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Industry collaboration - taking big steps towards smaller carbon footprints

Gabrielle Giner | August 11, 2012

The first draft of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol ICT sector guidance was released for public comment in March 2012. The second draft is due to be published in August, with final publication planned for autumn 2012.

ICT is a key enabler in reducing carbon emissions, but there is also an associated carbon cost.  ICT companies, products and services use energy in delivering enabling solutions. We need to understand and be able to estimate both the carbon costs and the reductions delivered to understand the net impact.

Carbon footprinting enables us to understand the carbon impact of our operations and our products and services.  It gives us a sense of the size and scale of the carbon impact and allows us to focus our carbon reduction activities on where they will make the most difference.  

GHG Protocol ICT sector guidance initiative

In March 2011, GeSI, the Carbon Trust, the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development set up an initiative under the auspices of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol to develop guidance on how to assess the greenhouse gas emissions of various ICT services, such as telecommunications network services and desktop managed services.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol ICT sector guidance initiative was set up to provide a consistent approach for assessing the life cycle GHG impacts of ICT products and services. The output from the initiative will be published as a sector guidance to support the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Standard.

The guidance is meant as a practitioners guide, written by practitioners and for practitioners.  It considers the full ICT lifecycle and addresses both direct emissions and enabling effects. This is underpinned by examples, case studies and supporting data, building on existing work for life cycle analyses as well as the Product Standard, such as ISO 14040/44, PAS 2050 and industry related initiatives such as PAIA and iNEMI. 

BT, together with Alcatel-Lucent, has been co-chairing the working group developing guidance for assessing the greenhouse gas emissions of telecommunications network services. 

Wide stakeholder engagement

The steering committee of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol ICT sector guidance consists of the European Commission, MIT, ITU-T, CDP, Gartner and ICT companies.  A wide range of stakeholders, such as academics, consultants, industry analysts, government experts and NGOs have been involved in the process of drafting and agreeing on the guidance. The stakeholder advisory group is open to anyone who wants to join and we have had over 50 companies engaged, with over 200 participants and more than 45 countries represented. Quite impressive!

The work on the guidance has been recognised by the UK Government, who has participated in the project, and the CIO Council Green ICT Delivery Unit (GDU) that said in its annual progress report:

“The GDU recognises the significant work that is being done by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), the World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Carbon Trust with the ICT industry in developing the ICT Sector Guidance for the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol Product Accounting and Reporting Standard, to provide common approaches and guidance for calculating carbon emissions across the lifecycle of ICT assets and services. The GDU will seek appropriate government-wide adoption of the final guidance alongside other industry and public sector best practices in order to fulfil its commitment to report on operational ICT energy consumption.” 

Where next?

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol ICT sector guidance has been through a couple of public iterations and final release is planned for the autumn. Common approaches to carbon footprinting promote transparency and allow organisations to prioritise reduction efforts and provide a means for assessing the enabling effects of ICT industry for promoting a low carbon society. It has been an interesting journey so far.  We have a learned a lot from others.  The journey is far from over yet and I am excited about the next few years as we learn more about this area and as more and more people and companies get involved.

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