A move away from products to services in information and communication technology (ICT) can have a positive effect on sustainable development according to a new survey by the Forum for the Future.
The sustainable development charity that works in partnership with leading organisations in business and the public sector says that ICT can help to reduce the environmental footprint of what firms do.
It says that the ICT industry, and by extension users, are at a crossroads: developing and applying ICT badly could add to the world’s problems by devouring energy and accelerating climate change, worsen and increasing pollution and resource use by encouraging ever more frenetic consumerism.
In contrast, by the correct application of ICT well, the rewards could be enormous. These are identified as helping to enhance creativity and innovation to solve problems, build communities, give more people access to goods and services and use precious resources much more efficiently.
Even though the Forum for the Future accepts that the sustainability challenges facing ICT businesses are complex, the complexity should not prevent the ICT industry from dealing with the issues and so reaping maximum benefit. It adds that sustainability leadership is necessary if the benefits are to extend right across the whole ICT industry.
Above all, Forum for the Future sees the application of new technologies as an opportunity to address sustainability challenges creatively and advocates’ that making ICT more efficient will enable people to do more with less.
Further more it advises firms to rent the use of PCs rather than buy one and if bought, replacing the PCs after four years instead of two, thus reducing the environmental impact of making products. In addition it says if PCs are then subsequently shred, the impact will be halved again, effectively reducing the impact from making one PC by 75%.
In essence, it says that firms need to move away from a business model that is based on products and things and towards business models based on services.