Of course not! First because the Internet also reduces impact with many innovations: useful messaging apps instead of travelling, one example out of many. Let’s be clear: the Internet is essential for the digital transformation of our societies and our economies, not to mention being the key to recovery from a global pandemic. Is the Internet a problem or a solution? The answer is both! The Internet clearly has a huge impact on the environment. But at the same time, it inherently has the ability to offer solutions to lower this impact.
The device consumption is only part of the equation and this is not enough. Much effort is done on this part–which is good– but doesn’t bring an holistic solution. More importantly: we know that Internet services will grow at a fast pace, which means that a focus on equipment only will not properly reflect the overall impact of the services chain on the environment. Data traffic and transmission is key to all digital services, along with design and development (green by design, environmentally aware software design) and even financing; hence, it is crucial that we measure all sides of services for accuracy. We propose a unique holistic and forward-looking approach that will ensure Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) of the most dynamic and promising industry, the Digital Industry, to also focus on the exponential part of the digital services themselves, such as video streaming, 5G related services and online cloud-based services.
Emissions reductions enabled through the use of an Sustainable Interaction Design (SID) Intervention, particularly those associated with digital services of a grand scale such as services offered by big tech companies are sufficiently large to be worthy of consideration. Emissions reductions enabled by SID intervention are of comparable scale to other mitigation measures used by digital technology companies, such as the use of renewable energy to power data centres. SID interventions estimate that the emissions savings will amount to between 1% and 5% of the total emissions. This is comparable in scale to the existing reductions for instance obtained by Google’s purchase of renewable energy to power YouTube’s servers. Hence, such reductions are sufficiently large to be worthy of consideration by DSPs.
We create working groups and will assign to each of them a specific digital service, which is of relevance as the service in question is both used at a very large scale and it causes a significant impact on the environment. Concrete digital services which the working groups will address are, among others, Video streaming, teleconferences, Online ads, Cloud related services. For each of these services, we will make sure that the working groups agree on a common and coherent methodology to accurately measure and assess the environmental impact of those specific digital services, based on existing and available data or on new studies. Each working group will work in an independent manner and will be composed of experts and representatives from key players in the Internet and digital services Ecosystem, as, Investors, the Digital Industry, NGOs, Policymakers, Consumers, Researchers and Academia. Each working group will adopt a set of consensus based « protocols » consisting of principles, best practices and standards which aim at lowering the environmental impact of the related digital services. These protocols will offer: – concrete solutions for the industry to mower the environmental impact of their services through design and business choices for each service in question, – the ability to create “green labels”, to be used by the digital industry as well as Investors to demonstrate their willingness to pursue environmentally friendly goals and develop a competitive advantage in their respective sectors, while offering sustainable options to consumers, to enable them making informed choices between digital services.
The working groups initially start with best practices and principles as referentials, then implementation will be tested by partners, while at the same time gaining recognition from industry and policymakers. In 2021, after the WG work is completed labels will be developed and work around application to standards organisations will start We provide innovative solutions to further communicate on the results of this collective work, which will demonstrate the willingness of the involved parties to contribute to the overall goals, that is, an eco-responsible digital society.
Usage is an important factor in efforts to lower the environmental impact of digital services. It goes without saying that using the internet less or in an eco-responsible way, will play a key role. Hence, educating societies to use digital services in a better way and making users aware of their environmental impact, is a great move going forward. Having said that, putting the burden on the users only comes with a bigger risk, as it might disincentivize the use of the Internet and hinder digital transformation. Plus this approach overlooks the technical ability to lower the environmental impact of usage through changes in design and business practices for digital services.