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Information technology and its journey to net zero

IT By Steven Fry-Harris, Associate Director, IT and AV – 11 November 2021

Overhead shot of multiple people working on various pieces of technology including laptops, phones and tablets

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Stephen Fry-Harris on sofa arm with marble backgrounf

Steven Fry-Harris

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Quite rightly, Net Zero, sustainability in the built environment, and considering the world we leave behind for future generations, is at the forefront of everyone’s mind with COP26 happening right on our doorstep. But how is the IT industry is meeting this challenge?

IT is such a ubiquitous part of our lives - from smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart fridges, smart TVs and wearable tech, it is estimated that there are 1.27 devices per person globally, that’s 10.07 billion devices. This number is set to more than double with an estimated 25.44 billion devices by 2030, a year when many nations, companies and organisations have committed to Net Zero targets.

Our dependency on IT has led to us being augmented by these technologies, becoming increasingly reliant on instant information for our work and social lives. Our IT augmentation can enable us to be faster, more informed, more aware and more efficient.

Our IT does come with a non-monetary cost though, as an Apple iPad for example consumes 11.9 kWh with an operational carbon footprint of 75kgCO2e. A Dell Chromebook has an operational carbon footprint of 335kgCO2e. An average server will consume 1kW of energy.

The relationship between our IT needs and the energy and carbon cost of our IT choices have become increasingly important. From the desktop, switch, server, firewall and router, the total cost of IT should be considered to align with a Net Zero strategies and levies.

Through our work with GenZero schools and other Net Zero projects, we know that this information is becoming increasingly available, with companies like Dell publishing the carbon and energy footprint of all their IT products in simple language. Juniper supply this information on request alongside others.

I have named devices and companies here not to shame them but to applaud their openness, honesty and accountability. A number of major suppliers still do not publish this information and this is to the detriment of users and procurers. As designers, procurers, account holders and maintainers, we can provoke the whole industry into action. We will provoke the supply chain into action through requesting and identifying the energy and carbon footprint of our IT choices, by being accountable and following our Net Zero strategies.

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