Greening ICT: Catalysing a sustainable recovery with collaboration

In this guest post, Louise Koch, global sustainability strategy and innovation director, at Dell Technologies on the role the IT sector should play in enabling a greener, post-pandemic economy

Governments worldwide have stated their desire to ‘build back better’ after the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, as part of their commitment to a future proof-recovery. However, the desire to ‘build back greener’ will determine the success of these efforts in rebooting post-pandemic economies whilst also tackling the seismic challenge of climate change.

The good news is that it’s not too late to avoid the worst scenarios, and digital innovation across key sectors matched with a willingness to act can help lead us to a better tomorrow.

Open dialogue and collaboration between industries, policymakers and stakeholders are imperative to harness and nurture the innovation necessary to support goals leading toward a net-zero future.

In 2020, the European Commission stated that “green investments will be a key driver of the recovery, not an obstacle to it”, and at Dell Technologies, we share this vision. We have long advocated for circular economy practices, working across our company to collaborate with cross-industry partnerships, non-profits, and governments.

We recognise that we have both an individual and collective responsibility to act. At Dell, we have robust programs and offerings in place to drive human progress and play our part. In addition to reusing e-waste from our own industry—like plastics and rare earth magnets— we help our customers minimise energy consumption by reducing the energy intensity of our products.

We have recovered more than £2.1bn of used electronics since 2007 and have recently enhanced our Asset Recovery Services to help businesses to sustainably replace and recycle obsolete technology. We are working to make it easy to retire and recycle any laptop, desktop, server, or accessory regardless of brand. We are fully committed to taking proactive leadership in transforming the global electronics sector towards a circular economy in 2030.

This is why we are co-founders of several cross-industry partnerships. Among them is CEP, which has brought together an alliance of first time experts, business leaders and global organisations who have set a vision and roadmap committing to a circular economy for electronics by 2030 and co-design solutions on this topic.

Collective responsibility to create the circular economy

European governments have both the legislative and procurement power that can drive transformation from policy through to a circular economy. However, while the role of government is crucial at this juncture, we are acutely aware of the technology industry’s pivotal role in driving positive environmental outcomes, contributing sectoral expertise, leading innovation and delivering policy implementation.

Through industry-wide collaboration and continued support from governments, there is cause for optimism in this decade. In recent weeks a European Commission official stated that 40% of the EU’s Recovery Resilience Fund (totalling more than €180bn), has been dedicated to Green Initiatives, surpassing the previously set investment target of 37%. This is encouraging news and will go some way to supporting the continued Greening of ICT.

There is art and science in implementing a genuinely green recovery. Unsurprisingly, investment is the first step, with a tight focus on sustainable solutions as a priority to maximise potential and lower emissions. But this is a holistic process much like what we have already seen with the digital transformation of entire sectors. The tech sector is ideally placed to not only participate in this sustainability transition – but to lead it, with the World Economic Forum reporting that technology has the potential to reduce global emissions by 15% using foundational innovations like multi-cloud, edge, data analytics, AI and machine learning.

For instance, AI learns by experience, collecting vast amounts of data. This data can identify traffic patterns and recommend intelligent actions to optimise logistics.

Sustainability is not an add-on or a “nice to do”; it’s an imperative. While there is much hard work to do, we welcome both the commitments and progress seen from the EU in greening ICT and placing sustainability as the cornerstone of their recovery programme. The industry must now also play its part – delivering on its own sustainability commitments alongside policymakers, partners, and customers.

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