4 ways to promote digital ecology within your organization

digital ecology

If digital technology accounts for about 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, the notion of digital ecology reminds us that it is not inevitable and that it is possible to reduce the environmental impact. Even it is a vector of pollution, digital technology also provides many tools to limit pollution in other activity sectors, to such an extent that it is now considered as one of the solutions to environmental issues.

The environmental impacts of digital technology

From the extraction of essential resources to IT components, their assembly, transport, use and finally their disposal, IT tools generate pollution. This issue is growing rapidly, not only in absolute terms, but also in relative terms, due to the multiplication and densification of uses, and to the large-scale democratization of digital technology across the globe. As a result, in addition to its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, in 2019 digital technology consumed 4.2% of the world’s primary energy, 0.2% of water and 5.5% of the electricity produced.

It is therefore becoming essential to try to reduce this impact by implementing a certain number of best practices specific to digital ecology. Some of these practices can be deployed throughout an organization, while others can be deployed in a personal context. In addition, and beyond simply limiting its impact on the environment, digital technology also offers, in certain aspects, solutions that are environmentally friendly.

4 ways to promote digital ecology

  • Limit the use of emails: When it comes to digital ecology, the mailbox is often mentioned as one of the first levers of action. Nearly 300 billion emails are sent every day and their sending and storage is a vector of CO2 emissions. A first lever is to limit the storage of obsolete emails, for example, by limiting the storage capacity of mailboxes in a company or in a private context, by deleting old emails and unsubscribing from unread newsletters. It is also recommended to restrict the use of attachments to small files only and thus to privilege online file sending platforms for the other files.
  • Generalize teleworking: This is a positive impact of digital technology on another sector that is a source of pollution, transportation. The lockdown experienced in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic has been the source of a democratization of telework. The reduced travel induced by teleworking allows to limit greenhouse gas emissions, particularly for employees who travel to their workplace with a personal vehicle. Generalizing teleworking, even if only one day per week, for all those who have the possibility, would allow a significant reduction in CO2 emissions, given that private cars account for more than half of the CO2 emissions of road transport.
  • Use a “controlled” BYOD: The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) aims to use personal terminals to work within an organization. BYOD is not widely used today because it involves the use of workstations that are not controlled by the IT department. However, from an ecological point of view, the BYOD has the advantage of avoiding a multiplication of devices. Indeed, some employees use a fixed computer in their company premises, which can be a hindrance to teleworking or require investment in a laptop for teleworking. To remedy this, the deployment of a ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access) solution, such as Systancia Gate, allows, in particular, to check the compliance of the workstation (such as the presence of the latest security updates) or to give access to applications rather than to the entire information system. The ZTNA is a means of drastically limiting risks to offer organizations a BYOD that can be described as “controlled” rather than “uncontrolled” or simply using a VPN. Since its primary role is to make two trusted networks communicate with each other, the VPN is not adapted to BYOD, where employees access their applications while teleworking or on the move, and therefore via a network that is not trusted.
  • Associate application virtualization and thin clients: Application virtualization allows the use of thin clients rather than heavy clients. This results in lower power consumption and increases the lifespan of digital equipment, thus limiting the volume of electronic waste. These two factors are part of a dynamic of digital ecology, but also part of a cost limitation strategy for the company, thanks to an IT infrastructure with lower acquisition costs, longer lifespan, and lower energy consumption.

There are many other ways to promote digital ecology, especially in a private context, by removing unused applications, using search engines that reinvest part of their profits in reforestation programs, or by reselling or donating old smartphones, PCs, or tablets. For companies, digital ecology and, more broadly, ecology in general, is proving to be one of the major thrusts of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policy, not only giving them a better brand image, but also, in some cases, reducing costs. Furthermore, as environmental issues are becoming increasingly important in society, it is also a question of preparing possible future legislation to encourage the reduction of carbon emissions by companies.