As public awareness grows around the environmental impacts of digital tech, the concept of digital sobriety has been slowly making its way into the business world, across all industries and professions. Given that technology is a limited resource, the digital transformation of companies must now be approached from a perspective of ecological transition. This means rethinking its uses, to make sure we use digital technologies in a rational and reasoned way. How can we achieve this, in practice? Here are some initial courses of action and expert resources to take things further!
Despite their apparent intangibility, digitalization and dematerialization are very concrete: they require the use of computer equipment, the manufacture and transport of which require resources and energy. As you can imagine, this is not without direct or indirect impact on the environment. Digital pollution is very real: according to Green IT, in 2019, the environmental footprint of digital tech represented 1,400 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, or nearly 4% of global GHG emissions.Given its continued rise, the evolution of digital impact does not currently meet the COP 21 targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By managing information systems to meet their clients' needs, and by working with well-equipped and connected employees, companies have a clear role to play in helping to reduce the environmental impact of digital technology.But how can we limit the carbon footprint of digital activities in business? Frédéric Bordage, an expert in Green IT, defines digital sobriety as an “approach that consists of designing more sober digital services and moderating our everyday digital use ".
It's not about doing without this precious resource, but of questioning the relevance of a company's activities with regard to their impact and of encouraging responsible practices. Basically it's about doing more with less. And the good news is: it is entirely possible!
Digital transition is essential to companies to ensure they remain competitive and efficient, thanks to: task automation, better working conditions, increased innovation potential, time and efficiency gains, cost rationalisation, and more. That being said, all these advantages could disappear if no action is taken to rethink digital practices.It is therefore in the interest of every company to embark on digital sobriety, and there are other benefits, too:
Even before electricity consumption, the environmental impact of digital technology is mainly generated by the production of digital devices. Their manufacture and their transformation into electronic components requires the extraction of raw materials and leads to resource depletion. This manufacturing phase is responsible for 59% to 84% of the impacts of the digital sector on a global scale (source: Green IT). The proliferation of smartphones and computers is therefore problematic. In a company, equipment management is key!
Managing the entire life cycle of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is a way to limit the renewal of devices and reduce the impacts related to their manufacture and end of life.Among the courses of action to be implemented:
The pooling of digital devices can be achieved at different levels:
Responsible digital procurement is another means of action for companies. You can start by informing your purchasing department of your ambition to reduce ecological impact linked to digital equipment.Depending on your company's commitment to this issue, you can develop a list of best practices for your purchasing department to use, in favor of more sustainable procurement: the second-hand market, devices that have been refurbished or certified to guarantee compliance with environmental criteria, etc. There are resources to help you with this process, such as the “Procurement of Digital Technology” guide on the Digital Impact Alliance.
It is fairly common for companies to have an excess of digital tools, whether they be hardware or applications and software. Before equipping yourself with new software for your business needs, ask yourself if other tools already perform the same function.For example, do marketing and creative teams use different tools to organize, store, create, deliver and ultimately manage all their visual content?To streamline the number of software programs used, a Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution makes it easier to manage the life cycle of digital content, from creation to the management of creative projects within the solution.This practice offers rapid results and also improves team productivity.
A more minimalist approach can also be adopted to limit the proliferation of collaborative tools used internally and any related redundancies (Google Drive, online file directory, Intranet, etc.). This helps to prevent the same documents being stored in different locations, and therefore reduces their energy impact.Similarly, for tools developed in-house, an eco-design approach should be encouraged to reduce energy consumption with, in particular:
For more information on this matter: Cigref published a report in 2020 on “Digital sobriety: a responsible business approach".
The choice of business applications and software used is key to improving a company's carbon footprint. When acquiring a tool, you can turn to SaaS software rather than on-premises software: this means that the solution is not hosted on your company's servers, but with the publisher, whose services are accessible via a subscription and an internet connection. Why is SaaS more environmentally friendly?
Faced with a huge surge in data volumes, companies can limit the number of on-premises servers, which have a high carbon footprint. The main benefit of using delocalized servers is the optimization of their use. Because it is shared and more appropriately sized for the businesses' actual needs, the infrastructure consumes less energy. At the same time, the data centers to which the servers are outsourced are implementing more and more strategies and innovations to reduce their ecological footprint and their energy consumption.Other relevant criteria can be considered when selecting software, such as where to host your data. This will have an effect on the energy consumption of your data transfers, since the closer the server is to the location of data use, the lower the carbon impact. Also consider the energy mix of the country whose data centers are hosting your data: what is the share of energy produced by fossil fuels, and therefore more carbon-intensive?As a Digital Asset Management software provider in SaaS mode, Wedia is committed to protecting the environment and seeks solutions to limit its carbon impact and that of its customers. Our work includes:
On the user side, a few simple practices can be put in place to limit the impact of the movement and remote storage of digital data.
Email is often singled out as responsible for a significant environmental impact, but its storage in data centers represents only 0.5% of its total impact. The biggest impact still comes from the production of the device that is used to write, send and read it.When it comes to digital sobriety, it is best to place yourself upstream of use: instead of spending time deleting emails from your inbox, it is better to rethink your communication. The least polluting email is the one you don't send! Here are some best practices that can be adopted:
Web requests also have an environmental impact. It is advisable to avoid the use of search engines, whenever you can, by adopting best practices, such as:
Regularly updating your corporate drive helps you be more resource efficient, while lowering the costs associated with IT storage and backups. Consider organizing a regular cleanup of storage areas (cloud, home directories, email, etc.) to delete unused, duplicate or useless data after a certain time.If you use a DAM solution to store, organize and share your marketing content, you will benefit from analytical and efficiency features to optimize your use with ease.
Reducing energy consumption is a sensible decision that allows you to reduce both your electricity bills and the environmental footprint of your digital use. While solving this issue naturally begins with the purchase of energy-efficient equipment, some simple and straightforward practices can also be adopted:
To make sure your entire company is on board with the initiative, information and training is required, as well as in-depth work on the culture of the company as a whole.
You can appoint a sustainable digital manager to encourage and coordinate this initiative in your company, and ensure that all the company's stakeholders are on board. This involves a variety of communication channels focused on digital sobriety, for example:
Be sure to train your employees and communicate on the challenges of sustainable digital technology to incorporate this into the roadmaps of your various departments and teams.This concerns digital product design activities in particular: offer them training in eco-design to create more responsible digital services. This is not only done from a technical point of view, but also an operational one: simplifying services to offer only what the customer needs, and to optimize the user journey, without superfluous information or features.To find out more, the best practices applied to sustainable marketing can be consulted in our article.
The best practices presented above are important, but far from exhaustive. The idea is to tackle this issue by defining a strategy and then an action plan and by involving the management team and all areas of the company to ensure its success.The integration of a global digital sobriety initiative at a company requires time and the willingness to make improvements to all daily activities and practices. To be effective and beneficial, this must be considered as a long-term investment, and not be overlooked in favor of other activities deemed more profitable.You can find out more from experts in the field and see key resources on the subject, such as: