3 ways IT contributes to climate change, and what to do about it

Harriet Lewis 12-May-2023 14:09:52

In the last quarter century, digital technology has affected how we live and work immeasurably. It has significant environmental benefits – such as the ability for remote work, avoiding a polluting commute to an office, or international travel. But, as with any human activity, it is not without environmental consequences. This blog will outline the typical effects of IT on the environment and what steps can be taken to minimise its negative impact.

Energy Usage

The most obvious and impactful effect of the explosion of digital technology is energy consumption. All devices, from the smartphone to the data centre, consume energy. Typically, this energy is generated via burning fossil fuels – the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases and climate change. Some studies estimate the IT industry is responsible for 2% of greenhouse gas emissions - certainly not the largest contributor, but room for improvement, nonetheless. Vendors have recognised this and are taking steps to change their operations accordingly. For example, all of Oracle’s European data centres are run on renewable energy, and they aim for their cloud operations to be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2025.


Another significant impact on the industry is under-utilised equipment. A recent study found that typically 30% of corporate servers are in ‘zombie mode’ – contributing little but still consuming energy. A simple consolidation exercise will identify where this is occurring and steps that can be taken to resolve it. One such option is to consider cloud computing for its environmental credentials. The scalability, utilisation and insights of cloud technology make it one of the greenest models available. Organisations that adopt Oracle Cloud have typically found a 40 – 50 % reduction in carbon emissions compared to on-premises. 


Another environmental impact of IT is e-waste. As devices and components quickly become obsolete, this leads to significant wastage – and potentially introducing hazardous material into the environment if not disposed of correctly. Recycling and reusing such material is now becoming far more commonplace.


There are many ways to reduce the negative effect of IT practices on the environment without sacrificing the ways of living and working we’ve become accustomed to. But it can be hard to see at a business or individual level what can be done. Understanding your organisation’s carbon footprint is a great first step. DSP, in collaboration with Oracle, offers customers an Oracle carbon assessment to do just that, as well as suggest ways to make positive changes. Often this can lead to a reduction in operational overheads at the same time – a win-win outcome. Find out more about these assessments, or speak to one of the team today to make a start.