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Information technology in ecology: why it’s important to strive for carbon neutrality

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By Yury Erofeev

· 8 min read

Information technology's ecological impact is a pressing concern in today's environment-centric era. Addressing carbon neutrality, this piece delves into the role of IT in sustainable development, and the importance of decarbonization, and offers practical advice for companies striving for a greener future. Entrepreneurs and businesses can gain actionable insights on moving towards a low-carbon model.

Carbon neutrality  —  trend or necessity?

In recent years, scientists have been seriously concerned about the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. CO2 is one of the most principal elements for maintaining the life of various organisms, such as plants since they absorb this element and thus synthesize oxygen.

However, substantial amounts of carbon dioxide emissions negatively affect the state of the planet — its surface begins to heat up, which is why glaciers are melting and the climate is changing, as is the composition of flora and fauna.

According to experts, by 2020 greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by an average of 17%, but scientists are sure that the reduction in carbon emissions is a temporary phenomenon, so companies should take care of their contribution to the environment.

Representatives of the business community and large government agencies are actively discussing the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the fall of 2019, at the UN summit, more than 60 countries signed a document that spoke of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 by reducing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.

Carbon neutrality — zero carbon dioxide, in some cases the prevention and minimization of CO2 emissions. Many companies are now striving for this because it is a business that often harms the environment.

How to achieve carbon neutrality

Many factors point to the need to move towards sustainable development. Managers of various enterprises should think about how to contribute to improving performance.

Decarbonization has become one of the main directions now. This is a set of actions aimed at the transition to renewable energy sources, as well as the gradual abandonment of the use of traditional sources: oil, gas, coal, etc.

Experts predict that decarbonization will lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions per unit of energy produced.

Some companies reduce their carbon impact on their own by changing their manufacturing process, as well as using unconventional materials and chemicals — this is the first method of achieving carbon neutrality. Others cooperate with environmental protection organizations, compensating for the negative impact. Sometimes companies producing clothing and footwear, or, for example, retailers and logistics companies, pay for the damage caused by participating in social projects, for example, landscaping, and participating in environmental protection campaigns.

It is fair to say that it is the IT industry that is the most environmentally friendly. The share of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere in the IT sector is about 2% of the total. However, data centers account for 0.3% of total carbon emissions.

proportion of carbon emissions within the it sector

If we consider the fact that data centers are included in the field of ICT, then 0.3% of 2% is a significant amount. And this data is rapidly increasing due to the transition of all sectors of the economy to the cloud. Key factors that determine this amount of emissions: are a sizable number of servers, storage devices, ventilation systems, etc.

Market players such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple are constantly researching this problem and building energy-efficient data centers. Of course, you should always check the health of all rack components to make sure that they are all necessary and perform important tasks. Atos is also actively working in this direction.

For example, in November 2020, the decarbonized Atos OneCloud solution was presented at the global level, which will reduce carbon emissions in the cloud infrastructure.

Looking for a solution to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere, many companies offer various solutions. For example, Mitsubishi, the largest concern, plans to switch to using hydrogen as the main source of energy, since it does not produce gas emissions when burned and is flexible enough to be used in a wide variety of applications.

There are also other ways to transition to carbon neutrality. Using renewable energy sources (RES) as a fuel source improves energy efficiency and reduces waste gas emissions. In the data center, such flexible fuel cells are also beginning to be used. Some experts suggest combined heating and power supply systems as a solution since heating and cooling is the main channel for supplying data centers with energy.

Information technology on guard of the environment

It should be noted that one of the most important components of the environmental policy of each state is the training of competent specialists capable of coping with environmental problems of varying complexity and scale. Here it is worth mentioning information technology.

Modern digital technologies are developing very quickly and are present in all business sectors. It is IT that helps companies to make the transition to a model of advanced harmless production, which means the use of safe materials, intelligent systems, etc.

Atos has long been committed to sustainable development and provides its customers with services that help companies achieve digital transformation to protect the environment. Constantly expanding its portfolio of solutions, the company acquired the consulting agency EcoAct, which specializes in developing strategies to combat negative climate change.

On the way to environmental protection, small and large enterprises in various industries are faced with the problem of choosing and implementing a sustainable development initiative. We believe that every company needs to have a specific strategy for protecting the environment to achieve sustainable results from digital transformation.

It is now of utmost importance to provide clients with consulting services on the implementation and integration of innovative technologies that prevent environmental pollution, including climate risk analysis.

With the help of experts in the field, it is easier for leaders of organizations to make informed investment decisions, drawing on extensive experience in developing digital transformation programs that meet customer needs and support their business processes.

It is worth paying attention to the fact that digital transformation is beneficial primarily to the companies themselves because they can draw attention to their initiatives and thereby contribute to the development of sustainable development technologies in other markets. Moreover, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things can be used to intelligently calculate energy-efficient production models.

Corporate Social Responsibility is what promotes sustainable development and is the foundation of the transition to zero carbon emissions. By supporting initiatives to develop practical standards for environmental protection and protection, companies are making a small but particularly important contribution, and new products, coupled with professional expertise, provide opportunities for making sure investments lead to the main global goal — protecting the environment.

Why is this important for entrepreneurs?

Now the cost of energy for most companies is about a third of all production costs. At the same time, we are seeing a gradual decline in the price of renewable energy. It is also worth considering that many companies at all stages of the production of products expect energy suppliers to reduce CO2 emissions — and no industry is an exception.

By adhering to the policy of reducing carbon impact, the company reduces its negative impact on the environment, which undoubtedly makes it more attractive to job seekers. Also, by conducting campaigns on sustainable development, enterprises contribute to the promotion of responsible consumption ideas.

Some tips for entrepreneurs

Due to the harmful effects of carbon dioxide on the ecology of our planet, many companies are trying to achieve carbon neutrality by restoring the carbon balance in the atmosphere.

On the way to decarbonization, a company needs to take several steps:

  • analyze the current level of carbon dioxide emissions and evaluate the effectiveness of existing strategies of companies to reduce hazardous waste
  • use more energy-efficient technologies. For example, the deployment of 5G networks, and the expansion of data centers and related equipment, are forcing companies to significantly increase energy consumption
  • it is necessary to actively explore the market for innovative and environmentally friendly solutions that will allow the wise use of natural resources
  • encourage employees to use public transport, ride a bike, prefer trains to planes — in general, encourage all those initiatives that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • switch to electronic document management, which will reduce the number of consumables to produce which natural resources are used. For example, stationery, paper, plastic, etc.
  • if possible, switch to renewable energy sources: solar and wind energy

Practical solutions

There are three main tools through which companies switch to the use of renewable energy sources:

  1. electricity purchase agreements
  2. solar photovoltaic systems
  3. mini power plants

If an enterprise is in a green energy area, it may sign an agreement with the utility or some independent power producers to purchase energy from renewable sources. This helps reduce your carbon emissions. However, several enterprises face difficulties:

  1. Renewable energy is inconsistent — often due to weather conditions, it stops being produced
  2. Cooperation of traditional and renewable energy is required, rather than a replacement for the former

Because of the lack of understanding of this, many companies waste money on expensive developments.

Future Thought Leaders is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of rising Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Yury Erofeev is a Business Analyst at SQUAKE, utilizing a solid foundation in Physics, Mathematics, and Sustainable Development to drive meaningful industry changes through data-driven decision-making.

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