ESG—environmental, social, and governance—is a framework increasingly adopted by organizations with an eye on eco-friendliness, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability. This concept took off in 2021, with many organizations looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact.
65 percent of Americans are at least fairly concerned about global warming—and this trickles down into the workforce. In fact, 71 percent of workers are more attracted to working for environmentally sustainable companies.
So, if you want to attract top talent and remain competitive, sustainability needs to be a priority. And one important way to prioritize sustainability is lowering your company’s emissions—even if your organization is primarily digital.
But how, exactly, do you do that? Let’s look at how you can reduce your company’s digital carbon footprint.
What is a digital carbon footprint?
Before you can start to reduce your company’s digital carbon footprint, you need to understand what a digital carbon footprint is.
Generally, a carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of greenhouse gasses (GHG) emitted by a person, group, or object after consuming fossil fuel. America’s carbon footprint is notoriously high; the average carbon footprint for an American is 16 tons per year)—while businesses present an even bigger problem, with commercial buildings generating 826 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
A digital carbon footprint measures the GHG emitted by your company’s devices, tools, platform, and technology, including:
- How often they’re used and to what extent
- The emissions produced in their manufacturing process
- The energy required to run and power your technology
- How much energy is required to transfer data
- The amount of energy consumed by servers and data centers
Your digital carbon footprint also depends on your indirect GHG emissions, which include emissions produced by vendors in your supply chain (like cloud server providers), the electricity consumed by your vendors (like data centers), and the amount of waste your organization produces (in the form of greenhouse gasses like CO2, CH4, and N2O).
Tips to reduce your company’s digital carbon footprint
Running your organization will inevitably generate emissions. But there are steps you can take to reduce your company’s digital carbon footprint and improve your company’s sustainability—without compromising growth or productivity.
Extend the lifespan of your devices
Your workforce relies on equipment like laptops, phones, tablets, and other industry-specific technology to get work done. These devices are typically replaced when they become inefficient or when vendors cease supporting their hardware or software.
However, replacing devices too early in their lifecycle can cause a significant impact on your organization’s digital carbon footprint.
To avoid tossing your devices too soon, partner with your suppliers and vendors to increase the lifecycle of your devices. This might include future-proofing your equipment by purchasing slightly more powerful technology at the outset—though it can (and should) also include negotiating longer support contracts whenever possible.
You can also minimize unnecessary device changes and upgrades by making digital sustainability a part of your company culture. Train employees to do more with less and ensure every team and department is on the same page. For example, instead of spreading work across multiple devices, limit the number of devices used for each role or task (that way, there are fewer devices to replace overall).
And when you do need to replace your technology? Don’t just toss them in the trash; instead, recycle or donate the old technology whenever possible.
Centralize data—and make it accessible
Data transfer accounts for 55 percent of digital technology’s environmental impact. And when you think of all the different components that support data transfer—like miles of fiber optics, routers, and data centers—it’s not hard to understand why.
You can reduce your company’s digital carbon footprint by centralizing data into a knowledge base or shared drive. Though this doesn’t cut out data transfer entirely, it does eliminate individual instances of sending files back and forth between locations. Just make sure that the data is accessible to everyone who needs it to eliminate additional transfer requests.
Talkspirit is a collaborative all-in-one platform that makes it possible to work together closely as a team, manage projects, and share information across your organization through versatile and centralized modules. Features like Secure Drive let users co-create, edit, centralize, and organize documents within the same platform, with support for automatic backups and access permissions to protect and secure even the most sensitive information.
Another thing to keep in mind? Teleconferences and video calls also rely upon data transfer for users to transmit audio and video. Asking participants to turn off their cameras and webcams can reduce the environmental impact by up to 96 percent. And for tasks or discussions that don’t actually require face-to-face interaction, consider switching over to text chat to reduce your digital carbon footprint even further.
Limit cloud resource use
Though the cloud is beneficial—including from a climate-conscious perspective—misuse can add to the size of your company’s digital carbon footprint.
Cloud applications and virtual machines are most effective—both from an energy and cost perspective—when they scale with use to limit resource consumption until it’s needed. Because many use a pay-what-you-use model, limiting your use of this technology can protect your budget and reduce your company’s digital carbon footprint at the same time.
But what if your applications are unoptimized and fail to reduce resource consumption when not under load?
On average, data centers demand nearly one percent of the world’s total energy. Legacy apps and systems without the ability to scale with demand draw a constant stream of resources—the maximum available to run the system’s processes. Shifting away from these applications—or limiting their usage as much as possible—to alternatives that scale with demand (by only drawing as many resources as is necessary under a given load) reduces the energy demands of the data servers that host them. This can, in turn, effectively reduce your company’s digital carbon footprint (and, potentially, its expenditures).
For example, a legacy app might use 100 percent of its server’s available processing power, even when its current usage only demands a fifth of that resource. In contrast, a well-optimized app can scale under load, drawing only as much processing power as its load demands; as a result, it consumes less electricity and generates less heat to limit its impact on the environment.
Measure carbon use
There are various methods for measuring your company’s carbon footprint—although the GHG Protocol is by far the most popular (as of 2016, 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies used the GHG Protocol). The GHG Protocol categorizes emissions into three scopes:
- Scope 1 includes direct emissions directly produced by your company and its resources, like the fuel you burn in company vehicles
- Scope 2 includes indirect emissions from resources you purchase, like fuel and electricity consumed by your suppliers (such as a power plant)
- Scope 3 includes other direct emissions from elsewhere on your value chain—both upstream and downstream—like emissions generated by your suppliers or those generated by customers who purchase or use your products
The Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard is the most inclusive method to measure your company’s entire digital carbon footprint. The Scope 3 Standard accounts for 15 different categories (for example, purchased goods and services and employee commuting) that can give you key insights into your company’s digital carbon emissions.
You have a few options for collecting that data. You can collect the data yourself by looking at your purchase and usage data—like device and electricity usage—to extrapolate your footprint. But that can be tedious, time-consuming, and (if you don’t know what you’re doing) inaccurate. That’s why many companies opt to work with a vendor that specializes in measuring corporate carbon footprints through services like the SAP Sustainability Control Tower and SAP Product Footprint Management, Google Carbon Footprint, and AWS Customer Carbon Footprint Tool.
Talkspirit takes the guesswork out of data collection, helping you accurately measure activity through the usage statistics feature. Track employee activity through multiple global and non-intrusive indicators and use this information to track employee morale and engagement and better target your preferred KPIs and goals.
Consistently measuring your carbon use helps you track the impact of your efforts to reduce your company’s digital carbon footprint. From there, you can continue to make changes to your processes, products, and value chain that lower your environmental impact.
Use collaboration software to better manage its carbon footprint
Pivoting your organization toward a more eco-conscious perspective requires company-wide participation and buy-in—even if all you need is data to measure your impact. Collaboration tools help ensure your workforce and partners are on the same page and working toward the same goals—and can help reduce your company’s digital footprint.
A powerful all-in-one collaborative platform like Talkspirit has all the features your organization needs to work toward sustainability and reduce your carbon footprint. Video conferencing enables employees and different teams to connect without generating heavy emissions from physical travel. Checklists and project management functions let teams implement and track environmentally-friendly goals, and knowledge management and shared drives serve as centralized repositories of information that help limit excessive (and costly) data transfers. Usage statistics lets organizations track user activity to measure engagement and target important metrics without intruding on privacy or interrupting workflows.
Interested in learning more about Talkspirit and how you can use it to reduce your company’s digital carbon footprint?