The information and communications technology (ICT) industry can make a major contribution to sustainable development by enabling far-reaching changes.
Key challenges and opportunities
The ICT industry, while directly responsible for just two per cent of carbon emissions (in Europe), has the potential to help bring about large overall emissions reductions by other industries. This can be achieved, for example, through the development of smart networking to enable better and more efficient information sharing.
Also, new IT solutions can enable more efficient energy-grid management, improved controls for combustion engines, and more energy-efficient buildings and logistics networks. These are all huge areas of opportunity.
While legitimate concerns remain about the digital divide and the extent to which the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ can participate in new technology-driven markets, the ICT industry can deliver significant social improvements by using technology solutions to improve access to financial services and education. The emergence of branchless banking enabled by SMS texting is just one example.
Whole lifecycle approach
From server farms to cell phones, the ICT sector is realising the win-win of reducing energy costs and environmental impact. Reduced energy needs mean longer battery life and improved customer satisfaction – another win.
Meanwhile, ICT companies can do more to manage efficiently the materials used in ICT products – at the point of sourcing, during manufacture and at the end of a product’s life. Being able to account for and recover these materials will deliver business value, and help companies enhance their reputation in the face of growing stakeholder scrutiny.
ICT companies have significant indirect impacts through activities in their supply chains, and so have a major opportunity to make social and environmental improvements by working with their suppliers. The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSi) and the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), among other leading organisations, acknowledge that to make social and environmental improvements, effective collaborative working with first and higher-tier suppliers is required. More sophisticated processes and information exchange together with improved cross and intra-sector engagement are providing the mechanisms for this.
We have wide experience supporting ICT clients, including:
- benchmarking the sustainability performance of HP and Vodafone
- helping Juniper Networks, LG Electronics and Vodafone develop and implement stakeholder engagement strategies
- providing independent sustainability report assurance for Samsung SDI and SK Telecom
- designing sustainability training for staff at Hitachi Europe
- advising Apple, Motorola and a major microchip manufacturer on their producer responsibility programmes.
Our offices in San Francisco, London and Seoul are ideally located to service the key parts of the ICT value chain.