While a driver of innovation and efficiency across industries, the ICT sector has a significant and growing environmental footprint. Data centres,  telecommunications networks, and the vast array of connected devices consume considerable amounts of electricity, much of which is still generated from fossil fuels. The manufacturing, operation, and disposal of ICT equipment also contribute to various environmental issues, including resource depletion, e-waste, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As digitalization accelerates, the sustainability challenges associated with ICT are expected to increase, making it imperative to address these issues head-on.

Emissions from ICT

We are in the Anthropocene, an epoch where human activities significantly impact the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, including climate change. ICT
emissions are a part of this anthropogenic impact. The sector is responsible for approximately 3-4% of global GHG emissions, rising with the exponential
growth of digital services. This contribution is significant and comparable to the aviation industry’s, underscoring the need for immediate action to reduce
emissions and mitigate the ICT sector’s environmental impact.

Transforming ICT

The transformation required in the ICT sector is both an imperative and an opportunity. We must shift towards sustainable digital practices that reduce energy consumption, minimize waste, and lower GHG emissions. 
This transformation involves:

  • Adopting renewable energy
    Transitioning data centres and network operations to renewable energy sources reduces digital operations’ carbon footprint.
  • Enhancing energy efficiency
    Implementing energy-efficient technologies and practices across the ICT lifecycle, from design and manufacturing to operation and disposal.
  • Promoting the circular economy
    Encouraging the design of longer-lasting devices, facilitating repair and recycling, and reducing e-waste.
  • Developing sustainable digital solutions
    Leveraging ICT to create solutions that address environmental challenges, such as smart grids for energy efficiency and platforms for enhancing resource utilization.

The points above are essential and are the foundation of Sustainable IT. However, we view digital sustainability as broader in scope than reducing emissions; it includes a social aspect encompassing inclusion and data privacy.

Digital inclusion and equity

Ensuring equitable access to digital technologies and the internet is a cornerstone of digital sustainability. It involves addressing the digital divide and ensuring that all individuals, regardless of socio-economic status, geography, age, or ability, access digital resources and the skills needed to use them effectively. This includes efforts to provide affordable internet access, digital literacy programs, and the development of accessible technologies.

Ethical data use and privacy

The ethical handling of data, including respect for user privacy and data protection, is another critical aspect of digital sustainability. It involves transparent data practices, securing personal information against unauthorised access, and ensuring that digital technologies do not infringe on individual rights or freedoms. Ethical data use also encompasses considerations around data sovereignty and the rights of individuals and communities to control their digital information.

 Digital Sustainability Framework

To assist in pursuing sustainability, we employ the Digital Sustainability Framework (DSF), an emerging framework that leads organizations through the intricacies of incorporating sustainability into their digital operations. 

This broadly covers six dimensions:

  1. Governance and strategy
  2. Operational efficiency
  3. Innovation and lifecycle management
  4. Data management and privacy
  5. Employee engagement and awareness
  6. Impact measurement and reporting

The Digital Sustainability Maturity Index (DSMI) is central to the framework. With the DSMI, organisations can accurately gauge their sustainability performance, uncover areas for improvement, and systematically advance their practices to meet and exceed global sustainability standards.

Whether just beginning your sustainability journey or striving to lead the industry, the DSMI provides the insights and roadmap necessary for achieving
impactful, measurable progress.

The Digital Sustainability Framework (DSF) and the Digital Sustainability Maturity Index (DSMI) offer a holistic approach to embedding sustainability profoundly and effectively into the fabric of digital operations. From gaining a clear understanding of where you stand to laying out a roadmap for sustainable digital transformation and ensuring organizational alignment for execution, this approach ensures that sustainability is not just an added initiative but a core component of your business strategy. We aim to empower your organization to meet and exceed sustainability benchmarks, driving forward a future where digital and sustainability goals are harmoniously aligned.

Want to know what Goal 17 can do for you?
Contact us at or call Colin Chalmers, + 31 6 4619 0516 to learn more.