This week the International Telecommunications Union, the UN body tasked with setting standards in the technology sector, is launching an environmental toolkit aimed at helping ICT companies manage their sustainability performance. Fronesys was glad to help ITU get the toolkit together.
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.
There is no shortage of standards, guidelines and tools targeting the sustainability performance of the technology sector. Why do we need another one? 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. This toolkit aims at just such a balancing act.
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.
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.
Although the toolkit is wide-ranging and designed to help improve business and sustainability performance, some companies may decide that they cannot afford to use such tools, particularly in the light of a negative business outlook. This document explores why companies cannot ignore their sustainability performance if they seek superior financial performance.
Finally, the document covers how the toolkit may mature and develop in future, through extending its scope, deepening its metrics, lowering the questionnaire burden on ICT companies, and through the provision of an implementation program to enable national regulators, policy-makers and individual ICT organizations to use the toolkit to achieve their own objectives.
Most obviously, this toolkit is aimed at the leaders and managers of technology companies. It gives them a single framework covering all their major environmental impacts so that they can deliver their business objectives while meeting best practice guidelines and complying with standards and regulations.
However, the scope should also be interesting to policy-makers who want to consider the breadth and scope of regulations they wish to put in place with respect to the ICT companies operating in their jurisdiction. And it is potentially interesting to researchers as a basis for carrying out sectoral, national and international studies on the environmental impacts of the technology industry.
Wondering how to take advantage of the toolkit in your own organisation? Fronesys can help. After all, we are quite expert with this toolkit! We can offer you a targeted assessment assessing how you manage your environmental impacts, and how the toolkit can help improve your performance. Get in touch.