used/damaged products for free, so that they can be responsibly recycled. Another suggestion for vendors is to invest more in reducing toxic substances in the product by looking for alternatives that can work as efficiently.

As part of the operations and maintenance processes, vendors are adopting virtualization and cloud data center services in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint. A research conducted by Microsoft shows that the cloud-based operations, as compared to on-premise, can enable companies to reduce their carbon footprint by between 30% and 90%. As we know from the previous blog, PCs account for 40% of the overall carbon footprint in ICT. Vendors are taking initiatives to utilize PCs in a better way by upgrading the OS  and putting them to sleep/hibernate mode when not in use. Utilizing ENERGY STAR (an internationally recognized standard for ICT consumer products created by the EPA and Department of Energy) products also greatly reduces their energy consumption, which in turn reduces the overall emissions.

Lastly in the disposal process, vendors are taking initiatives to methodically reduce, reuse and recycle the ICT products, so less carbon and its equivalents are released. Reusing and refurbishing the products will lead to less e-waste dump, and repairing and refurbishing products before disposing will reduce e-waste even more.  Many companies are adopting the refurbishing ideology where they retain the assembled structure of product and use it as-is while manufacturing a new product.

Not only vendors, but environment associations, such as WRI (World Resource Institute) and WBCSD (World Business Council on Sustainable Development) are developing initiatives and regulations to help reduce the overall carbon footprint  of this sector. Let us take a closer look at some of the more stringent measures:

Greenhouse gas protocol is an initiative that urges the vendors to measure the carbon footprint of all the ICT products and services they sell. This initiative was created by the associations as a result of the demand from customers, who wanted to know the carbon footprint created by the products they purchase.

E-Steward certification is another initiative that was  launched by the environment preservation associations to reduce e-waste dumping or the improper disposal of e-waste/toxic substance in developing countries. E-Steward certified recyclers are independently verified to handle e-waste in a responsible way using safe technology and careful protection measures for workers.

To realize the true  benefits of  a greener environment, vendors are encouraged to formally adopt these regulations and continually invest in similar initiatives.

For more on these processes and other carbon reducing initiatives, download our detailed white paper.

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Savitha Chinnadurai

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