ICT causes same volume of CO2 emissions as aviation

The global information and communications technology (ICT) industry creates the same volume of carbon emissions as aviation, some two per cent of the worldwide total, according to research firm Gartner.

The ICT figure includes the energy used from hardware such as PCs, servers, cooling, fixed and mobile telephony, local area networks, office telecommunications and printers, as well as government and commercial infrastructure.

It also takes into account the emissions created in the design, manufacture and distribution in large-volume devices, such as computers and mobile phones, but no other commercial electronics.

Growing public and legislative pressures mean enterprises can no longer risk doing nothing for the environment, warned Gartner.

And, buyers will soon start demanding that firms take their environmental policies more seriously.

"During the next five years, increasing financial, environmental, legislative and risk-related pressures will force IT organisations to get 'greener'; that is to say, more environmentally sustainable," said Simon Mingay, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement.

"'Going green' is no longer the reserve of a minority 'doing the right thing'; it's becoming an essential activity for all IT leaders."

Gartner said the ICT industry needs to understand the impact of the full life cycle of technology and communication products and services in order to reduce their environmental damage.

"Vendors are being forced to gain a better understanding of the life cycle due to new legislation and directives in countries and regions worldwide, as well as an increasing interest from clients in life cycle assessment," said Mingay.

IT also managers need to read up on their own environmental and corporate social responsibility policies, and decide how to go about meeting them.

"Few IT management teams are aware of their enterprise's CSR and environmental policies, and they have not mapped out the implications for their own activities," said Mingay.

"They need to decide whether to take a proactive response, a measured response following the market and legislation, or a passive approach that just meets legal requirements."

Gartner recommends that organisations create a strategy to cut power requirements and waste levels, possibly by measuring power consumption, using virtualisation for servers, improving the efficiency of cooling, and extending the life of assets by reusing them within the company.