Which standards support achieving net zero in the digital sector?

When it comes to the digital sector, its impact in terms of net zero is less visible than in other sectors. However, the sector has a growing role to play; not only in reducing its own carbon footprint but also in enabling other sectors to hit their targets.

Whilst the main issue for the digital sector overall is its own usage of energy, the hardware required to deliver digital services is based on a complex supply chain and a wide variety of raw materials which itself has a great environmental impact. The digital sector is increasingly built on data centres. This centralized cloud computing model is more energy-efficient and BSI has helped support the growth of this industry by developing standards to ensure that cloud computing is more efficient, attractive, and secure.

Despite the relative efficiency of cloud computing the huge increase in and demand for digital services mean that the energy impact of data centres is significant, and BSI has also been developing standards to aid the efficiency and performance of data centres.

As has been shown during the COVID-19 crisis, digital technologies can efficiently enable people to work together without the environmental impact of travel. There is therefore real potential for digital technology to further support a sustained shift to low-carbon ways of living.

How Much Energy Does the Information Communications Technology Sector Consume?

Although it is very hard to determine with accuracy how much energy ICT consumes in the UK it is generally accepted that it is in the 6–8% range, with one-third of that (2%) being consumed in data centres. However, with exponential data growth only being tempered by technology improvements (derivatives of Moore’s Law) and virtualization software, it is clear that unfettered by regulation or taxation, the power demand would grow as a percentage quite rapidly.

The power consumption of digital services is dramatically growing and is under the increasing focus of ICT OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer), industry, external environmental organizations, and governments working to reduce carbon emissions to meet high national and international targets.

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Increasing energy effectiveness is countered by an exponential increase in data generation, for some time being far in excess of the efficiency gains in ICT hardware capacity that the OEMs have made and will continue to make.

Most governments have digital agendas (improved connectivity via fast and super-fast broadband) for both business and domestic users and, at the same time, have important carbon reduction plans from electricity generation, e.g. to meet Kyoto commitments. However, few legislators appear to realize that the very provision of fast broadband for all (and at an affordable cost) will generate a power demand growth curve that will conflict directly with their plans for a reduction in power generation.

This is where standards can help.

To learn more about how UK businesses are managing the transition to net-zero, download our ‘Net Zero Barometer’ report.

Key Standards that Support Net Zero

There are several standards that can help organizations within the Information Communications Technology Sector on their journey to achieving net-zero:

BS ISO/IEC 19395:2015 Sustainability for and by information technology – this standard helps data centers embed smart data practices into their processes through resource monitoring and control.

BS EN ISO 14001 Environmental management system (EMS) – this standard helps businesses of all sizes across all sectors make their day-to-day operations more sustainable. Sustainability can ultimately save money, improve brand reputation, engage employees and build resilience against uncertainty as well as the ability to rapidly adapt to change. It provides guidance on how to consider multiple aspects of your business procurement, storage, distribution, product development, manufacturing, etc.- so that it reduces its impact on the environment.

BS EN ISO 50001 Energy management system – used to manage and reduce energy use and costs, BS EN ISO 50001 is an excellent framework to help implement an energy management system (EnMS). It helps organizations measure energy use to identify where to improve efficiency and, ultimately, reduce carbon emissions and meet government reduction targets.

ISO/IEC TR 30132-1:2016 Information technology sustainability – provides guidelines on how organizations can carry out energy effectiveness evaluations on their computing models to ensure they are energy efficient.

BS ISO/IEC 21836:2020 Information technology data centres – specifies a measurement method to assess and report the energy effectiveness of a computer server and helps organizations to assess their servers’ energy effectiveness metric.

As the pressure builds for all businesses to achieve net zero, knowing which standards can help you and how to share their guidance within your organization can seem like a huge challenge. With a BSI Knowledge subscription, you will have the flexibility and visibility to manage the key standards you need in order to start your journey to net zero with confidence – all in one place. Build your own custom collection of standards, or opt for access to one of our pre-built modules and keep up-to-date with any relevant changes to your standards strategy. Request to learn more.

Start your organization’s journey to transitioning to net zero, by adding our sustainability standards to your collection today.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024