Canadian Manufacturing

Canadian organizations commit to cut rising emissions from digital technologies

Sustainable IT Pledge aims to curb rapidly growing impact from devices, networks and data centres, which account for more greenhouse gasses than the airline industry.

August 17, 2021  by CM Staff

OTTAWA — A number of Canadian organizations have committed to help curb the environmental impact of surging internet and technology usage, which already creates more greenhouse gases than the aviation industry and is on track to make up 8 percent of emissions by 2025.

For the first time, public and private-sector organizations in Canada have jointly committed to cutting emissions linked to their IT operations with the Sustainable IT Pledge. Signatories include some well known names in corporate Canada, including Accenture, ATCO, Bell, Canadian Blood Services, Micro Focus, Microsoft Canada and Oracle, as well as growing companies such as CloudOps and Rockport.

“Few of us are aware of the carbon emissions caused by the data centres and networks that our smartphones and laptops run on,” said Katie Gibson, VP of Strategy and Partnerships at CIO Strategy Council, the non-profit leading the pledge. “But energy demand from digital technologies is increasing six times faster than the rest of the economy due to the growth of remote working, streaming services and the widespread use of data-hungry artificial intelligence. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear last week, the climate crisis is a ‘code-red for humanity.’ Time is fast running out to act on emissions, and Canada’s leading public and private-sector organizations are stepping up to the plate.”

The signatories have pledged to:

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  • Take steps to address emissions from their IT operations by, for instance: optimizing their systems to reduce data processing volumes; using cloud-based services where possible; and extending service life of devices by refurbishing existing assets instead of buying replacements
  • Set robust emissions targets for their IT operations and publicly disclose progress against them
  • Set rigorous sustainability standards for suppliers while supporting Canada’s cleantech industry
  • Promote the adoption of sustainable IT practices and consider areas where national standards for sustainable IT could help

The pledge signatories are all members of the CIO Strategy Council, a non-profit that brings together Canada’s leading businesses and public-sector organizations to act on the challenges posed by the digital economy.